Tuesday, January 05, 2010

APA Manual (6th edition) Changes Headings Format

Cover of Publication Manual of the American Ps...Image via Wikipedia
I have been looking into the formatting differences in the APA Manual (6th Edition) to prepare for the seminar I will teaching this semester on Writing Graduate Papers.

I just found that this updated edition has a new and different headings format system. As you may know, the headings format has to do with where the headings should be placed and what sort of font they should carry.

They talk about Levels of Headings. These have to do with the ranking of the text section (or subsection) that is being titled by the heading. Each level is numbered.

The section titles (e.g., Methodology; Analysis and Discussion; or References) is at the top and it is a Level 1 heading. A topic heading in the Analysis and Discussion would be a Level 2 heading. Subtopics within that topic would be Level 3. It continues all the way down to the sub-sub-sub-subtopic  Level 5 headings.

The headings format in the APA 5th edition was quite confusing because the format for headings if you had 4 topic levels was different than if you had 5 topic levels. Our Instructional Technology Division at the University of Northern Iowa didn't like this ambiguity so we just created a standard guideline (.pdf) for how headings would be formatted regardless of whether you had 4 or 5 levels.

Guess What?   APA came to their senses and they followed our division's lead. They have released a new set of guidelines that apply to your headings no matter how many levels you have.

This set of guidelines is quite different than before.  If you click on the link to our previous headings guidelines (above), you will see that some headings were all caps while others were upper and lower case. Some were italicized while others were plain. Some were centered while others were left justified. 

This set of guidelines includes bold lettering. Actually, every heading level is in bold except level 5.  There is a great deal more indenting than previously used.  I like the bold, but don't know if I like all of the indenting.  They printed the APA 6th edition using this format and it looks OK, but I don't know . . .

Here are the guidelines:

Level 1              
Centered, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase

Level 2
Flush Left, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase

Level 3
     Indented, boldface, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.

Level 4
     Indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.

Level 5
     Indented, italicized, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.

=== Sample===

Analysis and Discussion
Types of Learners

     Adult learners.

     Learning needs of adult learners. Knowles (1984) describes a set of assumptions for adult learners which include . . .

     The need to know.  Adult learners need to know why they need to learn something before undertaking the process of learning it.


What do you think?  Is this an improvement?  When will you change over to this format?

You can read further online explanation of these new headings styles at the APA Style Blog.

BTW, I think that I found a mistake on page 63 in the sample headings. There is an example of a level 3 heading and it is written as "Life History Calendar."

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  1. I'm thrilled with this change. We just changed the style of the journals I edit to conform more consistently with APA, and the confusing headings were an obstacle. I personally would prefer less indenting and more use of italics, but I'm not going to complain too much, because this new system will make my job easier.

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