Section Headings In Essays Do You Italize

Simply put: no.

APA's Publication Manual (2010) indicates that, in the body of your paper, you should use italics for the titles of:

  • books
  • periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers)
  • films
  • videos
  • TV shows
  • Microfilm publications

Beyond APA's specific examples, know that certain types of titles are almost always written in italics. 

Use italics in a word-processed document for the types of titles you'd underline if you were writing by hand.  A general rule of thumb is that within the text of a paper, italicize the title of complete works but put quotation marks around titles of parts within a complete work. 

The table below isn't comprehensive, but it's a good starting point

Titles in ItalicsTitles Placed in "Quotation Marks"
Title of a periodical (magazine, journal, newspaper)              Title of article in a periodical
Title of a book   Title of a chapter in a book
Title of a movie or playName of an act or scene in a movie or a play
Title of a television or radio series   Title of an episode within a tv or radio series
Title of a musical album or CDTitle of a song
Title of a long poemTitle of a short poem
Names of operas or long musical composition
Names of paintings and sculptures

Title of a short story

On an APA-style reference page, the rules for titles are a little different.  In short, a title you would italicize within the body of a paper will also be italicized on a reference page.  However, a title you'd place in quotation marks within the body of the paper (such as the title of an article within a journal) will be written in normal lettering and will not be in quotation marks.

Here are some examples:

Smith (2001) research is fully described in the Journal of Higher Education.

Smith's (2001) article "College Admissions See Increase" was published in the Journal of Higher Education after his pivotal study on the admissions process.

by Chelsea Lee

APA has gotten a lot of questions and feedback from users who are confused about when to use boldface type and when not to, particularly in headings. Here are the short and sweet answers about font formatting style:

Regular Formatting

Use regular font formatting (no boldface, no italics) for all section titles, such as

  • Abstract,
  • Author Note,
  • Title of Your Paper (on the title page and on the page where the text begins),
  • References,
  • Appendix/Appendices, and
  • Footnotes.

Section titles should also be centered, on their own line, and in title case (that means capitalize all major words—for more information what words are considered major, see the first bullet in Section 4.15 on p. 101 of the Publication Manual). A section also generally begins on a new page. (The only exception is for the author note section, which goes on the title page.)

Boldface Formatting

Use boldface only for headings within the body of your paper, that is, within the text itself—these headings we refer to by levels (Levels 1–3 use boldface; Level 4 uses boldface and italic; Level 5 uses italics only). This blog on headings describes the levels in more detail (see also Section 3.03 on pp. 62–63). Common headings within the body of the paper are Method, Results, and Discussion, but your headings will differ depending on what you are writing about. Additionally, if you have an appendix with lots of text, you can use the levels of heading within that body of text as well (but the section title "Appendix" would still use regular nonboldface formatting).

Take a look at the sample papers for examples of how section titles use regular formatting and headings within the body of the paper use boldface.  

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