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Turabian Headings

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Understanding Headings | Formatting Headings | Headings in an Example Paper

Understanding Headings

This section briefly describes why to use headings and when to use subheadings or chapters. It applies only to graduate and doctoral-level papers, however, since Liberty University has decided that its undergraduate students will not use headings in their class papers.

Why Use Headings

  • Headings divide a paper into logical pieces like “mini-papers” within the larger paper.
  • For example, a 10-page paper becomes more readable by signaling its main points with headings.

When to Use Subheadings

  • Headings and subheadings work similar to an outline. If a paper needs subheadings, then it should have two subheadings under each heading, just like an outline always has at least two subpoints under each main point.

When to Use Chapters

  • A dissertation with hundreds of papers will need chapters, headings, and subheadings to be clear and readable.
  • Chapters are not formatted like headings and subheadings; instead, they are centered and all-caps.

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Formatting Headings

This section covers the general formatting rules for headings. Always check the requirements and preferences of your professor, department, and institution. They may have particular preferences for how you format your headings. 

General Formatting

  • Do not put a period at the end of headings.
  • There should always be a space between the heading and the text of the paper. (This usually is automatic since the paper is written in a double-spaced font.)

Formatting Levels of Headings

  • Headings are arranged by level, starting at level 1 and proceeding through each level of subheading (2-5) as necessary.
    • Level 1: centered, bolded or italicized font, and headline-style capitalization
    • Level 2: centered, regular font, and headline-style capitalization
    • Level 3: flush left, bolded or italicized font, and headline-style capitalization
    • Level 4: flush left, regular font, and sentence-style capitalization
    • Level 5: run-in at beginning of paragraph, bolded or italicized font, and sentence-style capitalization
  • It’s best not to overdo it! Levels 1-2 should be the most frequently used, but levels 3-5 are often lesser used.
  • Remember: if subheadings are used, there should be at least two subheadings beneath each higher level heading.

Capitalization in Headings

Since the different levels of headings use different styles of capitalizations, it may be helpful to use these styles:

Headline-style capitalization

  • In short, headline-style capitalization means the major words are capitalized.
  • The longer description is:
    • First and Last Words in the Title: The first and last words are always capitalized.
    • The Other Words in the Title: The other words in the title are also capitalized.
      • Except for Articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for), and prepositions (by, like, as, of, to, from, on, etc.) are not capitalized.
      • But remember: If one of these articles, coordinating conjunctions, or prepositions is the first or last word of the title, then it should still be capitalized as the first or last word of the title is always capitalized.

Sentence-style capitalization

  • Like a Sentence: Sentence-style capitalization works like a sentence where only the first word is capitalized.

Run-in style

  • Run into the Paragraph: The use of the run-in style means that only the 5th level heading is part of the paragraph. It is not above the paragraph like the other headings.
  • End with a Period: Unlike the other headings, the run-in style means that only the 5th level heading ends with a period. Immediately after the run-in heading, the paragraph’s first sentence starts.

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Headings in an Example Paper

Levels of Headings

Typical Use in a Paper

  • Liberty University has decided that its undergraduate students will not use headings in any of their papers. Graduate and doctoral students are encouraged to use them in papers with ten to nineteen papers and required to use them in papers with twenty or more pages.
  • We used a variety of headings and subheadings in an example paper.

Dissertation or Thesis

  • We will soon provide a variety of chapter divisions, headings, and subheadings in an example dissertation.

Material on this page adapted from Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 9th ed.