Do you Underline Research Paper or Essay Titles? APA or MLA

researching an essay

While content is regarded as the most significant aspect of your research paper, the paper’s presentation is also important. This is because the presentation will determine whether the content is understandable by the reader. Errors in presentation can deviate the attention of the reader from the content of the research paper.

Titles are part of a research paper, and their proper usage can make the paper more presentable. As such, titles can be underlined, italicized, typed in bold, or put into quotation marks to emphasize particular words. This article will discuss the issue of underlining the titles of a research paper.  

Do you Underline Research Paper Titles?

You can underline research papers or essay titles if that is what your instructor wants you to do or if there are guidelines to be followed. This is because formatting styles like APA and MLA do not allow underlining of titles. Therefore, you cannot underline the titles of your paper without considering the purpose of the titles, what they are used to refer to, and so on.

Titles that can be italicized can still be underlined. At least, that’s how most of the writing guidelines, such as APA and MLA formats, require students to observe.

For example, if the title is: The Effects of Social Media on Socialization, then it can also be written as The Effects of Social Media on Socialization or The Effects of Social Media on Socialization. 

Research writing

There are times when students may be required to refer to titles of works as they are or directly within the body of their research papers.

If this is the case, then underlining should be used to emphasize the work’s title if it is allowed by the adopted style guide. 

However, for your research paper to be presentable, you should be consistent with whichever method of emphasis you employ.

For example, if you choose to underline to emphasize a working title, then you should maintain it throughout the paper. If you choose italics, then you should maintain it throughout the paper.

It should be noted that only the titles of works that are considered to be stand-alone can be underlined. Such works include magazine titles, book titles, names of conferences, and so on.

The aim of underlining a research paper title is to emphasize the work by separating it from the rest of the text. It ensures that readers clearly take note of the title without mixing it up with the rest of the text. 

As noted, you should follow the instructor’s guidelines concerning how to format the paper, including the titles, because the instructor will observe whether you have effectively followed them.

As such, your work will be gauged or graded depending on the content and the merit of the research paper. If you follow the proper guidelines, your paper will be presentable and hence will score better grades.

When it comes to the exact headings of the research paper, such papers may have level 1, level 2, level 3, level 4, and even level 5 headings or titles. As we noted earlier, underlining can be used interchangeably with italics since they are used to create emphasis.

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How to Format Titles in Essays or Research Papers In:

1. APA

What should be noted here is that the term “titles” may refer to the headings of works that are used as sources. At the same time, the term may refer to the actual titles of the research paper. Therefore, we shall explore both so that every detail about formatting titles can be understood.

formatting an essay

For titles of works that would be included within the research paper, there is a difference between how you would format a title for shorter works and longer works.

You may also decide to either italicize the titles, put them in quotes, or just underline them.

For example, you may state: The second poem in the book is referred to as Athena’s Birth.

You may also decide to write: The second poem in the book is referred to as Athena’s Birth. 

As we noted earlier, the essence of underlining or italicizing titles is to create emphasis. The same case applies to titles of longer works. However, for longer works, it is advisable to italicize it because underlining a title that is too long may look unpresentable.

Additionally, titles belonging to full works such as newspapers and books should be italicized as per APA guidelines instead of being underlined within a research paper.

However, titles belonging to shorter works like articles, poems, short stories, or chapters within a book should be put within quotation marks. For book titles that are part of larger bodies of work, they should be put within quotation marks if the book series’ name is italicized. 

When it comes to formatting titles within a research paper in APA style, the titles are normally organized from level 1 to level 4 and even level 5.

Level 1 title in APA is supposed to be written in boldface, with each word capitalized except in the cases of prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, and articles. It should be noted that the first letter of the title should also be capitalized. Level 1 headings should be centered on the page.

Level 2 headings in APA style should be written in the same way as a level 1 heading. The difference is that it will not be centered on the page. It will be left justified without any indentation.

For level 3 titles, it should be written in the same way as levels 1 and 2. However, the difference is that the level 3 heading will be italicized and left-justified without any indentation. 

For level 5 headings, the title should not be italicized. However, it should be indented from the left side of the page. The unique thing about this level of heading is that instead of the text or the paragraph that follows starting on a new line below the title, it will start within the same line as the level 5 title. 

2. MLA

The rules regarding titles in MLA format are not that different from APA format. All words within the first title level should be capitalized. However, do not capitalize prepositions (“above,” “on,” “to,” “below,” etc.), articles (“an,” “a,” and “the”), and coordinating conjunctions (“for,” “nor,” “and,” “but,” “so,” “or,” and “yet”). 

You should follow the same rules for formatting MLA Headings in the same way as APA format. However, MLA does not include too many levels of headings because the format is used for much simpler research papers and essays. 

At this juncture, I would recommend you read our guide on how to write term papers and gather more information about titles.

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What type of Titles Should be Underlined?

The titles that can be italicized can still be underlined. That is how most writing guidelines, such as APA and MLA formats, require students to observe.

doing research

Secondly, titles that should be underlined should be works or text that requires to be emphasized.

Thirdly, you can also underline level 3 headings in either MLA or APA formats because they are normally italicized. 

Apart from underlining, essay titles can be quoted, or one can use quotes in paper titles if it is necessary to do.

But this should be in line with the formatting style you are using.

Should Essay Titles be Italicized?

The answer to this question is yes.

Essay titles can be italicized as long as they need to be emphasized, represent titles of stand-alone works, or are level 3 titles.

If a title does not meet such requirements, then it should not be italicized. You should always keep in mind that any academic work should have consistency. If you decide to italicize the aforementioned, then you should maintain it. If you decide to underline whatever was supposed to be italicized, maintain that too. 

Do You Bold Research Paper Titles?

Yes. All titles within a research paper should be in boldface, no matter their level. This will ensure that the reader separates the title from the rest of the work. 

Check out the guides on how to format essays in APA or MLA for further tips on the same. You can also