Running Head Example: Everything You Need to Know

Table of contents
  1. The Importance of a Running Head
  2. Frequently Asked Questions
  3. Conclusion

When it comes to academic papers, especially in the field of psychology and other social sciences, using a running head is crucial. The running head is an essential component of APA (American Psychological Association) style, and it serves to provide a concise and informative title for the paper. Understanding how to format and use a running head is vital for students, researchers, and writers who are required to adhere to specific style guidelines. In this article, we will explore the concept of a running head, provide examples, and offer comprehensive guidance on how to create an effective running head for your academic work.

The Importance of a Running Head

A running head plays a significant role in academic writing, particularly in the context of APA style. It ensures that the title of the paper is consistently displayed throughout the document, offering visibility and clarity to readers and reviewers. Furthermore, the running head aids in identifying the pages of the paper, especially in cases of accidental page mixing or order confusion. In essence, the running head is a concise way to reference the title of the paper and maintain organization within the document.

Formatting the Running Head

According to the guidelines of the APA style, the running head should be a shortened version of the paper's full title, and it is displayed at the top of each page. It is essential to ensure that the running head is no more than 50 characters, including punctuation and spacing. The running head should be justified to the left, and the page number should be justified to the right within the header. The running head appears on every page of the document, including the title page.

For example, if the full title of the paper is "The Effects of Exercise on Mental Health in Adolescents," the running head could be "Exercise and Mental Health."

Creating a Running Head in Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word provides a straightforward method for creating a running head in accordance with APA style. To insert a running head, navigate to the top of the document and double-click within the header section. This action will activate the header, allowing you to type the running head text. Once you have entered the running head, you can align the page number to the right by selecting the "Insert" tab, choosing "Page Number," and then selecting "Top of Page" and "Plain Number 3." This will ensure that the page number aligns correctly in the header.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When creating a running head, it is important to avoid common mistakes that may compromise the accuracy and professionalism of the paper. Some of these mistakes include exceeding the 50-character limit, including the words "Running head," and incorporating extraneous information. It is vital to adhere to the specified guidelines to ensure that the running head serves its purpose effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if my title is less than 50 characters?

If your paper's title is less than 50 characters, you can still create a running head within the specified limit. Simply use the full title as the running head, ensuring that it does not exceed the maximum character count. If the title is significantly shorter, you can consider adding relevant keywords or essential information to the running head to optimize its effectiveness.

Do I need to include the running head on the title page?

Yes, the running head should be included on the title page of the document, aligned to the left. It is displayed in the header, along with the page number, ensuring consistency and clarity for readers and reviewers.

Can the running head be different on each page?

No, the running head must be consistent on every page, including the title page. It serves as a concise reference to the title of the paper, and maintaining uniformity throughout the document is essential for clarity and organization.


In conclusion, understanding the purpose and formatting guidelines of a running head is essential for writers following APA style. By adhering to the prescribed guidelines, you can create a running head that accurately represents the title of your paper and ensures clarity and consistency throughout the document. Whether you are a student or a researcher, mastering the creation of an effective running head will enhance the professionalism of your academic work.

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