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Kite Runner Essay Titles Capitalization

There are three main options for capitalizing chapter and section headings within your dissertation: capitalizing all significant words, capitalizing only the first word, and a combination of the two.

The three heading capitalization styles

First, you can capitalize every significant word.

Option 1: All significant words capitalized
Chapter 3 Literature Review
Section 3.1 History of Coffee Drinking
Section 3.2 Emerging Coffee Markets in North America
Section 3.2.1 High School and College Students
Section 3.2.2 Commuting Workers
Section 3.3 Competitors in the Hot Beverage Sector

The list of what is considered significant is quite long; it generally includes all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs.

You may find it easier to instead focus on what usually isn’t considered significant (and thus not capitalized, unless it happens to be the first word in a heading): articles (a, an, the), prepositions (examples: by, for, in), conjunctions (examples: and, or, because).

Option 2: Only first words capitalized
Chapter 3 Literature review
Section 3.1 A history of coffee drinking
Section 3.2 Emerging coffee markets in North America
Section 3.2.1 High school and college students
Section 3.2.2 Commuting workers
Section 3.3 Competitors in the hot beverage sector

Finally, the third possibility is to use a combination of the other two options. For instance, you could use option 1 for the chapter headings and option 2 for lower level headings.

Option 3: Capitalization varies by level
Chapter 3 Literature Review (level 1)
Section 3.1 A history of coffee drinking (level 2)
Section 3.2 Emerging coffee markets in North America
Section 3.2.1 High school and college students (level 3)
Section 3.2.2 Commuting workers
Section 3.3 Competitors in the hot beverage sector

Capitalize proper nouns (names) no matter what

Formal names of people, organizations, and places are capitalized no matter what style you use. For instance, North America is capitalized throughout the above examples.

In this regard, note that specific models, theories, and schools of thoughts are not considered proper nouns. The only component that needs to be capitalized is the scholar’s name, when relevant.

  • Porter’s Five Forces Model
  • Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
  • the Realist school
  • Porter’s five forces model
  • Einstein’s theory of relativity
  • the realist school

Which option should you choose? If you are following the APA style, the rules are clear. Essentially, you should capitalize all significant words in level 1 and 2 headings and only the first word starting from level 3.

If you are free to decide, we recommend option 1 or 2. Why? One reason is that it’s easier, you just won’t have to make so many judgment calls about what to capitalize. A second is that using a lot of capital letters may make the text difficult to follow, especially in longer headings.

Consistency, consistency, consistency

Whatever option you choose, the most important thing is to capitalize headings consistently throughout your entire document. This applies not only to the main chapters of your dissertation, but also to any supporting materials that come before and after (including the abstract, table of contents, lists of tables/figures, acknowledgements, reference list, and appendixes).

To make sure that no inconsistencies have snuck through, take a very careful look at your table of contents. Seeing all of the headings together will make any anomalies very apparent. This is especially true if you have used Microsoft Word to automatically generate this list.

Also take care that other aspects of your dissertation layout and formatting are consistent in relation to headings.

by Chelsea Lee

APA Style has two capitalization methods that are used in different contexts throughout a paper: title case and sentence case (see Publication Manualsection 4.15). APA’s title case refers to a capitalization style in which most words are capitalized, and sentence case refers to a capitalization style in which most words are lowercased. In both cases, proper nouns and certain other types of words are always capitalized. Below are guidelines for when and how to use each case in an APA Style paper.

Title Case

Title case is used to capitalize the following types of titles and headings in APA Style:

  • Titles of references (e.g., book titles, article titles) when they appear in the text of a paper,
  • Titles of inventories or tests,
  • Headings at Levels 1 and 2,
  • The title of your own paper and of named sections within it (e.g., the Discussion section), and
  • Titles of periodicals—journals, magazines, or newspapers—which are also italicized (e.g., Journal of Counseling Psychology, The New York Times).

Here are directions for implementing APA’s title case:

  1. Capitalize the first word of the title/heading and of any subtitle/subheading;
  2. Capitalize all “major” words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns) in the title/heading, including the second part of hyphenated major words (e.g., Self-Report not Self-report); and
  3. Capitalize all words of four letters or more.

This boils down to using lowercase only for “minor” words of three letters or fewer, namely, for conjunctions (words like and, or, nor, and but), articles (the words a, an, and the), and prepositions (words like as, at, by, for, in, of, on, per, and to), as long as they aren’t the first word in a title or subtitle. You can see examples of title case in our post on reference titles.

Sentence Case

Sentence case, on the other hand, is a capitalization style that mainly uses lowercase letters. Sentence case is used in a few different contexts in APA Style, including for the following:

Here are directions for implementing sentence case in APA Style in these two contexts:

  1. Capitalize the first word of the title/heading and of any subtitle/subheading;
  2. Capitalize any proper nouns and certain other types of words; and
  3. Use lowercase for everything else.

Additionally, as you might suspect given its name, sentence case is used in regular sentences in the text of a paper. In a typical sentence, the first word is always capitalized, and the first word after a colon is also capitalized when what follows the colon is an independent clause.

You can see examples of sentence case in our reference titles post. 

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