STUDENT SUCCESS & How to Get Your APA Question Answered in < 20 Seconds

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/12/15.

My students are  good at quickly picking up APA style for their papers. But sometimes they encounter a question about APA that is not readily apparent on typical APA help sites (like Purdue’s fantastic Online Writing Lab, OWL).  Below is a dialogue between two students followed by my response of …

How to get their questions about APA answered … in less than 20 seconds.

Tyler:  The title for this paper is long …  my (running) head and my title takes up two lines.  Is this acceptable in APA?

Vicki: For the Headers. I shrink the font so that it all fits on one line if I have a long title. I have not gotten any negative comments from the Prof. for doing that.

My Response:

Ha, ha.  Good point Vicki.  Even though I haven’t graded down because the font was smaller in the running head … other professors might.

You see, I’m trying to get you APA-compliant, not Professor Whitesel-compliant 😉

So Tyler and Vicki, try to do what is right according to APA. I haven’t graded off for all APA mistakes because it would affect your grade too much.  So, delve into APA and find the answer.

The 20-second APA answer.

In fact, here is how you can find the answer in 20 seconds (that is how long it took me):

  • I Googled “long titles in headers in APA”
  • I clicked on it and the first few paragraphs answered this (below).

So you see, it will be faster to do a little sleuthing on the Internet and then share your answer with Tyler.  If Vicki had done this (in about 20 seconds) she would be helping Tyler from her research and would have earned some points too.  Dr. Whitesel

(Below retrieved from From:

Mysteries of the Running Head Explained

Jeffby Jeff Hume-Pratuch

The running head is one of the smallest parts of a manuscript, yet it seems to cause big problems for some. In previous posts, we’ve given an overview of the running head and how to format it, but recently we’ve received some new questions that have folks scratching their heads.

What Is the Running Head?

The running head is a shortened form of the title of your paper that appears  in  uppercase letters at the top left of each page of your manuscript. It helps to identify the pages of your paper and keep them together (without using your name, in case you’re submitting it for blind review). When your paper is published, this short title will appear at the top of each odd-numbered page.

On the title page of your manuscript, the label “Running head:” precedes the running head itself. It’s there to let the typesetter know that this shortened title is, in fact, the running head for your article. (This is a holdover from the fifth edition of the APA Publication Manual, which required a “manuscript page header” on every page as well as a running head on the title page.)

How Long Should the Running Head Be?

The running head should be a brief version of the title of your paper, no more than 50 characters long (including spaces). The label “Running head:” that precedes the running head on the title page is not included in the 50-character count, because it’s not part of the title of your paper. (Unless, of course, the title of your paper is something like “Running Head: Feature or Bug?”)

What Makes For a Good Running Head?

It’s usually not a good idea to simply copy the first 50 characters of your title. The running head needs to both make sense as a phrase and give some idea of what your paper is about.

Pop quiz: If the title of your paper is “A Review and Meta-Analysis of the First Decade of Articles About the Psychology of Llamas,” which would be a more informative running head?