Introduction > Writing Scientifically > Structuring Your Writing > Using Headings

Using Headings

Open book In the same way as being presented with a document that contains no paragraphs, it can be equally difficult to read text that has no section headings.  As with paragraphs, headings can be used to break up text as well as to change the emphasis of discussion. Section headings, however, can be used to more drastically change the subject topic eg one section could state the legal responsibility of conducting pharmaceutical trials and the following section could discuss recent trials.

Section headings are also used to give the reader an indication (and often a reminder) of what they are reading. It's not uncommon for written text to deviate from the main point, particularly if the subject area is broad. The reader can often lose sight of the original discussion and become lost. Section headings constantly remind the reader of the subject area and give them an indication of what the section will contain. This helps to maintain the interest and hopefully the concentration of the reader.

The most common method of using section headings is to number them 1, 2, 3, etc. Sub-sections are then denoted 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc and sub-sub sections 1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.1.3, etc. Generally you shouldn't exceed more than 4 levels of section heading eg,, etc.

For an example of how section headings can be numbered, have a look at the contents page of a dissertation

See for yourself. Read some text that doesn't make use of headings - what are your thoughts? Where would you insert headings if you'd written this piece of work?
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