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What Should I Include in a Thesis Header?

Jillian Peterson
Jillian Peterson

Whether you are writing a narrative thesis, persuasive thesis or informative thesis, excellent formatting, including the correct margins and a correct thesis header, is important. The type of information in your header depends on the citation style you are using for your thesis paper. APA citation style requires a page number and a “running head,” or a header that appears on every page, containing a shortened form of your thesis paper title. If you are using MLA citation style, your thesis header will consist of your last name and the page number only.

If you are writing an MLA thesis, then your thesis header needs to contain your last name and the page number with one space between them. The header should be right justified or flush against the right hand margin at 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the edge of the paper. The header should be .5 inches (1.3 cm) from the top of the paper. Your header should match the font of your paper. Times New Roman font at 12 point size is standard for an MLA thesis. The rules for the header in an APA paper are more complicated.

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

If you are writing an APA thesis, then your header needs to contain your running head and the page number. The running head contains a few words of your thesis paper title in all capital letters. For example, if your title is “Confusing Rules: What to Put in a Thesis Header,” then your running head would be “WHAT TO PUT IN A THESIS HEADER” or simply “THESIS HEADER.” The amount that you shorten your paper title is up to you, but it needs to be enough words from your title that your professor won’t get your paper confused with another student’s. In an APA thesis paper, the running head is left justified, or flush with the left margin, and the page number is right justified, or flush with the right margin. The running head and page number need to be 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the top of the page.

Another important thing to remember about the header for an APA thesis paper is that you need to identify the running head on your title page. Your title page should have a header that tells your reader what the running head will be. The title page header should contain the words “Running head” and a colon before the running head. For the example paper, the title page header might read, “Running head: THESIS HEADER.”

Discussion Comments


It is always worth it to take a careful took at the style guide for any academic writing style you are using in a professional or academic capacity. A lot of the style guides include rules that you might not be aware of. Some people disregard these rules and other are total sticklers for them.

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