When writing a paper, do I use italics for all titles?


Simply put: no.

APA's Publication Manual (2020) indicates that, in the body of your paper, you should use italics for the titles of:

  • "books, reports, webpages, and other stand-alone works" (p. 170)
  • periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers)

Beyond APA's specific examples, know that certain types of titles are almost always written in italics. 

A general rule of thumb is that within the text of a paper, italicize the title of complete works but put quotation marks around titles of parts within a complete work. 

The table below isn't comprehensive, but it's a good starting point

Titles in Italics Titles Placed in "Quotation Marks"
Title of a periodical (magazine, journal, newspaper)               Title of article in a periodical
Title of a book    Title of a chapter in a book
Title of a movie or play Name of an act or scene in a movie or a play
Title of a television or radio series    Title of an episode within a tv or radio series
Title of a musical album or CD Title of a song
Title of a long poem Title of a short poem
Names of operas or long musical composition
Names of paintings and sculptures

Title of a short story

On an APA-style reference page, the rules for titles are a little different.  In short, a title you would italicize within the body of a paper will also be italicized on a reference page.  However, a title you'd place in quotation marks within the body of the paper (such as the title of an article within a journal) will be written without italics and quotation marks on the references page.

Here are some examples:

Smith's (2001) research is fully described in the Journal of Higher Education.

Smith's (2001) article "College Admissions See Increase" was published in the Journal of Higher Education after his pivotal study on the admissions process.

Visit the APA Style's "Use of Italics" page to learn more!

  • Last Updated Jun 12, 2022
  • Views 2152902
  • Answered By Kate Anderson, Librarian

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Comments (8)

  1. Nice, quick, concise listing. Good format to save for quick reference
    by AlonzoQuixano on May 14, 2015
  2. Thank you so much for the information. It was so helpful and easily understandable.
    by mary woodard on Jun 29, 2015
  3. Is it the same for MLA writing?

    Sara, Librarian: Lesa, Rasmussen College doesn't teach or focus on MLA for students. But if you have specific MLA formatting questions, I recommend you take a look at the MLA FAQ website here: https://www.mla.org/MLA-Style/FAQ-about-MLA-Style
    by Lesa D.W on Dec 04, 2015
  4. What about the name of a community program, for example Friend's Read. Would you use quotations or italics?

    Sara, Librarian: Adriana, great question. for organization or program names in the text of a paper you don't need to use italics or quotation marks. Just capitalize the major words of the organization or program like you did above with Friend's Read.
    by Adriana on Apr 11, 2016
  5. Thank you for this posting. I am writing a paper on The Crucible and, surprisingly, I couldn't find on the wonderfully thorough Purdue Owl APA guide whether titles of plays are italicized or in quotes.
    by J.D. on Apr 18, 2016
  6. this was really helpful, thank you
    by natalie on Dec 11, 2016
  7. thank you so much, this is very helpful and easy to understand.
    by Mendryll on Jan 24, 2017
  8. Thank you! I am also wondering, do you capitalize only the first word of the title when using it in the text of your paper, like you are supposed to do in the references list? Or do you capitalize all the "important" words like usual?

    Sara, Librarian Reply: Ashley, within the text of your paper you should capitalize all the important words like you normally would. Thank you for your question!
    by Ashley on Dec 04, 2017

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