If you start your dissertation directly with an introduction, it’ll be like throwing your readers into a battlefield in which they have no idea who the enemy is or who they’re fighting. That’s where the table of contents comes into the picture. It is an organized listing of your document’s chapters, sections, and figures which are clearly labeled by page number. A good table of contents page should be accurate, easy to follow, and thoroughly formatted. 


Where should the table of contents come?

The table of contents page ideally comes after the acknowledgments section and before the chapters. 


How should you write a table of contents page?

You first write the title or chapter names of your research paper in chronological order. Secondly, you write the subheadings or subtitles. After that, you write the page numbers for the corresponding headings and subheadings. 


What is included in the page?

A table of contents includes the title of the paper at the very top, followed by the chapter names and subtitles in chronological order. At the end of each line, is the page number of the corresponding headings. 


Why is it important?

A table of contents is very important for two important reasons. 

  • Firstly, it helps the reader easily locate contents of particular topics itemized as chapters or subtitles. 
  • Secondly, it helps the writer arrange their work and organize their thoughts so that important sections of an academic project are not left out.

Tips to write a table of contents page:

  1. The table of contents is best completed after you have finished your thesis. But it’s a good idea to draw up a mock table of contents in the early stages of writing, which allows you to formulate a rough structure and think about how you are going to do your research.  
  2. An unclear or sloppy table of contents may even have an adverse effect on your grade because the dissertation is difficult to follow.
  3. The formatting of your table of contents will depend on your academic field and thesis length. Whichever discipline you are working in, you need to create an organized list of all chapters in their order of appearance, with chapter subheadings clearly labelled.
  4. Don’t list subheadings for one chapter and forget them for another. They are not always required but they can be very helpful if you are dealing with a detailed topic. 
  5. Chapter titles and subheading titles must match their corresponding pages. For example, if your first chapter is called “Chapter 1: An Introduction”, it must be written as such on both the table of contents and the first chapter page.

Where should you create a table of contents page?

You can produce a manually generated table of contents page in Microsoft Word, but it will be a lot easier if you use the automated feature. 

So there you have it. Bookmark this article for when you would need to write a dissertation and it will make things a lot easier! For more dissertation-related articles, visit our Resource Center!