Creating A Stellar Table Of Contents: Tips For Different Document Formats

Writing for an informal format like a blog or a newspaper article is widely different from formal modes of writing like thesis and dissertations. There are different well recognized formats followed in academic writing, namely APA style, Chicago style, Michigan style, etc.

However, all the formats stated above have some points in common, and one of the common points is the inclusion of a table of contents. A table of contents is a tabular documentation of the content of a thesis or dissertation. The table of contents is an easy way for the reader to navigate the thesis or dissertation since it furnishes the subparts of a document along with their corresponding page numbers.

How To Create A Table Of Contents That Adds Value To Your Documents


Although some of the rules for making the table of contents vary based on the document’s format (APA style or Michigan style), some ground rules are common for all formats.

For instance, in all formats, the title of the page that actually has the table is titled “Table Of Contents”. This blog post lists some of the points that must be kept in mind white creating the table of continents for academic documents in different formats of academic writing.

The APA Format Of Academic Writing


The name APA stands for the American Psychological Association. The American Psychological Association is the largest professional body and scientific organization of psychologists in America.

The style is defined in the handbook of the American Psychologists Association named the Publication Manual Of the American Psychologist Association. The guidelines of the APA have since become a benchmark that is followed for scholarly articles in multiple disciplines like anthropology, sociology, and health sciences.

The following rules must be followed if you are writing the table of continents in APA style.

For dissertations and thesis, the following five sections, namely introduction, methods, results, discussion, and references, are included in the table of contents. However, if you want to publish a descriptive essay or a case study, then it may be difficult to differentiate the content under heads, like methods and results. So some deviations are allowed in the APA style when documenting case studies.

The title of the page should be written as “Table Of Contents,” and it should be center aligned with reference to the page. Usually, the main headings within the table are numbered using Roman numerals, and the subheadings are numbered with Arabic numerals.

Apart from this, all the main headings should be flush-left, the subheadings should be indented five spaces, and all the entries should be title case meaning that the first little of a word should be in capitals.

The most important part of writing the table of contents involves adding the corresponding page numbers for each subheading in flush right. And finally, you can add a dotted line between each subheading and the corresponding page number to improve the readability of the table.

The MLA Format Of Academic Writing


The MLA style is prescribed by the Modern Language Association, which is based in America. The MLA Handbook For Writers Of Research Papers is the most popular writing style when it comes to documentation of research articles on Humanities subjects. So if you are writing a literary criticism or a research article on a cultural study, you will probably use the MLA style.

The page title should be “Table Of Contents”; however, the title should not be centrally aligned with the page. Instead, it should be flushed to the left and written in a bold font right on top of the page.

Again, like the APA format, the main heading within the table should be flushed to the left. The subheadings should be indented five spaces to the right.

Finally, the most important component of the table, the page numbers, should be added for each heading and subheading, and a dotted line should be used for ease of reading.

The Chicago Format Of Academic Writing

The Chicago style of writing is published by the University Of Chicago Press. It is one of the most widely used writing styles that is followed in America. The Chicago manual specifically focuses on American English and deals with aspects like grammar, document preparation, and formatting.

In this case, the title is written right on top and in bold fonts. Also, the title is centrally aligned with respect to the page. Two-line space is left between the title and the first heading.

The table is listed in order of preliminary pages, chapters, and supplementary pages. Also, two spaces equivalent to two blank lines must be left between the lists for preliminary pages, chapters and supplementary pages. And page number is given only for the first page of listed items.

The title for each chapter should be indented to the left, and the corresponding page number should be indented to the right.

The Chicago style does not mention any specific font for writing the table of contents, but Times New Roman is the most commonly used. Also, one-inch margin space is left on all four sides while writing in the Chicago style.


Depending on the academic discipline that you work in, you have to master the most popular writing manual for academic writing. Most students do not pay adequate attention to the writing manual when writing the table of contents. However, being consistent with the writing style is essential if you are to get good grades or publish articles successfully.

Also, if there is any confusion, it is best to buy a manual of the updated edition of the writing style that is prescribed by the APA or the Chicago University. Writing in the correct format is easy using MS Office applications like MS Word, and if you still face any problems, you can seek help from a company specializing in research paper writing. Also, students can always ask for help from their teachers for any clarification that they need.