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Table of Contents for a Dissertation

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Any multi-chaptered content will have a table of contents in the first few pages. Imagine if there was no such inclusion. How else would you be able to detect anything? Such a table practically serves two purposes –

  • It tells the readers what the document includes.
  • It allows readers to jump to the section they’re looking for.

Just imagine if such a section didn’t even exist. During the research process, you’d have to skim through thousands of pages just to find a few sentences relevant to your paper.

Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it?

That’s precisely why all multi-chaptered works have a contents page.

This includes dissertations as well.

After all, these works can range anywhere between 200 to 300 pages. Additionally, they have at least four to five chapters. It would be impossible to locate anything in such content unless the main sections are highlighted properly.

Keep reading to learn more about this crucial section in dissertations.

What is the Table of Contents for a Dissertation?

The dissertation table of contents gives the readers a simple preview. It includes –

  • A list of all the chapters that the content includes
  • The page numbers of the sections in the content

If you follow the standard dissertation structure, then usually, it is placed right between the abstract page and the introduction of the content. However, some universities will specify where exactly you’re supposed to include this section. Check the guide shared by the University of North Carolina, and you’ll notice that the table of contents comes right before the list of tables, abbreviations, and symbols.

Now, you can consider this table a detailed roadmap for your content. Your readers will immediately be able to figure out which page they should check if they want more information on a particular topic.

That’s why it’s crucial to keep it compact. No reader will be willing to go through multiple pages of a content list. So, restrict it to two pages.

Now, the more you learn about the dissertation table of contents, the more you realize how complicated it can be. It’s not as simple as listing out every chapter. Moreover, the type of table you choose will determine how you frame this section.

So, do you have to do this task manually, or is there any shortcut?

Well, creating this table on Microsoft Word can make this easier for you.

How to Create a Table of Contents for a Dissertation in Microsoft Word?

The table of contents is present right at the beginning of dissertations. Does that mean it’s the first thing you write? Absolutely not!

Even if you’ve got a rough draft in mind, there’s no guarantee that the content won’t change midway. You might end up removing or adding sections. So, if you create the table before writing the document, you’ll have to make revisions to it at the last minute.

Let’s avoid this hassle and come back to this section after you’ve written the document already.

Specify the Headings

Microsoft Word doesn’t automatically detect headings in the content. You have to specify them. So, after you’re done writing, mark your headings as Heading 1 (H1), Heading 2 (H2), Heading 3 (H3), etc.

Which one do you use for which heading? Here’s a simple guide:

  • H1 – used for the primary heading or the title of your page
  • H2 – used for subheadings and supporting points
  • H3 – used for lists under H2 or subsections

Finalize the Heading Styles

After you’re done specifying the heading type, it’s time to finalize the formatting. Here’s how you do it –

  • Select the heading.
  • Right-click the type from the ‘Styles’ section (on the Home page).
  • Click on the Modify button.
  • Specify the formatting details (font type, font size, color, etc.)

Now, do you have to repeat the same process for all the headings? No, not at all! There’s a shortcut that you can use.

  • Repeat the first two steps that you did before.
  • Select ‘Update Heading 1/2/3 to Match Selection’.
  • Repeat the process for all the headings.

Add a Title for the Table

Now, before you add the title, check with your university guidelines regarding the citation style that you have to follow. Some universities prefer that you title this section as “TABLE OF CONTENTS” in all caps. Meanwhile, other institutes are okay with the title “Contents.”

Unsure about which format to follow? Reach out to experts providing dissertation help on MyAssignmentHelp and resolve your doubts.

Insert the Table

Now, here’s where you have to be really careful while following the steps.

  • Place on cursor where you want your table of contents to go.
  • Click on ‘References’ at the top of MS Word.
  • Find the Table of Contents group.
  • Click on the Table of Contents icon (options like automatic table, manual table, etc. will show up).
  • Select Custom Table of Contents.
  • Make adjustments according to your preference.
  • Click on “OK” to generate the table.

There you have it! Now you know how to generate a well-formatted table in MS Word.

What if you didn’t heed our advice and created this table before you were even done writing your document? Then, you realize you’ve had to make certain adjustments, and now your page numbers don’t line up with the chapter names.

Does that mean you have to repeat the entire process?

Not necessarily. (You just sighed in relief, didn’t you?)

Follow this easy process to edit the entire dissertation table of contents.

  • Right-click the table.
  • Click on Update Field.

The ‘update field’ option allows you to update the page numbers. Is that not enough to fix the issues in the created table? Don’t worry; you can also update all the information.

Now, you can only decide how many headings you’d be including in your table when you’ve finalized the type of table you want to use.

“Are there different types of table of contents for a dissertation?!”

Yes, and you must know each type well before you make a final decision.

What are the Types of Table of Contents for a Dissertation?

If you ever approach any of our experts on MyAssignmentHelp regarding tips on how to write a dissertation, they’ll provide you with some sample dissertations. Check the contents examples, and you’ll immediately notice that the experts have used a different template for each sample.

What was the basis of their decision?

The type of table you choose depends on the length of your document.

Now, what exactly are these different types? Let’s dive into more details.

Single-Level Table

In a single-level table, you need to include the first-level headings (namely, the various chapter titles) and nothing else. The advantage of this option is that it’s the simplest of all the tables. However, a major con is that it can be too broad for dissertations with multiple chapters.

Subdivided Table

Subdivided Table

A subdivided table includes the chapter titles and the major sections in each. Here’s a simple example:

Here, the Methodology is an example of a level 1 heading, while the rest are the important sections under this heading.

Multi-Level Table

A multi-level table goes on to include the sub-sections under each major section. So, if we take the same example as before and convert it to this type of table, it’ll look like this –

Multi-Level Table

This option might look more organized out of the three options. However, there’s a major drawback to it.

It can get really messy, especially if your document is too complicated, with multiple sections and sub-sections in every chapter. Your dissertation table of contents might exceed more than 2 pages, and that’s something you must avoid.

This final option works best with a research paper or a thesis. After all, research papers aren’t as broad or complicated as dissertations. That’s why the table will still remain compact despite listing all the sections.

Now, if you check any table of contents example, you’ll notice minute details like spacing and font choice that make the section more visually pleasing. Consider the example you’ve just gone through.

Notice how all the page numbers are aligned in a straight line?

The spacing has also been chosen consciously to allow readers to easily distinguish the chapter title from the section underneath it.

Want more specific formatting suggestions? Then read on.

What are the Tips for Formatting the Table of Contents for a Dissertation?

Professionals providing guidance on the dissertation format on MyAssignmentHelp have noticed students making quite a few mistakes when formatting their dissertation table of contents.

For example, even if the students include one or two figures or tables in their dissertations, they mention them in a separate list.

Some students forget to add appendices to the contents.

These mistakes might seem quite negligible. However, they’re not.

That’s why our experts offering dissertation help have compiled some tips that you can follow so that you can craft a perfectly formatted contents page and leave no opportunity for your professors to deduct your scores –

  1. Centrally align the title of your contents table 2” below the top of the page.
  2. Do not list any component that precedes the table of contents.
  3. Align all entries with the left side of the document.
  4. If there’s an entry that takes up more than one line, break it up. Include the second part three-fourths across the page and use single-spacing between the two lines.
  5. Separate each entry with double space.
  6. Add leaders (lines of dots) between the entry and its corresponding page number.
  7. Include all the page numbers just right inside the right side of the margin of the page.
  8. Mark the page with the table of contents with a Roman numeral in lowercase.

Check any type of academic writing, be it a research paper or a dissertation, and you’ll notice that these suggestions aren’t exclusive to the dissertation format. They’re followed for all content, even non-academic ones. If you’re more of a visual learner, then review the examples we’ve provided to figure out how to format this section.

What Components Should You Include in the Table of Contents for a Dissertation?

Wait! You can skip to the examples once you’ve recalled the things you should include in your table of contents for a dissertation. These are –

  • The chapter
  • The introduction
  • The literature review
  • The methodology
  • The references section
  • The appendices

Now, what else do you include?

Things to Add to the Dissertation Table of Contents

The number of tables and figures in your manuscript determines whether you’ll include them in the table of contents for a dissertation or not. If there are more than three, it’s better to mention them in a separate list.

Things You Should Not Add to the Contents Table

Here’s a tip that’ll make your academic life easier. Any component that precedes the table of contents has no place in it. This includes the following –

  • The acknowledgments or the dedication page
  • The abstract of the content
  • The table of contents

So, to sum it up, the headings of the chapters and the important subsections under the headings always get top priority. Other than that, you have to add all your level 1 headings and decide whether to include the figures and tables based on their number.

What are Some Table of Contents For Dissertation Examples?

The standard dissertation structure rules followed by every institute state that there are three major types of tables that you can include in your academic writing task. You’ve already covered them briefly before. However, it can be challenging to figure out how the styles of these tables differ from each other unless you have a proper visual example. So, here are some table of contents for dissertation examples –

Single-Level Table Subdivided Table Multi-Level Table

Are the differences clearly visible now?

Single-Level Table

Single-Level Table

Subdivided Table

Subdivided Table
Multi-Level Table

As you can see from the third example, you need two pages to fit the table of contents. Now, this example has only four chapters. However, for dissertations where you have to include more headings of chapters, the tables might cross the limit of 1-2 pages. So, it’s best to use this third type only for a thesis or a research paper.

In conclusion,

Creating the table of contents becomes easier when you have an eye for detail – and some examples to fall back upon. That’s why, in order to overcome any challenges that might come your way, it’s best to have proper guidance. At MyAssignmentHelp, you can –

  • Consult academic professionals
  • Browse samples before crafting your table of contents

Learn shortcuts on how to change the heading styles and make minor adjustments to the content to make your academic life easier.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the purpose of the table of contents in a dissertation?

The table of contents allows the readers to –

  • Locate the section where they can find a particular information
  • Get an idea of what they can expect in the content

If any reader wants to jump to a particular section, they can check the page number and locate that section easily.

2. Where is the table of contents typically located in a dissertation?

The table of contents is usually preceded by –

  • The title page
  • The abstract
  • The acknowledgments

Generally, the introduction comes right after. However, if you include a separate list for the tables and figures, then that section will immediately follow the table of contents.

3. How is the table of contents formatted in a dissertation?

The general formatting rules include –

  • Centrally aligning the title
  • Aligning all entries with the left margin
  • Listing all page numbers just inside the right margin
  • Using a Roman numeral to number the table of contents page

For more formatting tips, you can always reach out to experts on MyAssignmentHelp.

4. How do I create a table of contents for my dissertation?

Manually creating a table is a nightmare. Fortunately, Microsoft Word allows you to create a table automatically. Here are the steps you should follow in this case –

  • Mark the headings in your content
  • Click on References
  • Select the Table of Contents icon
  • Select Custom Table of Contents

You can customize tables according to your preference.

5. What information should be included in the table of contents for a dissertation?

The components that you should include in your table of contents are –

  • The headings of the chapters
  • The introduction
  • The literature review
  • The methodology
  • The reference section
  • The appendices

You can check some of the samples on our website to get a more detailed overview.

6. How do I ensure that the table of contents accurately reflects the structure of my dissertation?

If you create the table of contents beforehand, the page numbers won’t align with the headings if you make further adjustments to the content. Don’t forget to check the details before submission. That’s why the best option is to create it after you’ve finalized your paper.

Hi, I am Mark, a Literature writer by profession. Fueled by a lifelong passion for Literature, story, and creative expression, I went on to get a PhD in creative writing. Over all these years, my passion has helped me manage a publication of my write ups in prominent websites and e-magazines. I have also been working part-time as a writing expert for for 5+ years now. It’s fun to guide students on academic write ups and bag those top grades like a pro. Apart from my professional life, I am a big-time foodie and travel enthusiast in my personal life. So, when I am not working, I am probably travelling places to try regional delicacies and sharing my experiences with people through my blog. 

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