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Dissertation Table of Contents

The Table of Contents (TOC) refers to a systematized structure of the chapters and the main sections of one's dissertation, along with their page numbers. A Table of Contents page is integral as it the first sign of a well-researched paper. Table of contents is integral to any book, dissertation, thesis, report, or any paper which contains a lot of information. Table of contents offers readers guidance pertaining to the position of the content. It directs a reader to a particular section of a thesis or a dissertation and towards the correct page.

A table of contents in a dissertation, refers to the section of the dissertation which provides guidance regarding the content present in each section of a dissertation. The table of contents is a list which is found at the beginning of a dissertation, and it helps in providing a reader with a seamless reading experience. A Table of Contents should be of a maximum of two pages, and one should use font styles. One should ensure that the Table of Contents is appropriately formatted, all sections of the dissertation are listed, beginning with the Dedication page.

In the absence of a Dedication page, one should start with the Abstract page. Following this, one should contain all the titles of every chapter and Heading Level 2s, which are the primary sections of a chapter. One should be careful not to list any subsections. Last but not least, one should ensure that all headings and titles match and all page numbers are accurate and that the Table of Contents page is easy to navigate.

The Chief Features of a Table of Contents page includes the following:

  • Title Page
  • The main body of the text, complete with titles of chapters, headings, and subheadings that are written clearly
  • List of Tables (if applicable)
  • List of Figures (if applicable)
  • Any other lists, such as List of Definitions, List of Algorithms, List of Equations, etc. (if applicable)
  • Appendices or Appendix (optional)
  • Bibliography or References List
  • Page numbers that serve as an indicator to where every section of a dissertation can be found, thereby acting as a guide to the reader.

Points to include in a Table of Contents page:

  1. Level one Headings which includes Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology and Bibliography.
  2. Level two Headings, which comprises of subsections of Level one Headings.
  3. Level three Headings, which are subsections of Level two Headings, are optional and can be avoided if one exceeds the requisite two pages.
  4. Appendices and Tables

Things that should not be incorporated in the Table of Contents page:

  1. Abstracts
  2. Acknowledgments

They are written above the Table of Contents page

Steps to create a Table of Contents in Microsoft Word:

A dissertation or a thesis requires a table of contents that lists the various headings, subheadings as well page numbers. To insert a Table of Contents automatically in Microsoft Word, one should use heading styles throughout one's document before following the below steps:

  1. Add a Title to your Table of Contents page, keeping in mind the citation style as prescribed by your university.
  2. Place the cursor where the Table of Contents should go.
  3. Find the Table of Contents group in the reference section.
  4. Click the arrow located beside the Table of Contents icon and select Custom Table of Contents. This will give you an option to choose which level of headings you would want to incorporate in the table of contents, as well as allow you to make manual alterations to each level by clicking the Modify Button.
  5. Once you are ready to insert the Table of Contents, click OK following which it will be generated automatically.

Applying Heading Styles:

  1. Assign the kind of formatting you like to each different heading level. For instance, if you want all level one heading to be Times New Roman, 16pt, and bold, add this formatting to the first level one heading.
  2. If you wish to set this formatting for all one level headings, visit the Styles section present on the home tab.
  3. Highlight the level one heading after which right-click the style, which says Heading 1.
  4. Finally, select Update Heading 1 to Match Selection.

Automatically updating the Table of Contents:

Students should update the Table of Contents before printing or submitting their dissertation to ensure that page numbers of a document or dissertation are correct. Microsoft Word helps one to update the table of contents automatically. To do so, right-click the table of contents page and select Update Field. You may choose to update all the information in the table or update only the page numbers.

Guidelines to be kept in mind while creating a Table of Contents:

  1. The heading “TABLE OF CONTENTS” should be in capital letters, and should be centred to 2″ just below the top of a page.
  2. A double-spaced line should be incorporated in the middle of the heading and the first entry.
  3. The table of contents should only contain the parts of the dissertation that follow it and exclude listing of all the preceding pages.
  4. All Appendices and the References section should be listed in your Table of Contents. Assign page numbers for the Appendices and the References sections, but do not include chapter numbers.
  5. All entries should align with the left margin of the document or indented to the right side of the left page margin using constant tabs.
  6. The main subheadings of chapters should be listed in the table of contents. The subheadings should be indented to the right of the left page margin using regular tabs.
  7. If a particular entry exceeds one line, break up the entry and put the rest of the entry on a second line and put a single space between the two lines.
  8. A double-spaced line should be incorporated between every entry.
  9. The page numbers which are included in the table of contents should be situated inside the margin of the right page with leaders or lines of periods thereby filling the space between a page number and the end of an entry. The last digit of every number should be on the margin towards the right.
  10. Information that is incorporated in the table of contents should match all the headings, the major subheadings as well as match the numbering employed in the structure of the body of your thesis or dissertation.
  11. The pages of Table of Contents should be numbered with successive lower case Roman numerals that are centred with a 1/2″ margin from the bottom page.

Advantages of using a Table of Contents:

  1. Using a Table of Contents helps to create a better impression: A document that consists of a table of contents appears more professional than a document that lacks a table of contents.
  2. It arranges your material: When you are writing or creating a document, a table of contents will help you shape, organize and consolidate your thoughts and ideas so that you do not run the risk of leaving out anything that is important and integral.
  3. It manages reader expectations: The table of contents provides insight to readers regarding the content that is present in the document that you have created. It also enables an author to set the tone as well as the framework for his or her document with the help of table of contents.
  4. It provides a road map: Readers often require familiar points of reference in order to locate relevant information quickly. The page numbers of the table of contents are of great assistance to readers when they thumb through a hard copy of the document. When readers view a soft copy of the Microsoft Word document, they can enjoy Web-style navigation by merely clicking on an item in the table of contents.
  5. It makes a document easier to discuss: A document without page numbers and table of contents makes it difficult for the user, and hence one should incorporate a table of contents in all key documents.

In conclusion, it can be said that the Table of Contents is integral to a dissertation or a thesis. It helps to orient a reader and provides a roadmap to the reader. The Table of Contents page, while being extremely important for almost all written work, is even more crucial for dissertations. Hence, proper methodology should be followed while creating the table of contents page.

This comprises the plethora of guidelines that should be considered to accurately format and generate the table of contents page so that it follows the guidelines and norms prescribed by the university or department of the student and also helps the reader navigate through the dissertation. Microsoft Word’s Table of Contents generation feature is of great help to the student during their process of writing a dissertation as it helps them to create and update the table of contents page of their dissertation with a lot of ease.

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