How to Create Best Table of Contents for Dissertation

Table of Contents for Dissertation

A table of content abbreviated as TOC or Contents is the organized listing of the chapters and sections of your written work or document with their page numbers. A well-written table of content allows the reader to skip to the relevant section of their interest and it articulates the quality and organization of the written word.

A table of contents usually includes chapters, their sub-sections (if required) and further headings included in your sub-sections along with page numbers. The length of the table of contents depends on the work written. If you are making a table of content for a book or fiction writing, your content list is going to be long but in the dissertation, you will only have specific sections or subsections according to your topic.

The ideal length of the content list should not be more than two pages and it generally comes right after the title page before the abstract. A well written, formatted and accurate list of content is essential for your dissertation, otherwise, the reader is going to lose interest before you know. The key features of a good TOC include

Either you can follow the universal format for writing it, or you can follow your university’s or institution’s requirement for it. While writing on Microsoft Word, you can do formatting manually or it gives you formatting options for it which makes it easy for you to type in.

How to Write a Table of Contents?

To write a table of content, you start with writing the names of the chapters you have written in your dissertation, such as Introduction, summary, discussion. Then you add the headings included in your chapters and their sub-sections respectively. Be vigilant in writing the clear heading to help navigate your reader, who wants to read specific information from it. After that, you need to write the page numbers on which you have written the respective heading.


You should also include the tables and appendices you have used in your dissertation. If you have more than 3 or 4 tables, then you might consider listing them on a separate page or you can also include them in your list of contents.

Formatting and Inserting Table of Content

Before writing a table of contents, you can apply or modify the type of headings to your document. For this, you must set the style for each heading and give each heading a level according to your need using Word. Allocate each type of formatting for your heading. While doing so, keep the standard formatting citation given to you by your institute.

For inserting a table of content in your dissertation, click on the reference section in the Word document, click on the table of contents and add or modify which level of headings you need in the table of contents. You can also make manual adjustments for headings by clicking on the heading section in Word.

Updating the Table of Contents

If you have already done with your content list, it might be a possibility that when you are finished writing your dissertation your formatting has changed somehow, like text can move or page numbers can differ so we strongly advise you to re-check your table of contents and update it if there is any change needed before printing or submitting.

You can update your content list in Word documents. All you have to do is to right-click the table of contents and select Update Field. You can either update page numbers only or update all information in the table.


It is advised to write the table of content after you finish writing your thesis, it’s still a good idea to put together a draft of your content list just to get an idea and structure of chapters you are going to work on. Knowing what your chapters are going to look like, helps you outline your whole thesis.

The table of contents allows your grader to give a quick analysis of your topic and understands the depth of your work and how it will be presented. A vague and disordered table of content can affect your grade because of ambiguity in it.  A clear table of contents will not only give a good impression but also provide an accurate approach to make the examiner’s job easier and your argument more swaying.