Easiest Research paper Table of Contents Guide 2022

A research paper table of contents is an organized list of your chapters that act as a road map to each part of your document. The table of content allows readers to easily locate specific chapters and sections of your text.

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You must write your table of content in a clear, concise, and well-formatted manner so that it can serve its intended purpose of directing readers. Here is a guide on how to write a research paper table of content in APA format

Research paper table of contents APA guide

If you are writing an extensive research document, you can decide to include a table of content to offer direction to your readers. This will help them to easily locate their favorite chapters and save time.

If your document is smaller, for example, a five-page paper, your readers can easily navigate the text. You might not need a table of content, but for a more extensive document like a research paper with multiple chapters and sub-divisions, this is what you need to consider when creating your table of content.

Research paper table of content formats

Your table of content should include at least two levels of heading. Level 1 and level 2 must be aligned left and formatted as plain text.

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The level 2 subheadings should be indented under the parent header. You can also include lower levels of the subheadings up to level 5.

In the APA format, these lower levels starting from level 3, are optional, but you may need to add them if you have multiple headings. Your heading levels must include indents to make your document more reader-friendly.

You also need to know where to place your table of contents depending on the type of document you are working on. If you are writing a dissertation paper, for example, you will need to include your table of content after the introduction which means it will come before the abstract.

The Font size should be 12 points, New Times Roman, which must be the same as the rest of the text on your research paper. Make sure that your table of contents is not more than 2 pages.

How to make a table of contents

Below are steps on how to format the headers of your research paper into various levels. You need to format your headings before you can create your research paper table of contents

  • Check your document and make sure all the levels of headings are correctly placed according to the APA style
  • Highlight the level 1 heading on your document to update heading styles
  • Right-click and update the H1 style to match your selection
  • Repeat the same procedure for every level and quickly update all headers

After formatting your headers, you can proceed to create your table of contents. Below are step-by-step instructions on how to make your research paper table of contents APA

  • Write the word “Content” as your title
  • Put your cursor two spaces below your “content” title
  • On the reference tab, click the table of contents option
  • Choose a custom table of contents
  • In the popup box, choose the number of heading levels for your document and click ok

Updating your research paper table of contents

After creating your table of contents with headings and page numbers, you might want to continue working on your research paper. You might want to add more text and some extra pages.

Make sure that every time you work on your document, you update your table of contents to reflect the changes you have made. Updating your table of content is easy. Right-click on the research paper table of contents and click update.

Research paper table of content checklist

There are different styles and formats that you can use to create your table of contents, but there are some things that have to appear in every table of content. Here is a checklist to ensure that your table of content will be helpful to your readers.

  • Format your headings in the title case, excluding propositions and conjunctions
  • Make your research paper table of contents easy to scan by using dots as a guide to the page numbers
  • Number the sections of your research paper
  • Use indents in your table of contents and link the titles of your research paper to the pages for easier access

Research paper Table of Contents

Examples of the table of content for a report

There are various examples, styles, and levels of the table of contents depending on the depth of your report. Below are some examples and levels

1. Single level

Depending on how broad and detailed the chapters of your report will be, you can decide to have a single-level table of content. At this level, each section of your report will have a single-level TOC with dots that will guide the reader’s eyes to the page number of the chapter.

2. Subdivided level

If your chapters cover a wide array of detailed information, you might consider breaking them down into subsections to engage your audience. These subsections should be appropriately indented and numbered for easier access.

3. Multi-level

You can continue to break down your chapters into subheadings depending on your needs. If you are working on a very comprehensive document with extended chapters, a multi-level table of contents will be helpful. You can go deep into the types of nouns and adjectives and create subheadings for them.

It is important that you highlight only the essential sections of your report. Otherwise, when you have too many subheadings, it will make your work complex. This can be confusing to your readers instead of helpful.

Academic research paper table of content formats

Your academic report should number each of the subheadings. Make sure you follow the format requirements and styles provided by your instructors, like APA, MLA, or Chicago style. Also, make sure you link your sections to their respective page numbers so that readers can quickly jump to the desired page by clicking the links.

Key takeaway

An excellent research paper table of contents can come in different forms and styles depending on your instructor’s instructions. This guide will help you create a clear, concise, and helpful table of contents for your readers.

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