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Dissertation Chapter Contents

Date published October 20, 2014 by Michelle Mertens. Date updated: September 17, 2017

In the table of contents, you list all the chapters of your dissertation as well as their page numbers.

The table of contents ensures that the reader of your dissertation has an overview and can easily find which chapter begins at what page.

We recommend that you always generate a table of contents automatically via Word. This method will ensure that it looks clean and professional. In addition, Word is less susceptible to mistakes and takes little time to create and update the page.

Clear titles

The table of contents shows the systematic structure of your dissertation. It is important to use clear chapter and section titles. The reader can then see what kind of information he or she can expect.

Maximum of two pages

The table of contents is an outline of the parts of your dissertation. This outline should provide clarity to the reader. That’s why you need to keep the table of contents to a maximum of two pages.

Do you have a table of contents that is longer than two pages? Then omit, for example, the sub-sections (headers from level 3 on) from the table of contents.

What to not put in the table of contents?

The preface, abstract and table of contents don’t need to be mentioned in the table of contents. The first two are located before the table of contents. The reader of your dissertation has already seen these pages before getting to the table of contents. You don’t put the table of contents in as an entry because to find the entry you must already know where to find the table of contents, making the entry redundant.

If you have a lot of appendices in your document, which may make the table of contents unclear and too long, then you can also exclude from the table of contents these appendices.

You always include the reference list in the table of contents.

In addition to the use of a table of contents, you could also use a list of figures and tables, a list of abbreviations, and a glossary. When doing so, make use of the following order:

General instructions:

  1. Roman Numeral page number, centered, bottom of page.

  2. Margins:  Left margin 1.5 inch.  Top, Right, Bottom 1 inch.

  3. Font:  12 pt.  Double-spaced throughout.  Use same font style throughout document.

  4. Section Heading:  TABLE OF CONTENTS -- ALL CAPS, bold, centered on first line.  (Use CHPT_HD font style)


Inserting a Table of Contents:

  1. Click on REFERENCE tab.

  2. Click on Table of Contents.

  3. Click on Custom Table of Contents.

  4. Make sure that Show levels is set to 3.

  5. Click on Options

    • Type a number 1 next to CHPT_title.

    • Remove the numbers next to Heading 1, Heading 2, and Heading 3.

    • Scroll down until you see Heading2 and Heading3.These are the headings that you previously created when setting up your document.

      • Type a number 2 next to Heading2.

      • Type a number 3 next to Heading3.


Populating the Table of Contents:

The TOC can be automatically generated if you use the pre-formatted font styles created in Setting Up Your Document.  As you type your document, remember to use each of those font styles as appropriately required.  After adding content:

  1. Click on the Reference tab.

  2. Click on Update Table.

  3. Choose either to:

    • Update page numbers only.

      • Updates just the page numbers of the existing TOC contents.

    • Update entire table

      • Updates all headings and page numbers in the TOC, adding new content as needed.


When finished, click on the Insert tab, and click on Page Break to start a new section.

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