4 Ways to Format Table of Contents in Dissertation with Effective Style

Table of Contents

Starting your dissertation directly with an introduction to your research topic is like throwing your reader into a battlefield in which he has no idea of the enemy. That is where the table of contents in a dissertation comes into play. It organises all the information written in your dissertation and helps the reader understand the whole document at first glance. However, do you know there are different types of formats available for the contents table? If yes, then it is good to hear. If your answer is NO, then do not worry.

Today’s topic of discussion is the 4 ways to format your table of contents effectively. First, there will be a description of this table followed by the attributes of a good contents table. In the last, I will mention the top 4 ways to format it effectively based on your dissertation needs. So, let’s get started with today’s discussion.

What is a table of contents (TOC)? Explain its importance in a dissertation.

The table of contents or contents table is where you list down all the chapters of your dissertation and the major sections you have discussed. Doing so requires you to also give the page numbers of the sections and chapters in the table. The TOC of your dissertation should be placed between the abstract and the introduction sections. The length of this table depends on the dissertation length, primarily. However, as a general rule, it should not be more than two pages of MS Word.

Coming towards its importance, having a contents table in your dissertation is necessary. Why? Because it guides the reader about the flow of information in the dissertation. It also tells him which information is where in the dissertation. Thus, making the navigation very easy.

What are the attributes of a good TOC?

From the discussion above, you have got a pretty good idea of the definition of TOC and its importance in a dissertation. However, you still do not know how to craft it in an effective way. Crafting it effectively requires knowing the attributes of a good TOC. So, a brief description of the qualities of a good TOC is as follows:

  • A perfectly crafted TOC is easy to read and comprehend for the readers.
  • The accurate format presenting all the information included in the dissertation is another attribute of this table
  • Completeness of the TOC is the primary characteristic of a good TOC. It means that you must not miss anything in the TOC that is discussed in the dissertation.

You have the option to get masters dissertation help if you are confused at any of the above steps.

4 ways of formatting the table contents with an effective style

Making a table of contents is not only linked to dissertation writing. Perhaps, you decide to write a book after your PhD. In that book, you will also need to add a TOC that can guide your reader and help him navigate easily. So, it is important for you to know about the ways of formatting the TOC in a dissertation. Hence, a brief description of the 4 ways is as follows:

1. Single-level TOC

If you are wondering how to make a table of contents, then you first need to figure out the depth of the matter you want to go with. How detailed do you want to be in your TOC? So based on this, the first format you can use in your dissertation is the single-level TOC. A single-level TOC only mentions the names of the chapters along with their location, i.e., page numbers in the dissertation. A series of dots between the page number and the chapter’s name is what makes understanding this TOC easier.

2. Subdivided TOC

The second format of TOC you will see mostly in your dissertation is a subdivided TOC. Contrary to single-level TOC, which covers a large array of information, this table of contents goes into more detail and breaks the chapters into sections. For example, the major heading in your TOC is “parts of speech”. What does subdivided TOC tell you to do? It tells you to break into more sections, i.e., nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs. The page numbers of the subsections will also be part of this kind of table. Do not forget this. 

3. Multi-level TOC

As described earlier, the contents table mainly depends on the depth of the matter you want to include in it. So, you can add up as many sections as you want in the TOC. The multi-level contents table allows you to do so. Let’s take the above-mentioned example of parts of speech. After mentioning the types of parts of speech, you may also want to add some more information and mention the types of nouns, adverbs, and objectives in the contents table. So, such a table is called multi-level TOC. However, be aware of the fact that too many levels and headings can make understanding the dissertation difficult.

4. Academic TOC

The table of contents specific to academic writing, like dissertations, assignments, and essays, follows a different format from those generally used tables. In academic writing, each heading and subheading are numbered and labelled. The location in the form of pages is also given in the contents table. Mostly, academic writers follow one of the styles from APA, MLA, Chicago, and Harvard.

The academic TOCs can also link each section of your dissertation to the dedicated page number. It means that you simply need to click on the section, and it will directly take you to that section without scrolling up and down. The numbers and labels in the academic TOC are assigned based on the chapter number. Be aware of it.


A great table of contents comes in different formats and styles. However, the format of your table of contents for a dissertation depends pretty much on the depth of the matter. If the headings go to number 5, then your contents table can also go deep and expand to more than two pages. Moreover, read the formats discussed above and craft your TOC based on these.

Uneeb Khan
Uneeb Khan CEO at blogili.com. Have 4 years of experience in the websites field. Uneeb Khan is the premier and most trustworthy informer for technology, telecom, business, auto news, games review in World.