Table of contents

Set up your document for success: adding a table of contents

posted in: academic editing | 0

Most dissertations and theses will require a Table of Contents. This is simply an index, usually placed at the beginning of the work, which lists the chapter titles, subtitles, major headings and relevant page numbers. Now you can, of course, just draw up the list manually, typing up a list of the titles and cross-checking to the page number. If you do this, then remember that any time you change part of the text – add a few words or delete a paragraph, perhaps – the layout of the document will change. So, you might find that the chapter you thought started on page 10 has now moved to page 11. Careful proofreading and cross-checking will be required before the document can be finalised.

Use Word Styles to format the headings

There’s a much easier way of creating a table of contents. If you use the Word Styles function to format and insert the titles and headings then it’s possible to quickly create an automatic table of contents. I wrote about using the Styles function in a previous post. Creating an automatic table of contents has the advantage that you can immediately update any changes, just with a quick click of the mouse. It also has an another advantage. In an electronic document the titles can be hyperlinked so that with a simple Ctrl+click the reader is taken automatically to the relevant section or page. Using an automatic table of contents will enable this feature in the electronic version of your document.

First check the headings

If you’ve used the Styles options for formatting all of the document’s headings then creating a table of contents is easy. Before you start, it’s good idea to check through the document and make sure that the headings are all as you wish, ie the correct level 1 or level 2 headings have been chosen. Make any adjustments and save the document.

Create an automatic table of contents

Inserting an automatic table
Inserting an automatic table

The simplest way to insert an automatic table of contents (TOC) is to go to the REFERENCES tab – that’s the sixth from the left on the ribbon. The first pane is Table of Contents. Click on the first icon Table of Contents to obtain the drop-down menu for the built-in TOC options. There are two style options for the automatic TOC, they are virtually identical in appearance except for the heading, one is called ‘Table of Contents’ and the other just ‘Contents’.

This option will create a TOC using the headings numbered one to three, so if you don’t want to make any other adjustments, use these when formatting your headings. Place the cursor where you would like to insert the table, click on the style choice, and hey presto! a table appears.

This is the simplest method, and providing you haven’t made any errors when entering the headings you should have produced a nice neat list of the section titles and their corresponding page numbers.

Take your table a step further

But, perhaps you want more? Maybe you’d like to include the chapter titles too, or you’d like to add all of the level four and five headings if your document is very detailed. In that case you’ll need to do a little fiddling around with the table.

There are several methods, but the easiest way I have found is to use the Custom Table option. As before, click on the Table of Contents icon to reveal the drop-down menu, then rather than using the automatic TOC option, go down to the bottom and select Custom Table of Contents. This will bring up a dialog box in which you can make changes to the number of levels of headings, the type of dots or lines between the heading and the page number, etc.

Customise the table

Adding a custom table
Adding a custom table

In this first box you can only change the levels called Heading and the number of levels. If you want to add the other styles, like Title or subtitle then click on Options in the lower right corner. Another box will pop up and here you can add any of the styles that you have used and change the order in which they appear.
When you’re done just click OK and away you go – your customised table of contents should appear where you have placed the cursor. Don’t forget, when using either the automatic or customised functions, if you make any changes to your headings, the wording or the numbering, or add any more entries, then just go to the top of the TOC and click on Update Table, Word will do the rest.