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Formatting Your Thesis/Dissertation: Table of Contents

Learn about Graduate College formatting requirements.

Table of Contents

After you link your headings, following the directions in the Body Formatting section, you can use Word to auto-populate your Table of Contents. The other option is to hand create the Table of Contents and manually update the page numbers. Review the steps in either option and ensure that you check the page numbers against where the headings appear in the body of the work before submission (even if you link the headings, it is best to go through and ensure that all headings were included and linked at the correct level).

The Table of Contents should include all major elements that follow it. Do not list any items that precede the Table of Contents (your abstract should not have an entry on the Table of Contents, for example).

You do not need to include every level of heading on the Table of Contents, only chapter titles are required. If you choose to include the next level(s) of heading(s) after the chapter, it must be consistently included for all chapters (i.e. if you include major and minor heading entries for Chapter 1, you must also include them for every chapter after that).

Example of the Table of Contents. Entries are indented depending on the level heading they are, dot leaders are between headings and the page number

Creating Your Table Of Contents

1. Type TABLE OF CONTENTS and center it.

2. On the next line down, right align the word PAGE in all capital letters.

3. Go to the references tab of Word. Click on Table of Contents.

On the references tab on the top ribbon you will find the option for table of contents

4. You will have the option to select customize table of contents.

choose the custom table of contents option

5. In the dialog box that opens, decide how many levels of headings you wish to include. Enter that number under "Show Levels". Click Okay.

adjust the number of headings you wish to have on the table of contents by changing the show levels number. click okay to insert

Note: This will only successfully work if you have correctly linked your headings in the body of the work.


If changes occur to the headings or the headings are moved to a different page, you will need to update your table of contents. To do so:

1. Right click and select "Update Field"

when you right click on the table of contents field, update field will show as an option. select it

2. Select Update entire table

always select update entire table to ensure all entries are updated.

1. Type TABLE OF CONTENTS in all capital letters and center it.

2. On the next line down, right align PAGE written in all capital letters.

3. Set your tabs by opening the paragraph dialog box and going to the Tabs setting. You will have four tabs set:

the paragraph dialogue box is a small icon under the home tab in the paragraph section

open the Tabs... button on the bottom left of the paragraph dialogue box

  • 0.25" = alignment left, leader none.

set tab stop position to 0.25 inches, left aligned, no leader

  • 0.5" = alignment left, leader none.

set the next tab stop position to 0.5 left aligned no leader

  • 0.75" = alignment left, leader none.

set the next tab stop position to 0.75 left aligned no leader

  • 6" = alignment right, dot leaders.

the last tab stop position is 6 right aligned dot leader (option 2)

4. Type the first entry. If you have a List of Tables, this will be your first entry. Tab to input the dot leaders. Manually type the page number that the entry is listed on. 

  • For chapter level headings, start the entry left aligned
  • For major headings, start the entry 1 tab in (0.25")
  • For minor headings, start the entry 2 tabs in (0.5")
  • For minor divisions, start the entry 3 tabs in (0.75")
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