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Writing Table of Contents in PhD Dissertation – 7 Strategies to Follow

  • 7 Jun
  • 2024

A dissertation is not just about writing it perfectly. It is also about organising the content in it in the best way possible and giving information about the location of each content. It means you must include a table of contents in PhD dissertation.

The table of contents gives your dissertation a professional and organised look. However, do you know how to create such a table? Do you know the strategies to follow to build a table of contents?

Probably not. Even if you do not know, there is no need to worry because today’s article explains the making of the table of contents in a PhD dissertation. So, let’s get started.

Read More: How to Write Acknowledgement for Dissertation? 5 Strategies to Follow

What Should be Included in a Dissertation Table of Contents Page?

Dissertation Table of Contents Page

The table of contents page of a dissertation is where you list the major chapters, sections, and subsections of your dissertation. It is important to remember that the pagination of those chapters and sections is an important part of a table of contents.

Without page numbers, a table of contents is incomplete. Assigning a number to the heading depends on the requirements of your teacher. If he requires you to add it, then add it. For example, the first heading of chapter 3 will look like “3.1.”

Hence, you include this in the table of contents of the PhD dissertation.

Top 7 Strategies to Follow When Writing a Table of Contents

From the discussion above, you now have a full idea of a table of contents and what it includes. You also know that it is an important part of a dissertation as it guides the reader to navigate it easily. However, you still do not know how to create a table for your PhD dissertation. Of course, you can get help from a reliable yet cheap PhD dissertation writing service, but doing it yourself is different. Hence, a brief description of the top 7 strategies is as follows:

1- Know the Style Requirements

The table of contents follows different styles and develops as a result of the guidelines provided by your teacher. So, first things first, you must know the style requirements in your case. Does your teacher want you to create a table of contents in APA, Harvard, or another? The reason is that different writing styles have different guidelines for creating a table of contents in PhD dissertation.

2- Gather the Title and Chapter Names

The next thing in writing a table of contents is gathering the chapter names and subsections you want to include. Sometimes, it does happen that students start making this table and do not know the subsection’s name. So, they scroll down and learn the name and then come back. This wastes a lot of time. Therefore, as a researcher, you must write all the section and subsection names before crafting the table of contents page. This practice will make your work easier.

3- Follow the Chronological Order

Chronological order means listing things in the order in which they occurred. This order is of utmost importance when you write a table of contents in PhD dissertation. Regardless of the style you use to create this table, the chapter and subsections of the chapter always follow a chronological order. It will not be like a later section comes first in the table. So, you must follow a chronological order.

4- Note Down the Page Numbers

One of the most difficult tasks when creating a table of contents is the pagination of the sections and subsections that are its part. Pagination means assigning the right page numbers to each section on which the information is available. So, if you are writing the table of contents manually, you need to note down the page numbers of all the sections and subsections. Do not worry if two or more subsections are on the same page.

5- Highlight the Heading Levels

The number 5th strategy to create a perfect table of contents is to highlight the heading levels in the content of the dissertation. For example, the chapter headings are mostly highlighted using level 1 or H1. You can do so by selecting the text and tapping the Heading 1 tab in the styles menu of MS Word. This practice is most useful when you want to create a table of contents using an auto feature of MS Word.

6- Create the Table of Contents

Once you have done all the things mentioned above, i.e., noted down the page numbers, headings, and subheadings, it is almost time that you create a table of contents in PhD dissertation. There are two ways to do this. One is the manual way, and the other is the automatic way. Manually, you write the heading and subheading and give the page number. Using the MS Word feature of an auto table of contents, you can create this table by clicking on the style you need, and that is it. The Word will create an attractive table of contents for you.

7- Update if Required

Sometimes, the table of contents needs to be updated due to adding some headings and subheadings. It is easy to do as you only need to click on the “Update Table of Contents” button and the table will be updated containing your new additions.

Read More: Writing A Bibliography For Your Dissertation: A Complete Guide


Conclusively, writing a table of contents in a PhD dissertation is not challenging. Knowing its structure and the strategies to make it makes it an easy task to accomplish. All you need to do is click on the table of contents tab by going to the references menu in MS word. Choose your style, and an attractive contents table will be in front of you.

What are the Contents of a Dissertation?

The contents of a typical PhD dissertation are:

  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgement
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents
  • List of figures and tables
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Research Methodology
  • Results and Findings
  • Discussion and conclusion
  • References
  • Appendices (if required)

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