Thesis and Dissertation Guide

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  • Introduction

Copyright Page

Dedication, acknowledgements, preface (optional), table of contents.

  • List of Tables, Figures, and Illustrations

List of Abbreviations

List of symbols.

  • Non-Traditional Formats
  • Font Type and Size
  • Spacing and Indentation
  • Tables, Figures, and Illustrations
  • Formatting Previously Published Work
  • Internet Distribution
  • Open Access
  • Registering Copyright
  • Using Copyrighted Materials
  • Use of Your Own Previously Published Materials
  • Submission Steps
  • Submission Checklist
  • Sample Pages

Thesis and Dissertation Guide

I. Order and Components

Please see the sample thesis or dissertation pages throughout and at the end of this document for illustrations. The following order is required for components of your thesis or dissertation:

  • Dedication, Acknowledgements, and Preface (each optional)
  • Table of Contents, with page numbers
  • List of Tables, List of Figures, or List of Illustrations, with titles and page numbers (if applicable)
  • List of Abbreviations (if applicable)
  • List of Symbols (if applicable)
  • Introduction, if any
  • Main body, with consistent subheadings as appropriate
  • Appendices (if applicable)
  • Endnotes (if applicable)
  • References (see section on References for options)

Many of the components following the title and copyright pages have required headings and formatting guidelines, which are described in the following sections.

Please consult the Sample Pages to compare your document to the requirements. A Checklist is provided to assist you in ensuring your thesis or dissertation meets all formatting guidelines.

The title page of a thesis or dissertation must include the following information:

Title Page with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • The title of the thesis or dissertation in all capital letters and centered 2″ below the top of the page.
  • Your name, centered 1″ below the title. Do not include titles, degrees, or identifiers. The name you use here does not need to exactly match the name on your university records, but we recommend considering how you will want your name to appear in professional publications in the future.

Notes on this statement:

  • When indicating your degree in the second bracketed space, use the full degree name (i.e., Doctor of Philosophy, not Ph.D. or PHD; Master of Public Health, not M.P.H. or MPH; Master of Social Work, not M.S.W. or MSW).
  • List your department, school, or curriculum rather than your subject area or specialty discipline in the third bracketed space. You may include your subject area or specialty discipline in parentheses (i.e., Department of Romance Languages (French); School of Pharmacy (Molecular Pharmaceutics); School of Education (School Psychology); or similar official area).
  • If you wish to include both your department and school names, list the school at the end of the statement (i.e., Department of Pharmacology in the School of Medicine).
  • A dissertation submitted to the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Public Policy.
  • A thesis submitted to the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in the School of Dentistry (Endodontics).
  • A thesis submitted to the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in the Department of Nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health.
  • A dissertation submitted to the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the School of Education (Cultural Studies and Literacies).
  • The words “Chapel Hill” must be centered 1″ below the statement.
  • One single-spaced line below that, center the year in which your committee approves the completed thesis or dissertation. This need not be the year you graduate.
  • Approximately 2/3 of the way across the page on the right-hand side of the page, 1″ below the year, include the phrase “Approved by:” (with colon) followed by each faculty member's name on subsequent double-spaced lines. Do not include titles such as Professor, Doctor, Dr., PhD, or any identifiers such as “chair” or “advisor” before or after any names. Line up the first letter of each name on the left under the “A” in the “Approved by:” line. If a name is too long to fit on one line, move this entire section of text slightly to the left so that formatting can be maintained.
  • No signatures, signature lines, or page numbers should be included on the title page.

Include a copyright page with the following information single-spaced and centered 2″ above the bottom of the page:

Copyright Page with mesaurements described in surrounding text

© Year Author's Full Name (as it appears on the title page) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

This page immediately follows the title page. It should be numbered with the lower case Roman numeral ii centered with a 1/2″ margin from the bottom edge.

Inclusion of this page offers you, as the author, additional protection against copyright infringement as it eliminates any question of authorship and copyright ownership. You do not need to file for copyright in order to include this statement in your thesis or dissertation. However, filing for copyright can offer other protections.

See Section IV for more information on copyrighting your thesis or dissertation.

Include an abstract page following these guidelines:

Abstract page with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • Include the heading “ABSTRACT” in all capital letters, and center it 2″ below the top of the page.
  • One double-spaced line below “ABSTRACT”, center your name, followed by a colon and the title of the thesis or dissertation. Use as many lines as necessary. Be sure that your name and the title exactly match the name and title used on the Title page.
  • One single-spaced line below the title, center the phrase “(Under the direction of [advisor's name])”. Include the phrase in parentheses. Include the first and last name(s) of your advisor or formal co-advisors. Do not include the name of other committee members. Use the advisor's name only; do not include any professional titles such as PhD, Professor, or Dr. or any identifiers such as “chair” or “advisor”.
  • Skip one double-spaced line and begin the abstract. The text of your abstract must be double-spaced and aligned with the document's left margin with the exception of indenting new paragraphs. Do not center or right-justify the abstract.
  • Abstracts cannot exceed 150 words for a thesis or 350 words for a dissertation.
  • Number the abstract page with the lower case Roman numeral iii (and iv, if more than one page) centered with a 1/2″ margin from the bottom edge.

Please write and proofread your abstract carefully. When possible, avoid including symbols or foreign words in your abstract, as they cannot be indexed or searched. Avoid mathematical formulas, diagrams, and other illustrative materials in the abstract. Offer a brief description of your thesis or dissertation and a concise summary of its conclusions. Be sure to describe the subject and focus of your work with clear details and avoid including lengthy explanations or opinions.

Your title and abstract will be used by search engines to help potential audiences locate your work, so clarity will help to draw the attention of your targeted readers.

You have an option to include a dedication, acknowledgements, or preface. If you choose to include any or all of these elements, give each its own page(s).

Dedication page with mesaurements described in surrounding text

A dedication is a message from the author prefixed to a work in tribute to a person, group, or cause. Most dedications are short statements of tribute beginning with “To…” such as “To my family”.

Acknowledgements are the author's statement of gratitude to and recognition of the people and institutions that helped the author's research and writing.

A preface is a statement of the author's reasons for undertaking the work and other personal comments that are not directly germane to the materials presented in other sections of the thesis or dissertation. These reasons tend to be of a personal nature.

Any of the pages must be prepared following these guidelines:

  • Do not place a heading on the dedication page.
  • The text of short dedications must be centered and begin 2″ from the top of the page.
  • Headings are required for the “ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS” and “PREFACE” pages. Headings must be in all capital letters and centered 2″ below the top of the page.
  • The text of the acknowledgements and preface pages must begin one double-spaced line below the heading, be double-spaced, and be aligned with the document's left margin with the exception of indenting new paragraphs.
  • Subsequent pages of text return to the 1″ top margin.
  • The page(s) must be numbered with consecutive lower case Roman numerals (starting with the page number after the abstract) centered with a 1/2″ margin from the bottom edge.

Include a table of contents following these guidelines:

Table of Contents page with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • Include the heading “TABLE OF CONTENTS” in all capital letters, and center it 2″ below the top of the page.
  • Include one double-spaced line between the heading and the first entry.
  • The table of contents should not contain listings for the pages that precede it, but it must list all parts of the thesis or dissertation that follow it.
  • If relevant, be sure to list all appendices and a references section in your table of contents. Include page numbers for these items but do not assign separate chapter numbers.
  • Entries must align with the document's left margin or be indented to the right of the left page margin using consistent tabs.
  • Major subheadings within chapters must be included in the table of contents. The subheading(s) should be indented to the right of the left page margin using consistent tabs.
  • If an entry takes up more than one line, break up the entry about three-fourths of the way across the page and place the rest of the text on a second line, single-spacing the two lines.
  • Include one double-spaced line between each entry.
  • Page numbers listed in the table of contents must be located just inside the right page margin with leaders (lines of periods) filling out the space between the end of the entry and the page number. The last digit of each number must line up on the right margin.
  • Information included in the table of contents must match the headings, major subheadings, and numbering used in the body of the thesis or dissertation.
  • The Table of Contents page(s) must be numbered with consecutive lower case Roman numerals centered with a 1/2″ margin from the bottom edge.

Lists of Tables, Figures, and Illustrations

If applicable, include a list of tables, list of figures, and/or list of illustrations following these guidelines:

Lists of Figures page with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • Include the heading(s) in all capital letters, centered 1″ below the top of the page.
  • Each entry must include a number, title, and page number.
  • Assign each table, figure, or illustration in your thesis or dissertation an Arabic numeral. You may number consecutively throughout the entire work (e.g., Figure 1, Figure 2, etc.), or you may assign a two-part Arabic numeral with the first number designating the chapter in which it appears, separated by a period, followed by a second number to indicate its consecutive placement in the chapter (e.g., Table 3.2 is the second table in Chapter Three).
  • Numerals and titles must align with the document's left margin or be indented to the right of the left page margin using consistent tabs.
  • Page numbers must be located just inside the right page margin with leaders (lines of periods) filling out the space between the end of the entry and the page number. The last digit of each number must line up on the right margin.
  • Numbers, titles, and page numbers must each match the corresponding numbers, titles, and page numbers appearing in the thesis or dissertation.
  • All Lists of Tables, Figures, and Illustrations page(s) must be numbered with consecutive lower case Roman numerals centered with a 1/2″ margin from the bottom edge.

If you use abbreviations extensively in your thesis or dissertation, you must include a list of abbreviations and their corresponding definitions following these guidelines:

List of Abbreviations with mesaurements described in surrounding text

  • Include the heading “LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS” in all capital letters, and center it 1″ below the top of the page.
  • Arrange your abbreviations alphabetically.
  • Abbreviations must align with the document's left margin or be indented to the right of the left page margin using consistent tabs.
  • If an entry takes up more than one line, single-space between the two lines.
  • The List of Abbreviations page(s) must be numbered with consecutive lower case Roman numerals centered with a 1/2″ margin from the bottom edge.

If you use symbols in your thesis or dissertation, you may combine them with your abbreviations, titling the section “LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AND SYMBOLS”, or you may set up a separate list of symbols and their definitions by following the formatting instructions above for abbreviations. The heading you choose must be in all capital letters and centered 1″ below the top of the page.

Previous: Introduction

Next: Format

  • How it works

How to Create the Best Table of Contents for a Dissertation

Published by Owen Ingram at August 12th, 2021 , Revised On September 20, 2023

“A table of contents is an essential part of any article, book, proceedings, essay , and paper with plenty of information. It requires providing the reader’s guidance about the position of the content.”

When preparing a  dissertation , you may cram as much information into it as appropriate. The dissertation may be an extremely well-written one with a lot of valuable information to offer. Still, all that information could become perplexing if the reader cannot easily find the information.

The length of dissertations usually varies from a few pages to a few hundred pages, making it very difficult to find information that you may be after.

Instead of skimming through every page of the dissertation, there is a need for a guideline that directs the reader to the correct section of the dissertation and, more importantly, the correct page in the section.

Also read:   The List of Figures and Tables in the Dissertation .

What is the Table of Contents in the Dissertation?

The table of contents is the section of a dissertation that guides each section of the dissertation paper’s contents.

Depending on the detail level in a table of contents, the most useful headings are listed to provide the reader concerning which page the said information may be found.

The table of contents is essentially a list found at the beginning of a  dissertation , which contains names of the chapters, section titles and/or very brief descriptions, and page numbers indicated for each.

This allows the reader to look at the table of contents to locate the information needed from the dissertation. Having an effective table of contents is key to providing a seamless reading experience to the reader.

Here in this article, we will uncover every piece of information you need to know to write the dissertation’s abstract.

This article helps the readers on how to create the best table of contents for the dissertation. An important thing to note is that this guide discusses creating a table of contents in Microsoft Word.

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Styles for Dissertation Table of Contents

Making an effective table of contents starts with identifying headings and designating styles to those headings.

Using heading styles to format your headings can save a lot of time by automatically converting their formatting to the defined style and serves as a tool to identify the heading and its level, used later when creating a thesis table of contents .

Each heading style already has predefined sizes, fonts, colours, spacing, etc. but can be changed as per the user’s requirements. This also helps once all headings have been created and you intend to change the style of a certain type of heading.

All that is needed to change the style of a type of heading is automatically reflected on all headings that use the style.

Below is how the styles menu looks like;

Style-menus

To allocate a style to a heading, first select a heading and then click on one of the styles in the ‘Styles’ menu. Doing so converts the selected heading to the style that is selected in the Styles menu.

You can style a similar heading level in the same style by selecting each heading and then clicking on the style in the Style menu.

It is important to note that it greatly helps and saves time if you allocate styles systematically, i.e., you allocate the style as you write.

The styles are not limited to headings only but can be used for paragraphs and by selecting the whole paragraph and applying a style to it.

Changing Appearance of Pre-Defined Styles

To change the appearance of a style to one that suits you,

  • You would need to right-click on one of the styles to open a drop-down menu.

Changing-Apperance-of-Predefined-Styles

  • Select ‘Modify’ from the menu. This would display a window with various formatting and appearance options. You can select the most appropriate ones and click ‘OK.’ The change that you made to the style reflects on all headings or paragraphs that use this style.

Changing-Apperance-of-Predefined-Styles

Further changes can be made to headings, but using styles is an important step for creating the table of contents for the thesis. Once this step is completed, you can continue to create a thesis table of contents.

Also Read:  What is Appendix in Dissertation?

Things to Consider when Making APA Style Table of Contents

  • The pages before the body of the dissertation, known as the ‘Prefatory Pages,’ should not have page numbers on them but should be numbered in the Roman Numerals instead as (i, ii, iii…).
  • Table of Contents and the Abstract pages are not to contain any numbers.
  • The remaining pages would carry the standard page numbers (1,2,3…).
  • The section titles and page numbers in the dissertation table of contents should have dotted lines between them.
  • All the Prefatory pages, Sections, Chapter Titles, Headings, Sub Headings, Reference Sections, and Appendices should be listed in the contents’ thesis table. If there are a limited number of Tables or Figures, they may be listed in the dissertation’s table contents.
  • If there are many figures, tables, symbols, or abbreviations, a List of Tables, List of Figures , List of Symbols, and List of Abbreviations should be made for easy navigation. These lists, however, should not be listed in the thesis table of contents.
  • The thesis/dissertation must be divided into sections even if it is not divided into chapters, with all sections being listed in the table of contents for the thesis.

Generating Dissertation Table of Contents

First, to generate the Table of Contents, start by entering a blank page after the pages you need the table of contents to follow.

  • To do so, click on the bottom of the page you want before the Table of Contents.
  • Open the ‘Insert’ tab and select ‘Page Break’.
  • This will create a page between the top and bottom sections of the Table of Contents area.

Generating-Table-of-Contents-for-Your-Dissertation

By the time you reach this section, you would have given each heading or sub-heading a dedicated style, distinguishing between different types of headings. Microsoft Word can automatically generate a Table of Contents, but the document, particularly the headings, needs to be formatted according to styles for this feature to work. You can assign different headings levels, different styles for Microsoft Word to recognize the level of heading.

How to Insert Table of Contents

  • Place the cursor where you want to place the Table of Contents on the page you added earlier.
  • On the ‘References’ tab, open the Table of Contents group. This would open a list of different Table of Contents designs and a  table of contents sample.

Inserting-Table-of-Contents

  • You can select an option from the available Table of Contents or make a Custom Table of Contents. Although the available Table of Contents samples is appropriate, you may use a custom table of contents if it is more suitable to your needs. This allows you to modify different formatting options for the Table of Contents to satisfy your own

Inserting-Table-of-Contents-1

Updating the Table of Contents

As you proceed with editing your dissertation, the changes cause the page numbers and headings to vary. Often, people fail to incorporate those changes into the Table of Contents, which then effectively serves as an incorrect table and causes confusion.

It is thus important to update the changes into the table of contents as the final step once you have made all the necessary changes in the dissertation and are ready to print it.

These changes may alter the length of the  thesis table of contents , which may also cause the dissertation’s formatting to be altered a little, so it is best to reformat it after updating the table of contents.

To update the table of contents,

  • Select ‘Update Table’ in the References tab.
  • This would open a dialogue box. Select ‘Update Entire Table’ to ensure that all changes are reflected in the contents table and not just the page numbers. This would display all changes and additions you have made to the document (Anon., 2017).

Using this guide, you should understand how to create the best table of contents for the dissertation. The use of a Table of Contents, while being important for most written work, is even more critical for dissertations, especially when the proper methodology of creating the table of contents is followed.

This includes the guidelines that must be considered to correctly format the table of contents so that it may be shaped so that it follows the norms and is effective at helping the reader navigate through the content of the dissertation.

The use of Microsoft Word’s Table of Contents generation feature has greatly helped people worldwide create, edit, and update the table of contents of their dissertations with ease.

Here in this article, we will uncover every piece of information you need to know  how to write the dissertation’s abstract .

Are you in need of help with dissertation writing? At ResearchProspect, we have hundreds of Master’s and PhD qualified writers for all academic subjects, so you can get help with any aspect of your dissertation project. You can place your order for a proposal ,  full dissertation paper , or  individual chapters .

Is it essential to add a table of content to the dissertation?

Yes, it is important to add a table of content in a dissertation .

How to make an effective table of contents for the dissertation?

Using heading styles to format your headings can save a lot of time by automatically converting their formatting to the defined style and serves as a tool to identify the heading and its level, used later when creating a thesis table of contents.

How do I update the table of contents?

You may also like.

Here are the steps to make a theoretical framework for dissertation. You can define, discuss and evaluate theories relevant to the research problem.

Make sure to develop a conceptual framework before conducting research. Here is all you need to know about what is a conceptual framework is in a dissertation?

Make sure that your selected topic is intriguing, manageable, and relevant. Here are some guidelines to help understand how to find a good dissertation topic.

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Thesis / dissertation formatting manual (2024).

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Table of Contents

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The Table of Contents should follow these guidelines:

  • ​All sections of the manuscript are listed in the Table of Contents except the Title Page, the Copyright Page, the Dedication Page, and the Table of Contents.
  • You may list subsections within chapters
  • Creative works are not exempt from the requirement to include a Table of Contents

Table of Contents Example

Here is an example of a Table of Contents page from the Template. Please note that your table of contents may be longer than one page.

Screenshot of Table of Contents page from Dissertation template

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Theses and dissertations are already intensive, long-term projects that require a lot of effort and time from their authors. Formatting for submission to the university is often the last thing that graduate students do, and may delay earning the relevant degree if done incorrectly.

Below are some strategies graduate students can use to deal with institutional formatting requirements to earn their degrees on time.

Disciplinary conventions are still paramount.

Scholars in your own discipline are the most common readers of your dissertation; your committee, too, will expect your work to match with their expectations as members of your field. The style guide your field uses most commonly is always the one you should follow, and if your field uses conventions such as including all figures and illustrations at the end of the document, you should do so. After these considerations are met, move on to university formatting. Almost always, university formatting only deals with things like margins, font, numbering of chapters and sections, and illustrations; disciplinary style conventions in content such as APA's directive to use only last names of authors in-text are not interfered with by university formatting at all.

Use your university's formatting guidelines and templates to your advantage.

If your institution has a template for formatting your thesis or dissertation that you can use, do so. Don't look at another student's document and try to replicate it yourself. These templates typically have the necessary section breaks and styles already in the document, and you can copy in your work from your existing draft using the style pane in MS Word to ensure you're using the correct formatting (similarly with software such as Overleaf when writing in LaTeX, templates do a lot of the work for you). It's also often easier for workers in the offices that deal with theses and dissertations to help you with your work if you're using their template — they are familiar with these templates and can often navigate them more proficiently.

These templates also include placeholders for all front matter you will need to include in your thesis or dissertation, and may include guidelines for how to write these. Front matter includes your table of contents, acknowledgements, abstract, abbreviation list, figure list, committee page, and (sometimes) academic history or CV; everything before your introduction is front matter. Since front matter pages such as the author's academic history and dissertation committee are usually for the graduate school and not for your department, your advisor might not remember to have you include them. Knowing about them well before your deposit date means you won't be scrambling to fill in placeholders at the last minute or getting your work returned for revision from the graduate school.

Consider institutional formatting early and often.

Many graduate students leave this aspect of submitting their projects until it's almost too late to work on it, causing delays in obtaining their degree. Simply being aware that this is a task you'll have to complete and making sure you know where templates are, who you can ask for help in your graduate office or your department, and what your institution's guidelines are can help alleviate this issue. Once you know what you'll be expected to do to convert to university formatting, you can set regular check-in times for yourself to do this work in pieces rather than all at once (for instance, when you've completed a chapter and had it approved by your chair). 

Consider fair use for images and other third-party content.

Most theses and dissertations are published through ProQuest or another publisher (Harvard, for instance, uses their own open publishing service). For this reason, it may be the case that your institution requires all images or other content obtained from other sources to fall under fair use rules or, if an image is not considered under fair use, you'll have to obtain permission to print it in your dissertation. Your institution should have more guidance on their specific expectations for fair use content; knowing what these guidelines are well in advance of your deposit date means you won't have to make last-minute changes or removals to deposit your work.

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How to create a table of contents for a dissertation (apa), published by steve tippins on june 20, 2022 june 20, 2022.

Last Updated on: 2nd February 2024, 05:06 am

dissertation table of contents

APA Dissertation Table of Contents Format Guidelines

  • The table of contents should be double spaced with one-inch margins on all sides. 
  • It should be written in the same font and size as the rest of your dissertation.  
  • At the top of the page, write Table of Contents , centered and in bold.
  • Although in the body of the paper you can use up to five levels of headings, up to three levels are usually provided in the Table of Contents. Including lower-level headings is optional. 
  • Indent each subheading five spaces. 
  • Write all text in title case. In title case, the first letter of major words is capitalized.
  • Provide the page number where the main headings and subheadings begin, and provide dotted lines between the heading and the page number.
  • Page numbers for the Dedication, Acknowledgements, and Preface should be in lower case Roman Numbers (i, v, x, l, c, d and m.). The page numbers for the rest of the text should be in Arabic numerals (1,2, 3, 4, etc.).

How to Create an APA Table of Contents Using Microsoft Word

Step 1. Instead of manually trying to write and format the table of contents, you can create a generated one using Microsoft Word. To do this, first go to the Home tab. This is where you will choose the styles for the table of contents. 

Step 2. The top-level headings will be your chapter titles, so on the right side of the tab, apply the Heading 1 style. 

Step 3. The second-level headings will be your subheadings, so apply the Heading 2 style. This will place your subheadings underneath your main headings.

screenshot of formatting a heading in Microsoft word

Step 4. You will now produce page links to your document. In the top ribbon, click on the References tab and select Table of Contents . 

dissertation table of contents

Step 5. If the style does not indicate APA, such as the one below, use the drop down arrow to select APA. 

Step 6. Next, choose the number of levels that you want. In this case, you want to be able to have up to three levels, so choose Automatic Table 2 , which has the appropriate heading for a dissertation. 

Step 7. Click ok , and you are all set. Microsoft word will automatically generate your dissertation’s table of contents as you write it.

screenshot of table of content formatting in microsoft word

List of Tables and Figures

Your list of tables and figures will be written at the end of the list of information in the body of your paper. You will create these lists the same way that you created the main table of contents. 

However, the headings will be different. 

Instead of the heading “Table of Contents,” the headings will be “List of Tables” and “List of Figures.” (An example is provided in the table of contents example below.)

Example of Table of Contents

In the example below, there are three level headings. The list of tables and figures are provided at the bottom of the other contents. The sections in your table of contents may be different depending on your college’s requirements. 

screenshot of APA Dissertation Table of Contents formatting

Updating the Table of Contents

As you continue working on your dissertation, you will need to update the page numbers because they may change. 

dissertation table of contents

To update the page numbers, right-click on the table of contents in your document and select the Update field . Then, the Update Table of Contents box will appear. 

You can choose to Update page numbers only or all the information in the table of contents by clicking on Update entire table . 

screenshot of updating page numbers in microsoft word

Note: For more information, refer to the APA Manual 7 th edition , sections 2.2-2.27.

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Steve Tippins

Steve Tippins, PhD, has thrived in academia for over thirty years. He continues to love teaching in addition to coaching recent PhD graduates as well as students writing their dissertations. Learn more about his dissertation coaching and career coaching services. Book a Free Consultation with Steve Tippins

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Creating a good research question is vital to successfully completing your dissertation. Here are some tips that will help you formulate a good research question.  What Makes a Good Research Question? These are the three Read more…

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Dissertation Structure

When it comes to writing a dissertation, one of the most fraught questions asked by graduate students is about dissertation structure. A dissertation is the lengthiest writing project that many graduate students ever undertake, and Read more…

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Choosing a Dissertation Chair

Choosing your dissertation chair is one of the most important decisions that you’ll make in graduate school. Your dissertation chair will in many ways shape your experience as you undergo the most rigorous intellectual challenge Read more…

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Detailed Report

  • Formatting Your Dissertation
  • Introduction

Harvard Griffin GSAS strives to provide students with timely, accurate, and clear information. If you need help understanding a specific policy, please contact the office that administers that policy.

  • Application for Degree
  • Credit for Completed Graduate Work
  • Ad Hoc Degree Programs
  • Acknowledging the Work of Others
  • Advanced Planning
  • Dissertation Submission Checklist
  • Publishing Options
  • Submitting Your Dissertation
  • English Language Proficiency
  • PhD Program Requirements
  • Secondary Fields
  • Year of Graduate Study (G-Year)
  • Master's Degrees
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On this page:

Language of the Dissertation

Page and text requirements, body of text, tables, figures, and captions, dissertation acceptance certificate, copyright statement.

  • Table of Contents

Front and Back Matter

Supplemental material, dissertations comprising previously published works, top ten formatting errors, further questions.

  • Related Contacts and Forms

When preparing the dissertation for submission, students must follow strict formatting requirements. Any deviation from these requirements may lead to rejection of the dissertation and delay in the conferral of the degree.

The language of the dissertation is ordinarily English, although some departments whose subject matter involves foreign languages may accept a dissertation written in a language other than English.

Most dissertations are 100 to 300 pages in length. All dissertations should be divided into appropriate sections, and long dissertations may need chapters, main divisions, and subdivisions.

  • 8½ x 11 inches, unless a musical score is included
  • At least 1 inch for all margins
  • Body of text: double spacing
  • Block quotations, footnotes, and bibliographies: single spacing within each entry but double spacing between each entry
  • Table of contents, list of tables, list of figures or illustrations, and lengthy tables: single spacing may be used

Fonts and Point Size

Use 10-12 point size. Fonts must be embedded in the PDF file to ensure all characters display correctly. 

Recommended Fonts

If you are unsure whether your chosen font will display correctly, use one of the following fonts: 

If fonts are not embedded, non-English characters may not appear as intended. Fonts embedded improperly will be published to DASH as-is. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that fonts are embedded properly prior to submission. 

Instructions for Embedding Fonts

To embed your fonts in recent versions of Word, follow these instructions from Microsoft:

  • Click the File tab and then click Options .
  • In the left column, select the Save tab.
  • Clear the Do not embed common system fonts check box.

For reference, below are some instructions from ProQuest UMI for embedding fonts in older file formats:

To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2010:

  • In the File pull-down menu click on Options .
  • Choose Save on the left sidebar.
  • Check the box next to Embed fonts in the file.
  • Click the OK button.
  • Save the document.

Note that when saving as a PDF, make sure to go to “more options” and save as “PDF/A compliant”

To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2007:

  • Click the circular Office button in the upper left corner of Microsoft Word.
  • A new window will display. In the bottom right corner select Word Options . 
  • Choose Save from the left sidebar.

Using Microsoft Word on a Mac:

Microsoft Word 2008 on a Mac OS X computer will automatically embed your fonts while converting your document to a PDF file.

If you are converting to PDF using Acrobat Professional (instructions courtesy of the Graduate Thesis Office at Iowa State University):  

  • Open your document in Microsoft Word. 
  • Click on the Adobe PDF tab at the top. Select "Change Conversion Settings." 
  • Click on Advanced Settings. 
  • Click on the Fonts folder on the left side of the new window. In the lower box on the right, delete any fonts that appear in the "Never Embed" box. Then click "OK." 
  • If prompted to save these new settings, save them as "Embed all fonts." 
  • Now the Change Conversion Settings window should show "embed all fonts" in the Conversion Settings drop-down list and it should be selected. Click "OK" again. 
  • Click on the Adobe PDF link at the top again. This time select Convert to Adobe PDF. Depending on the size of your document and the speed of your computer, this process can take 1-15 minutes. 
  • After your document is converted, select the "File" tab at the top of the page. Then select "Document Properties." 
  • Click on the "Fonts" tab. Carefully check all of your fonts. They should all show "(Embedded Subset)" after the font name. 
  •  If you see "(Embedded Subset)" after all fonts, you have succeeded.

The font used in the body of the text must also be used in headers, page numbers, and footnotes. Exceptions are made only for tables and figures created with different software and inserted into the document.

Tables and figures must be placed as close as possible to their first mention in the text. They may be placed on a page with no text above or below, or they may be placed directly into the text. If a table or a figure is alone on a page (with no narrative), it should be centered within the margins on the page. Tables may take up more than one page as long as they obey all rules about margins. Tables and figures referred to in the text may not be placed at the end of the chapter or at the end of the dissertation.

  • Given the standards of the discipline, dissertations in the Department of History of Art and Architecture and the Department of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning often place illustrations at the end of the dissertation.

Figure and table numbering must be continuous throughout the dissertation or by chapter (e.g., 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, etc.). Two figures or tables cannot be designated with the same number. If you have repeating images that you need to cite more than once, label them with their number and A, B, etc. 

Headings should be placed at the top of tables. While no specific rules for the format of table headings and figure captions are required, a consistent format must be used throughout the dissertation (contact your department for style manuals appropriate to the field).

Captions should appear at the bottom of any figures. If the figure takes up the entire page, the caption should be placed alone on the preceding page, centered vertically and horizontally within the margins.

Each page receives a separate page number. When a figure or table title is on a preceding page, the second and subsequent pages of the figure or table should say, for example, “Figure 5 (Continued).” In such an instance, the list of figures or tables will list the page number containing the title. The word “figure” should be written in full (not abbreviated), and the “F” should be capitalized (e.g., Figure 5). In instances where the caption continues on a second page, the “(Continued)” notation should appear on the second and any subsequent page. The figure/table and the caption are viewed as one entity and the numbering should show correlation between all pages. Each page must include a header.

Landscape orientation figures and tables must be positioned correctly and bound at the top so that the top of the figure or table will be at the left margin. Figure and table headings/captions are placed with the same orientation as the figure or table when on the same page. When on a separate page, headings/captions are always placed in portrait orientation, regardless of the orientation of the figure or table. Page numbers are always placed as if the figure were vertical on the page.

If a graphic artist does the figures, Harvard Griffin GSAS will accept lettering done by the artist only within the figure. Figures done with software are acceptable if the figures are clear and legible. Legends and titles done by the same process as the figures will be accepted if they too are clear, legible, and run at least 10 or 12 characters per inch. Otherwise, legends and captions should be printed with the same font used in the text.

Original illustrations, photographs, and fine arts prints may be scanned and included, centered between the margins on a page with no text above or below.

Use of Third-Party Content

In addition to the student's own writing, dissertations often contain third-party content or in-copyright content owned by parties other than you, the student who authored the dissertation. The Office for Scholarly Communication recommends consulting the information below about fair use, which allows individuals to use in-copyright content, on a limited basis and for specific purposes, without seeking permission from copyright holders.

Because your dissertation will be made available for online distribution through DASH , Harvard's open-access repository, it is important that any third-party content in it may be made available in this way.

Fair Use and Copyright 

What is fair use?

Fair use is a provision in copyright law that allows the use of a certain amount of copyrighted material without seeking permission. Fair use is format- and media-agnostic. This means fair use may apply to images (including photographs, illustrations, and paintings), quoting at length from literature, videos, and music regardless of the format. 

How do I determine whether my use of an image or other third-party content in my dissertation is fair use?  

There are four factors you will need to consider when making a fair use claim.

1) For what purpose is your work going to be used?

  • Nonprofit, educational, scholarly, or research use favors fair use. Commercial, non-educational uses, often do not favor fair use.
  • A transformative use (repurposing or recontextualizing the in-copyright material) favors fair use. Examining, analyzing, and explicating the material in a meaningful way, so as to enhance a reader's understanding, strengthens your fair use argument. In other words, can you make the point in the thesis without using, for instance, an in-copyright image? Is that image necessary to your dissertation? If not, perhaps, for copyright reasons, you should not include the image.  

2) What is the nature of the work to be used?

  • Published, fact-based content favors fair use and includes scholarly analysis in published academic venues. 
  • Creative works, including artistic images, are afforded more protection under copyright, and depending on your use in light of the other factors, may be less likely to favor fair use; however, this does not preclude considerations of fair use for creative content altogether.

3) How much of the work is going to be used?  

  • Small, or less significant, amounts favor fair use. A good rule of thumb is to use only as much of the in-copyright content as necessary to serve your purpose. Can you use a thumbnail rather than a full-resolution image? Can you use a black-and-white photo instead of color? Can you quote select passages instead of including several pages of the content? These simple changes bolster your fair use of the material.

4) What potential effect on the market for that work may your use have?

  • If there is a market for licensing this exact use or type of educational material, then this weighs against fair use. If however, there would likely be no effect on the potential commercial market, or if it is not possible to obtain permission to use the work, then this favors fair use. 

For further assistance with fair use, consult the Office for Scholarly Communication's guide, Fair Use: Made for the Harvard Community and the Office of the General Counsel's Copyright and Fair Use: A Guide for the Harvard Community .

What are my options if I don’t have a strong fair use claim? 

Consider the following options if you find you cannot reasonably make a fair use claim for the content you wish to incorporate:

  • Seek permission from the copyright holder. 
  • Use openly licensed content as an alternative to the original third-party content you intended to use. Openly-licensed content grants permission up-front for reuse of in-copyright content, provided your use meets the terms of the open license.
  • Use content in the public domain, as this content is not in-copyright and is therefore free of all copyright restrictions. Whereas third-party content is owned by parties other than you, no one owns content in the public domain; everyone, therefore, has the right to use it.

For use of images in your dissertation, please consult this guide to Finding Public Domain & Creative Commons Media , which is a great resource for finding images without copyright restrictions. 

Who can help me with questions about copyright and fair use?

Contact your Copyright First Responder . Please note, Copyright First Responders assist with questions concerning copyright and fair use, but do not assist with the process of obtaining permission from copyright holders.

Pages should be assigned a number except for the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate . Preliminary pages (abstract, table of contents, list of tables, graphs, illustrations, and preface) should use small Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). All pages must contain text or images.  

Count the title page as page i and the copyright page as page ii, but do not print page numbers on either page .

For the body of text, use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) starting with page 1 on the first page of text. Page numbers must be centered throughout the manuscript at the top or bottom. Every numbered page must be consecutively ordered, including tables, graphs, illustrations, and bibliography/index (if included); letter suffixes (such as 10a, 10b, etc.) are not allowed. It is customary not to have a page number on the page containing a chapter heading.

  • Check pagination carefully. Account for all pages.

A copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC) should appear as the first page. This page should not be counted or numbered. The DAC will appear in the online version of the published dissertation. The author name and date on the DAC and title page should be the same. 

The dissertation begins with the title page; the title should be as concise as possible and should provide an accurate description of the dissertation. The author name and date on the DAC and title page should be the same. 

  • Do not print a page number on the title page. It is understood to be page  i  for counting purposes only.

A copyright notice should appear on a separate page immediately following the title page and include the copyright symbol ©, the year of first publication of the work, and the name of the author:

© [ year ] [ Author’s Name ] All rights reserved.

Alternatively, students may choose to license their work openly under a  Creative Commons  license. The author remains the copyright holder while at the same time granting up-front permission to others to read, share, and (depending on the license) adapt the work, so long as proper attribution is given. (By default, under copyright law, the author reserves all rights; under a Creative Commons license, the author reserves some rights.)

  • Do  not  print a page number on the copyright page. It is understood to be page  ii  for counting purposes only.

An abstract, numbered as page  iii , should immediately follow the copyright page and should state the problem, describe the methods and procedures used, and give the main results or conclusions of the research. The abstract will appear in the online and bound versions of the dissertation and will be published by ProQuest. There is no maximum word count for the abstract. 

  • double-spaced
  • left-justified
  • indented on the first line of each paragraph
  • The author’s name, right justified
  • The words “Dissertation Advisor:” followed by the advisor’s name, left-justified (a maximum of two advisors is allowed)
  • Title of the dissertation, centered, several lines below author and advisor

Dissertations divided into sections must contain a table of contents that lists, at minimum, the major headings in the following order:

  • Front Matter
  • Body of Text
  • Back Matter

Front matter includes (if applicable):

  • acknowledgements of help or encouragement from individuals or institutions
  • a dedication
  • a list of illustrations or tables
  • a glossary of terms
  • one or more epigraphs.

Back matter includes (if applicable):

  • bibliography
  • supplemental materials, including figures and tables
  • an index (in rare instances).

Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the end of the dissertation in an appendix, not within or at the end of a chapter. If additional digital information (including audio, video, image, or datasets) will accompany the main body of the dissertation, it should be uploaded as a supplemental file through ProQuest ETD . Supplemental material will be available in DASH and ProQuest and preserved digitally in the Harvard University Archives.

As a matter of copyright, dissertations comprising the student's previously published works must be authorized for distribution from DASH. The guidelines in this section pertain to any previously published material that requires permission from publishers or other rightsholders before it may be distributed from DASH. Please note:

  • Authors whose publishing agreements grant the publisher exclusive rights to display, distribute, and create derivative works will need to seek the publisher's permission for nonexclusive use of the underlying works before the dissertation may be distributed from DASH.
  • Authors whose publishing agreements indicate the authors have retained the relevant nonexclusive rights to the original materials for display, distribution, and the creation of derivative works may distribute the dissertation as a whole from DASH without need for further permissions.

It is recommended that authors consult their publishing agreements directly to determine whether and to what extent they may have transferred exclusive rights under copyright. The Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) is available to help the author determine whether she has retained the necessary rights or requires permission. Please note, however, the Office of Scholarly Communication is not able to assist with the permissions process itself.

  • Missing Dissertation Acceptance Certificate.  The first page of the PDF dissertation file should be a scanned copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC). This page should not be counted or numbered as a part of the dissertation pagination.
  • Conflicts Between the DAC and the Title Page.  The DAC and the dissertation title page must match exactly, meaning that the author name and the title on the title page must match that on the DAC. If you use your full middle name or just an initial on one document, it must be the same on the other document.  
  • Abstract Formatting Errors. The advisor name should be left-justified, and the author's name should be right-justified. Up to two advisor names are allowed. The Abstract should be double spaced and include the page title “Abstract,” as well as the page number “iii.” There is no maximum word count for the abstract. 
  •  The front matter should be numbered using Roman numerals (iii, iv, v, …). The title page and the copyright page should be counted but not numbered. The first printed page number should appear on the Abstract page (iii). 
  • The body of the dissertation should be numbered using Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, …). The first page of the body of the text should begin with page 1. Pagination may not continue from the front matter. 
  • All page numbers should be centered either at the top or the bottom of the page.
  • Figures and tables Figures and tables must be placed within the text, as close to their first mention as possible. Figures and tables that span more than one page must be labeled on each page. Any second and subsequent page of the figure/table must include the “(Continued)” notation. This applies to figure captions as well as images. Each page of a figure/table must be accounted for and appropriately labeled. All figures/tables must have a unique number. They may not repeat within the dissertation.
  • Any figures/tables placed in a horizontal orientation must be placed with the top of the figure/ table on the left-hand side. The top of the figure/table should be aligned with the spine of the dissertation when it is bound. 
  • Page numbers must be placed in the same location on all pages of the dissertation, centered, at the bottom or top of the page. Page numbers may not appear under the table/ figure.
  • Supplemental Figures and Tables. Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the back of the dissertation in an appendix. They should not be placed at the back of the chapter. 
  • Permission Letters Copyright. permission letters must be uploaded as a supplemental file, titled ‘do_not_publish_permission_letters,” within the dissertation submission tool.
  •  DAC Attachment. The signed Dissertation Acceptance Certificate must additionally be uploaded as a document in the "Administrative Documents" section when submitting in Proquest ETD . Dissertation submission is not complete until all documents have been received and accepted.
  • Overall Formatting. The entire document should be checked after all revisions, and before submitting online, to spot any inconsistencies or PDF conversion glitches.
  • You can view dissertations successfully published from your department in DASH . This is a great place to check for specific formatting and area-specific conventions.
  • Contact the  Office of Student Affairs  with further questions.

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  • Dissertation Table of Contents in Word | Instructions & Examples

Dissertation Table of Contents in Word | Instructions & Examples

Published on 15 May 2022 by Tegan George .

The table of contents is where you list the chapters and major sections of your thesis, dissertation, or research paper, alongside their page numbers. A clear and well-formatted table of contents is essential, as it demonstrates to your reader that a quality paper will follow.

The table of contents (TOC) should be placed between the abstract and the introduction. The maximum length should be two pages. Depending on the nature of your thesis, dissertation, or paper, there are a few formatting options you can choose from.

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Table of contents

What to include in your table of contents, what not to include in your table of contents, creating a table of contents in microsoft word, table of contents examples, updating a table of contents in microsoft word, other lists in your thesis, dissertation, or research paper, frequently asked questions about the table of contents.

Depending on the length of your document, you can choose between a single-level, subdivided, or multi-level table of contents.

  • A single-level table of contents only includes ‘level 1’ headings, or chapters. This is the simplest option, but it may be too broad for a long document like a dissertation.
  • A subdivided table of contents includes chapters as well as ‘level 2’ headings, or sections. These show your reader what each chapter contains.
  • A multi-level table of contents also further divides sections into ‘level 3’ headings. This option can get messy quickly, so proceed with caution. Remember your table of contents should not be longer than 2 pages. A multi-level table is often a good choice for a shorter document like a research paper.

Examples of level 1 headings are Introduction, Literature Review, Methodology, and Bibliography. Subsections of each of these would be level 2 headings, further describing the contents of each chapter or large section. Any further subsections would be level 3.

In these introductory sections, less is often more. As you decide which sections to include, narrow it down to only the most essential.

Including appendices and tables

You should include all appendices in your table of contents. Whether or not you include tables and figures depends largely on how many there are in your document.

If there are more than three figures and tables, you might consider listing them on a separate page. Otherwise, you can include each one in the table of contents.

  • Theses and dissertations often have a separate list of figures and tables.
  • Research papers generally don’t have a separate list of figures and tables.

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All level 1 and level 2 headings should be included in your table of contents, with level 3 headings used very sparingly.

The following things should never be included in a table of contents:

  • Your acknowledgements page
  • Your abstract
  • The table of contents itself

The acknowledgements and abstract always precede the table of contents, so there’s no need to include them. This goes for any sections that precede the table of contents.

To automatically insert a table of contents in Microsoft Word, be sure to first apply the correct heading styles throughout the document, as shown below.

  • Choose which headings are heading 1 and which are heading 2 (or 3!
  • For example, if all level 1 headings should be Times New Roman, 12-point font, and bold, add this formatting to the first level 1 heading.
  • Highlight the level 1 heading.
  • Right-click the style that says ‘Heading 1’.
  • Select ‘Update Heading 1 to Match Selection’.
  • Allocate the formatting for each heading throughout your document by highlighting the heading in question and clicking the style you wish to apply.

Once that’s all set, follow these steps:

  • Add a title to your table of contents. Be sure to check if your citation style or university has guidelines for this.
  • Place your cursor where you would like your table of contents to go.
  • In the ‘References’ section at the top, locate the Table of Contents group.
  • Here, you can select which levels of headings you would like to include. You can also make manual adjustments to each level by clicking the Modify button.
  • When you are ready to insert the table of contents, click ‘OK’ and it will be automatically generated, as shown below.

The key features of a table of contents are:

  • Clear headings and subheadings
  • Corresponding page numbers

Check with your educational institution to see if they have any specific formatting or design requirements.

Write yourself a reminder to update your table of contents as one of your final tasks before submitting your dissertation or paper. It’s normal for your text to shift a bit as you input your final edits, and it’s crucial that your page numbers correspond correctly.

It’s easy to update your page numbers automatically in Microsoft Word. Simply right-click the table of contents and select ‘Update Field’. You can choose either to update page numbers only or to update all information in your table of contents.

In addition to a table of contents, you might also want to include a list of figures and tables, a list of abbreviations and a glossary in your thesis or dissertation. You can use the following guides to do so:

  • List of figures and tables
  • List of abbreviations

It is less common to include these lists in a research paper.

All level 1 and 2 headings should be included in your table of contents . That means the titles of your chapters and the main sections within them.

The contents should also include all appendices and the lists of tables and figures, if applicable, as well as your reference list .

Do not include the acknowledgements or abstract   in the table of contents.

To automatically insert a table of contents in Microsoft Word, follow these steps:

  • Apply heading styles throughout the document.
  • In the references section in the ribbon, locate the Table of Contents group.
  • Click the arrow next to the Table of Contents icon and select Custom Table of Contents.
  • Select which levels of headings you would like to include in the table of contents.

Make sure to update your table of contents if you move text or change headings. To update, simply right click and select Update Field.

The table of contents in a thesis or dissertation always goes between your abstract and your introduction.

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George, T. (2022, May 15). Dissertation Table of Contents in Word | Instructions & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 15 February 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/thesis-dissertation/contents-page/

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KU Thesis and Dissertation Formatting: Table of Contents

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Office of Graduate Studies Thesis and Dissertation Formatting Guidelines

These rules are taken from the KU Office of Graduate Studies Thesis or Dissertation Formatting Guidelines. To see the full thesis or dissertation formatting requirements, visit https://graduate.ku.edu/submitting

Creating an Automated Table of Contents

Located in the Home tab, Word’s Style Gallery makes it easy to set consistent, one-click formatting for headings throughout your document. It is these style settings that Word uses to create an automatic table of contents. Using an automatic table of contents will save you the huge headache of dealing with dot leaders, spacing, and having to completely re-type your table of contents if the order of your pages changes even a little. Plus, styles are easy to use! Step-by-step how-to instructions are included below for setting heading styles and then inserting a table of contents in Word 2010, Word 2013 or Word 2011 for Mac.

  • Printed Instructions (TOC Word 2010)
  • Printed Instructions (TOC Word 2013)
  • Printed Instructions (TOC Word 2011 for Mac)
  • Printed Instructions (TOC Word 2016 Mac)
  • Printed Instructions (TOC Word 2016 PC)
  • Creating a Manual-Entry Table of Contents

Working with Outline Style (Numbered) Headings

Numbered headings can be very tricky and many citation styles do not require their use. If you are working with a style the does require it, however, Shauna Kelly's blog has some great help .

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Grad Coach

Dissertation Structure & Layout 101: How to structure your dissertation, thesis or research project.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) Reviewed By: David Phair (PhD) | July 2019

So, you’ve got a decent understanding of what a dissertation is , you’ve chosen your topic and hopefully you’ve received approval for your research proposal . Awesome! Now its time to start the actual dissertation or thesis writing journey.

To craft a high-quality document, the very first thing you need to understand is dissertation structure . In this post, we’ll walk you through the generic dissertation structure and layout, step by step. We’ll start with the big picture, and then zoom into each chapter to briefly discuss the core contents. If you’re just starting out on your research journey, you should start with this post, which covers the big-picture process of how to write a dissertation or thesis .

Dissertation structure and layout - the basics

*The Caveat *

In this post, we’ll be discussing a traditional dissertation/thesis structure and layout, which is generally used for social science research across universities, whether in the US, UK, Europe or Australia. However, some universities may have small variations on this structure (extra chapters, merged chapters, slightly different ordering, etc).

So, always check with your university if they have a prescribed structure or layout that they expect you to work with. If not, it’s safe to assume the structure we’ll discuss here is suitable. And even if they do have a prescribed structure, you’ll still get value from this post as we’ll explain the core contents of each section.  

Overview: S tructuring a dissertation or thesis

  • Acknowledgements page
  • Abstract (or executive summary)
  • Table of contents , list of figures and tables
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Literature review
  • Chapter 3: Methodology
  • Chapter 4: Results
  • Chapter 5: Discussion
  • Chapter 6: Conclusion
  • Reference list

As I mentioned, some universities will have slight variations on this structure. For example, they want an additional “personal reflection chapter”, or they might prefer the results and discussion chapter to be merged into one. Regardless, the overarching flow will always be the same, as this flow reflects the research process , which we discussed here – i.e.:

  • The introduction chapter presents the core research question and aims .
  • The literature review chapter assesses what the current research says about this question.
  • The methodology, results and discussion chapters go about undertaking new research about this question.
  • The conclusion chapter (attempts to) answer the core research question .

In other words, the dissertation structure and layout reflect the research process of asking a well-defined question(s), investigating, and then answering the question – see below.

A dissertation's structure reflect the research process

To restate that – the structure and layout of a dissertation reflect the flow of the overall research process . This is essential to understand, as each chapter will make a lot more sense if you “get” this concept. If you’re not familiar with the research process, read this post before going further.

Right. Now that we’ve covered the big picture, let’s dive a little deeper into the details of each section and chapter. Oh and by the way, you can also grab our free dissertation/thesis template here to help speed things up.

The title page of your dissertation is the very first impression the marker will get of your work, so it pays to invest some time thinking about your title. But what makes for a good title? A strong title needs to be 3 things:

  • Succinct (not overly lengthy or verbose)
  • Specific (not vague or ambiguous)
  • Representative of the research you’re undertaking (clearly linked to your research questions)

Typically, a good title includes mention of the following:

  • The broader area of the research (i.e. the overarching topic)
  • The specific focus of your research (i.e. your specific context)
  • Indication of research design (e.g. quantitative , qualitative , or  mixed methods ).

For example:

A quantitative investigation [research design] into the antecedents of organisational trust [broader area] in the UK retail forex trading market [specific context/area of focus].

Again, some universities may have specific requirements regarding the format and structure of the title, so it’s worth double-checking expectations with your institution (if there’s no mention in the brief or study material).

Dissertations stacked up

Acknowledgements

This page provides you with an opportunity to say thank you to those who helped you along your research journey. Generally, it’s optional (and won’t count towards your marks), but it is academic best practice to include this.

So, who do you say thanks to? Well, there’s no prescribed requirements, but it’s common to mention the following people:

  • Your dissertation supervisor or committee.
  • Any professors, lecturers or academics that helped you understand the topic or methodologies.
  • Any tutors, mentors or advisors.
  • Your family and friends, especially spouse (for adult learners studying part-time).

There’s no need for lengthy rambling. Just state who you’re thankful to and for what (e.g. thank you to my supervisor, John Doe, for his endless patience and attentiveness) – be sincere. In terms of length, you should keep this to a page or less.

Abstract or executive summary

The dissertation abstract (or executive summary for some degrees) serves to provide the first-time reader (and marker or moderator) with a big-picture view of your research project. It should give them an understanding of the key insights and findings from the research, without them needing to read the rest of the report – in other words, it should be able to stand alone .

For it to stand alone, your abstract should cover the following key points (at a minimum):

  • Your research questions and aims – what key question(s) did your research aim to answer?
  • Your methodology – how did you go about investigating the topic and finding answers to your research question(s)?
  • Your findings – following your own research, what did do you discover?
  • Your conclusions – based on your findings, what conclusions did you draw? What answers did you find to your research question(s)?

So, in much the same way the dissertation structure mimics the research process, your abstract or executive summary should reflect the research process, from the initial stage of asking the original question to the final stage of answering that question.

In practical terms, it’s a good idea to write this section up last , once all your core chapters are complete. Otherwise, you’ll end up writing and rewriting this section multiple times (just wasting time). For a step by step guide on how to write a strong executive summary, check out this post .

Need a helping hand?

dissertation table of contents

Table of contents

This section is straightforward. You’ll typically present your table of contents (TOC) first, followed by the two lists – figures and tables. I recommend that you use Microsoft Word’s automatic table of contents generator to generate your TOC. If you’re not familiar with this functionality, the video below explains it simply:

If you find that your table of contents is overly lengthy, consider removing one level of depth. Oftentimes, this can be done without detracting from the usefulness of the TOC.

Right, now that the “admin” sections are out of the way, its time to move on to your core chapters. These chapters are the heart of your dissertation and are where you’ll earn the marks. The first chapter is the introduction chapter – as you would expect, this is the time to introduce your research…

It’s important to understand that even though you’ve provided an overview of your research in your abstract, your introduction needs to be written as if the reader has not read that (remember, the abstract is essentially a standalone document). So, your introduction chapter needs to start from the very beginning, and should address the following questions:

  • What will you be investigating (in plain-language, big picture-level)?
  • Why is that worth investigating? How is it important to academia or business? How is it sufficiently original?
  • What are your research aims and research question(s)? Note that the research questions can sometimes be presented at the end of the literature review (next chapter).
  • What is the scope of your study? In other words, what will and won’t you cover ?
  • How will you approach your research? In other words, what methodology will you adopt?
  • How will you structure your dissertation? What are the core chapters and what will you do in each of them?

These are just the bare basic requirements for your intro chapter. Some universities will want additional bells and whistles in the intro chapter, so be sure to carefully read your brief or consult your research supervisor.

If done right, your introduction chapter will set a clear direction for the rest of your dissertation. Specifically, it will make it clear to the reader (and marker) exactly what you’ll be investigating, why that’s important, and how you’ll be going about the investigation. Conversely, if your introduction chapter leaves a first-time reader wondering what exactly you’ll be researching, you’ve still got some work to do.

Now that you’ve set a clear direction with your introduction chapter, the next step is the literature review . In this section, you will analyse the existing research (typically academic journal articles and high-quality industry publications), with a view to understanding the following questions:

  • What does the literature currently say about the topic you’re investigating?
  • Is the literature lacking or well established? Is it divided or in disagreement?
  • How does your research fit into the bigger picture?
  • How does your research contribute something original?
  • How does the methodology of previous studies help you develop your own?

Depending on the nature of your study, you may also present a conceptual framework towards the end of your literature review, which you will then test in your actual research.

Again, some universities will want you to focus on some of these areas more than others, some will have additional or fewer requirements, and so on. Therefore, as always, its important to review your brief and/or discuss with your supervisor, so that you know exactly what’s expected of your literature review chapter.

Dissertation writing

Now that you’ve investigated the current state of knowledge in your literature review chapter and are familiar with the existing key theories, models and frameworks, its time to design your own research. Enter the methodology chapter – the most “science-ey” of the chapters…

In this chapter, you need to address two critical questions:

  • Exactly HOW will you carry out your research (i.e. what is your intended research design)?
  • Exactly WHY have you chosen to do things this way (i.e. how do you justify your design)?

Remember, the dissertation part of your degree is first and foremost about developing and demonstrating research skills . Therefore, the markers want to see that you know which methods to use, can clearly articulate why you’ve chosen then, and know how to deploy them effectively.

Importantly, this chapter requires detail – don’t hold back on the specifics. State exactly what you’ll be doing, with who, when, for how long, etc. Moreover, for every design choice you make, make sure you justify it.

In practice, you will likely end up coming back to this chapter once you’ve undertaken all your data collection and analysis, and revise it based on changes you made during the analysis phase. This is perfectly fine. Its natural for you to add an additional analysis technique, scrap an old one, etc based on where your data lead you. Of course, I’m talking about small changes here – not a fundamental switch from qualitative to quantitative, which will likely send your supervisor in a spin!

You’ve now collected your data and undertaken your analysis, whether qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods. In this chapter, you’ll present the raw results of your analysis . For example, in the case of a quant study, you’ll present the demographic data, descriptive statistics, inferential statistics , etc.

Typically, Chapter 4 is simply a presentation and description of the data, not a discussion of the meaning of the data. In other words, it’s descriptive, rather than analytical – the meaning is discussed in Chapter 5. However, some universities will want you to combine chapters 4 and 5, so that you both present and interpret the meaning of the data at the same time. Check with your institution what their preference is.

Now that you’ve presented the data analysis results, its time to interpret and analyse them. In other words, its time to discuss what they mean, especially in relation to your research question(s).

What you discuss here will depend largely on your chosen methodology. For example, if you’ve gone the quantitative route, you might discuss the relationships between variables . If you’ve gone the qualitative route, you might discuss key themes and the meanings thereof. It all depends on what your research design choices were.

Most importantly, you need to discuss your results in relation to your research questions and aims, as well as the existing literature. What do the results tell you about your research questions? Are they aligned with the existing research or at odds? If so, why might this be? Dig deep into your findings and explain what the findings suggest, in plain English.

The final chapter – you’ve made it! Now that you’ve discussed your interpretation of the results, its time to bring it back to the beginning with the conclusion chapter . In other words, its time to (attempt to) answer your original research question s (from way back in chapter 1). Clearly state what your conclusions are in terms of your research questions. This might feel a bit repetitive, as you would have touched on this in the previous chapter, but its important to bring the discussion full circle and explicitly state your answer(s) to the research question(s).

Dissertation and thesis prep

Next, you’ll typically discuss the implications of your findings? In other words, you’ve answered your research questions – but what does this mean for the real world (or even for academia)? What should now be done differently, given the new insight you’ve generated?

Lastly, you should discuss the limitations of your research, as well as what this means for future research in the area. No study is perfect, especially not a Masters-level. Discuss the shortcomings of your research. Perhaps your methodology was limited, perhaps your sample size was small or not representative, etc, etc. Don’t be afraid to critique your work – the markers want to see that you can identify the limitations of your work. This is a strength, not a weakness. Be brutal!

This marks the end of your core chapters – woohoo! From here on out, it’s pretty smooth sailing.

The reference list is straightforward. It should contain a list of all resources cited in your dissertation, in the required format, e.g. APA , Harvard, etc.

It’s essential that you use reference management software for your dissertation. Do NOT try handle your referencing manually – its far too error prone. On a reference list of multiple pages, you’re going to make mistake. To this end, I suggest considering either Mendeley or Zotero. Both are free and provide a very straightforward interface to ensure that your referencing is 100% on point. I’ve included a simple how-to video for the Mendeley software (my personal favourite) below:

Some universities may ask you to include a bibliography, as opposed to a reference list. These two things are not the same . A bibliography is similar to a reference list, except that it also includes resources which informed your thinking but were not directly cited in your dissertation. So, double-check your brief and make sure you use the right one.

The very last piece of the puzzle is the appendix or set of appendices. This is where you’ll include any supporting data and evidence. Importantly, supporting is the keyword here.

Your appendices should provide additional “nice to know”, depth-adding information, which is not critical to the core analysis. Appendices should not be used as a way to cut down word count (see this post which covers how to reduce word count ). In other words, don’t place content that is critical to the core analysis here, just to save word count. You will not earn marks on any content in the appendices, so don’t try to play the system!

Time to recap…

And there you have it – the traditional dissertation structure and layout, from A-Z. To recap, the core structure for a dissertation or thesis is (typically) as follows:

  • Acknowledgments page

Most importantly, the core chapters should reflect the research process (asking, investigating and answering your research question). Moreover, the research question(s) should form the golden thread throughout your dissertation structure. Everything should revolve around the research questions, and as you’ve seen, they should form both the start point (i.e. introduction chapter) and the endpoint (i.e. conclusion chapter).

I hope this post has provided you with clarity about the traditional dissertation/thesis structure and layout. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below, or feel free to get in touch with us. Also, be sure to check out the rest of the  Grad Coach Blog .

dissertation table of contents

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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Dissertation and thesis defense 101

36 Comments

ARUN kumar SHARMA

many thanks i found it very useful

Derek Jansen

Glad to hear that, Arun. Good luck writing your dissertation.

Sue

Such clear practical logical advice. I very much needed to read this to keep me focused in stead of fretting.. Perfect now ready to start my research!

hayder

what about scientific fields like computer or engineering thesis what is the difference in the structure? thank you very much

Tim

Thanks so much this helped me a lot!

Ade Adeniyi

Very helpful and accessible. What I like most is how practical the advice is along with helpful tools/ links.

Thanks Ade!

Aswathi

Thank you so much sir.. It was really helpful..

You’re welcome!

Jp Raimundo

Hi! How many words maximum should contain the abstract?

Karmelia Renatee

Thank you so much 😊 Find this at the right moment

You’re most welcome. Good luck with your dissertation.

moha

best ever benefit i got on right time thank you

Krishnan iyer

Many times Clarity and vision of destination of dissertation is what makes the difference between good ,average and great researchers the same way a great automobile driver is fast with clarity of address and Clear weather conditions .

I guess Great researcher = great ideas + knowledge + great and fast data collection and modeling + great writing + high clarity on all these

You have given immense clarity from start to end.

Alwyn Malan

Morning. Where will I write the definitions of what I’m referring to in my report?

Rose

Thank you so much Derek, I was almost lost! Thanks a tonnnn! Have a great day!

yemi Amos

Thanks ! so concise and valuable

Kgomotso Siwelane

This was very helpful. Clear and concise. I know exactly what to do now.

dauda sesay

Thank you for allowing me to go through briefly. I hope to find time to continue.

Patrick Mwathi

Really useful to me. Thanks a thousand times

Adao Bundi

Very interesting! It will definitely set me and many more for success. highly recommended.

SAIKUMAR NALUMASU

Thank you soo much sir, for the opportunity to express my skills

mwepu Ilunga

Usefull, thanks a lot. Really clear

Rami

Very nice and easy to understand. Thank you .

Chrisogonas Odhiambo

That was incredibly useful. Thanks Grad Coach Crew!

Luke

My stress level just dropped at least 15 points after watching this. Just starting my thesis for my grad program and I feel a lot more capable now! Thanks for such a clear and helpful video, Emma and the GradCoach team!

Judy

Do we need to mention the number of words the dissertation contains in the main document?

It depends on your university’s requirements, so it would be best to check with them 🙂

Christine

Such a helpful post to help me get started with structuring my masters dissertation, thank you!

Simon Le

Great video; I appreciate that helpful information

Brhane Kidane

It is so necessary or avital course

johnson

This blog is very informative for my research. Thank you

avc

Doctoral students are required to fill out the National Research Council’s Survey of Earned Doctorates

Emmanuel Manjolo

wow this is an amazing gain in my life

Paul I Thoronka

This is so good

Tesfay haftu

How can i arrange my specific objectives in my dissertation?

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  • Graduate School
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  • Dissertation & Thesis Preparation

Formatting Requirements

Table of contents, what to include.

  • the abstract
  • the lay summary
  • the preface
  • the table of contents
  • all other preliminary pages
  • the main divisions and subdivisions of the thesis
  • the bibliography
  • the appendices

Tables, figures, illustrations and appendices must be listed by number and title, and must include a page number.

Formatting requirements

  • single page-wide column
  • page numbers right-aligned
  • leader lines (dots) connecting the entries with their page numbers
  • page number for each entry
  • entries in the order given on this web site
  • do not put "page" in front of the page number
  • subheadings indented more than main headings, third-level headings indented more than subheadings, etc.

Sample table of contents

  • Why Grad School at UBC?
  • Graduate Degree Programs
  • Application & Admission
  • Info Sessions
  • Research Supervisors
  • Research Projects
  • Indigenous Students
  • International Students
  • Tuition, Fees & Cost of Living
  • Newly Admitted
  • Student Status & Classification
  • Student Responsibilities
  • Supervision & Advising
  • Managing your Program
  • Health, Wellbeing and Safety
  • Professional Development
  • Final Doctoral Exam
  • Final Dissertation & Thesis Submission
  • Life in Vancouver
  • Vancouver Campus
  • Graduate Student Spaces
  • Graduate Life Centre
  • Life as a Grad Student
  • Graduate Student Ambassadors
  • Meet our Students
  • Award Opportunities
  • Award Guidelines
  • Minimum Funding Policy for PhD Students
  • Killam Awards & Fellowships
  • Policies & Procedures
  • Information for Supervisors
  • Dean's Message
  • Leadership Team
  • Strategic Plan & Priorities
  • Vision & Mission
  • Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
  • Initiatives, Plans & Reports
  • Graduate Education Analysis & Research
  • Media Enquiries
  • Newsletters
  • Giving to Graduate Studies

Strategic Priorities

  • Strategic Plan 2019-2024
  • Improving Student Funding
  • Promoting Excellence in Graduate Programs
  • Enhancing Graduate Supervision
  • Advancing Indigenous Inclusion
  • Supporting Student Development and Success
  • Reimagining Graduate Education
  • Enriching the Student Experience

Initiatives

  • Public Scholars Initiative
  • 3 Minute Thesis (3MT)
  • PhD Career Outcomes
  • Great Supervisor Week
  • University of Michigan Library
  • Research Guides

Microsoft Word for Dissertations

  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction, Template, & Resources
  • Formatting for All Readers
  • Applying a Style
  • Modifying a Style
  • Setting up a Heading 1 Example
  • Images, Charts, Other Objects
  • Footnotes, Endnotes, & Citations
  • Cross-References
  • Appendix Figures & Tables
  • List of Figures/Tables
  • Chapter and Section Numbering
  • Page Numbers
  • Landscape Pages
  • Combining Chapter Files
  • Commenting and Reviewing
  • The Two-inch Top Margin
  • Troubleshooting
  • Finalizing Without Styles
  • Preparing Your Final Document

Automatic Table of Contents

An automatic Table of Contents relies on Styles to keep track of page numbers and section titles for you automatically. Microsoft Word can scan your document and find everything in the Heading 1 style and put that on the first level of your table of contents, put any Heading 2’s on the second level of your table of contents, and so on.

If you want an automatic table of contents you need to apply the Heading 1 style to all of your chapter titles and front matter headings (like “Dedication” and “Acknowledgements”).  All section headings within your chapters should use the Heading 2  style.  All sub-section headings should use  Heading 3 , etc....

If you have used Heading styles in your document, creating an automatic table of contents is easy.

  • Place your cursor where you want your table of contents to be.
  • On the References Ribbon, in the Table of Contents Group , click on the arrow next to the Table of Contents icon, and select  Custom Table of Contents .
  • We suggest that you set each level (Chapters, sections, sub-sections, aka TOC 1, TOC 2, TOC 3) to be single-spaced, with 12 points of space afterwards.  This makes each item in your ToC clump together if they're long enough to wrap to a second line, with the equivalent of a double space between each item, and makes the ToC easier to read and understand than if every line were double-spaced. See the video below for details.
  • If you want to change which headings appear in your Table of Contents, you can do so by changing the number in the Show levels: field. Select "1" to just include the major sections (Acknowledgements, List of Figures, Chapters, etc...).  Select "4" to include Chapters, sections, sub-sections, and sub-sub-sections.
  • Click OK to insert your table of contents.  

The table of contents is a snapshot of the headings and page numbers in your document, and does not automatically update itself as you make changes. At any time, you can update it by right-clicking on it and selecting Update field .  Notice that once the table of contents is in your document, it will turn gray if you click on it. This just reminds you that it is a special field managed by Word, and is getting information from somewhere else.

Modifying the format of your Table of Contents

The video below shows how to make your Table of Contents a little easier to read by formatting the spacing between items in your Table of Contents. You may recognize the "Modify Style" window that appears, which can serve as a reminder that you can use this window to modify more than just paragraph settings. You can modify the indent distance, or font, or tab settings for your ToC, just the same as you may have modified it for Styles. 

an image of the Modify Table of Contents window, where you can set Show Levels

By default, the Table of Contents tool creates the ToC by pulling in Headings 1 through 3. If you'd like to modify that -- to only show H1's, or to show Headings 1 through 4 -- then go to the References tab and select Custom Table of Contents .  In the window that appears, set Show Levels to "1" to only show Heading 1's in the Table of Contents, or set it to "4" to show Headings 1 through 4.

Bonus tip for updating fields like the Table of Contents

You'll quickly realize that all of the automatic Lists and Tables need to be updated occasionally to reflect any changes you've made elsewhere in the document -- they do not dynamically update by themselves. Normally, this means going to each field, right-clicking on it and selecting "Update Field". 

Alternatively, to update all fields throughout your document (Figure/Table numbers & Lists, cross-references, Table of Contents, etc...), just select "Print". This will cause Word to update everything in anticipation of printing. Once the print preview window appears, just cancel.

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Library Guides

Dissertations 2: structure: standard.

A typical dissertation in the sciences or social sciences is structured in the following way: 

Title page 

Abstract 

Table of contents 

Introduction 

Literature review 

Methodology 

Results/Findings 

Discussion 

Conclusion 

Bibliography  

Appendices 

Table of Contents

The table of contents should list all the items included in your dissertation.  

It is a good idea to use the electronic table of contents feature in Word to automatically link it to your chapter headings and page numbers. Attempting to manually create a table of contents means that you will have to adjust your page numbers every time you edit your work before submission, which may waste valuable time!  

This  video will walk you through the formatting of longer documents using the electronic table of contents feature.

Introduction

The introduction explains the how, what, where, when, why and who of the research. It introduces the reader to your dissertation and should act as a clear guide as to what it will cover.  

The introduction may include the following content: 

Introduce the topic of the dissertation

  • State why the topic is of interest 
  • Give background information on the subject. 
  • Refer to the main debates in the field

Identify the scope of your research 

  • Highlight what hasn't already been said by the literature  
  • Demonstrate what you seek to investigate, and why 
  • Present the aim of the dissertation. 
  • Mention your research question or hypothesis 

Indicate your approach  

  • Introduce your main argument (especially if you have a research question, rather than hypothesis). 
  • Mention your methods/research design. 
  • Outline the dissertation structure (introduce the main points that you will discuss in the order they will be presented). 

Normally, the introduction is roughly 10% of a dissertation word count. 

Literature Review

The term “literature” in “literature review” comprises scholarly articles, books, and other sources (e.g. reports) relevant to a particular issue, area of research or theory. In a dissertation, the literature review illustrates what the literature already says on your research subject, providing summary and synthesis of such literature.  

It is generally structured by topic, starting from general background and concepts, and then addressing what can be found - and cannot be found - on the specific focus of your dissertation. Indeed, the literature review should identify gaps in the literature, that your research aims to fill. This requires you to engage critically with the literature, not merely reproduce the critical understanding of others.  

In sum, literature reviews should demonstrate how your research question can be located in a wider field of inquiry. Therefore, a literature review needs to address the connections between your work and the work of others by highlighting links between them. In doing so, you will demonstrate the foundations of your project and show how you are taking the line of inquiry forwards.  

By the end of your literature review, your reader should be able to see: 

The gap in knowledge and understanding which you say exists in the field. 

How your research question will work within that gap. 

The work other researchers have carried out and the issues debated in the field. 

That you have a good understanding of the field and that you are critically engaged with the debates (Burnett, 2009). 

For more detailed guidance on how to write literature reviews, check out the Literature Review Guide.  

Methodology

The methodology chapter needs to show how the research design specifically addresses the research question.  

Overall, it should set out: 

The reasons for your choice of methods 

The how, what, why, when, who, where of your research 

The limitations of your approach 

For more detailed information on writing the methodology chapter, see the Methodology Guide. 

Use a dedicated Results chapter especially if undertaking a scientific dissertation and/or you are using quantitative research.   

In this chapter you describe what your research has discovered. Follow some tips for an effective Results chapter:   

Identify the key findings. You don't need to show everything you have collected or calculated. 

Be truthful and honest. Present the data you found - not what you wish you had found! Remember that misrepresenting data has  ethical implications .   

Be objective. You will have plenty of opportunity to discuss and interpret the data in the Discussion chapter. 

Be clear and concise. Include tables, graphs or illustrations to make it easier for the reader to understand the data. 

Quantitative Results  

In this section you present the data you have found and say if the data support, or not, your hypothesis. 

Quantitative analysis techniques  

Raw numerical data need to be processed and analysed to make them meaningful. Quantitative analysis techniques include tables, graphs and statistics (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill 2015, p496). 

Establish patterns and relationships 

The way you present your data will help identify patterns and relationships in your research. These can be (depending on the field/subject) (Cottrell, 2014, p173): 

Trends and developmental patterns over time (are there any patterns in the data? Does the data rise, fall, plateau? Where/when? How - gently or sharply?) 

Correlations and relationships between sets of data (do they sets of data move in a similar way? Or do they move in an opposite way? Or do they have no relation at all?) 

Relationships between events 

Cause and effect (can you spot any causality?) 

Graphs and Charts with Excel

Watch this Introduction to Charts and Graphs Linkedin Learning video to find out how to make the most of this feature in Excel. 

Confidence with Numbers MacMillan Module

Need to brush up on your maths and statistics? This online course will help you overcome your obstacles in working with numbers and will give you the confidence to interpret and understand numerical data.

Qualitative Results 

In qualitative research, meanings are derived from words and images - not numbers, as in quantitative research. Words and images can have multiple meanings, and need to be interpreted with care (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill 2015, p568). For more information about qualitative data see the Methodology Guide.

How to undertake qualitative data analysis: 

Group the data in themes to make sense of them (summarise, condense, code the data). 

Link these themes and categories in a way that can help you answer your research question. 

Reflect on whether the data support your original argument. If yes, make sure that when you present your data you emphasise how the data support your argument. If not, you should revise your original argument! 

Approaches to analysing qualitative data  

Qualitative data analysis can take place using specific methods such as (there are many more, depending on your field!) thematic analysis, content analysis, grounded theory, narrative analysis, discourse analysis. The most generic approach to qualitative data analysis is thematic analysis with the aim to identify patterns in qualitative data (interviews, observations, documents etc.) (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill 2015, p579). For more information on qualitative analysis, check out this informative video.

Slides on methodology by Queen's University, Belfast.

The comprehensive lecture includes bullet points and references on the following qualitative data analysis methods: thematic analysis, content analysis, grounded theory, narrative analysis, discourse analysis.

This chapter should explore the meaning of your results and argue for their importance and relevance. In the discussion you could do the following: 

Group your findings into themes (synthesise your findings). 

Interpret the findings. What patterns do they reveal? Do they shed new light on the subject?  

If using a research question state explicitly how your research has answered the research question. Reiterate your argument.  

If using a hypothesis state explicitly if your findings support or do not support your research hypothesis. 

Present a critique of your research in terms of methodology, limitations etc. If the hypothesis was not supported, consider reasons why this was the case (Cottrell, 2014, p192).  

Critically analyse the findings by linking them to the background research. Are the findings consistent with existing research, theories, established practices? Do they present anything unusual?  

Assess the importance of your study and how it has filled a gap in your field. 

Identify possible implications of your findings for your area and other areas of study. 

Recommend future research.  

The conclusion is the final chapter of your dissertation. It should flow logically from the previously presented text; therefore, you should avoid introducing new ideas, new data, or a new direction.  

Ideally, the conclusion should leave the reader with a clear understanding of the discovery or argument you have advanced.  

This can be done by: 

Summarising and synthesising your main findings and how they relate to your research question or hypotheses  

Demonstrating the relevance and importance of your work in the wider context of your field. For example, what recommendations would you make for future research? What do we know now that we didn’t know before? 

Link your conclusion to your introduction as both frame your dissertation. 

A conclusion is roughly five to ten percent of the word count of the dissertation. 

Avoid excessive detail. Decide what your reader needs to know. 

Don’t introduce any new information such as theories, data or ideas.  

Sum up the main points of your research.  

Bibliography

While writing your dissertation, you would have referred to the works and research of many different authors and editors in your field of study. These works should be acknowledged in the bibliography where you will list writers alphabetically by surname. 

For example: 

Poloian, L.R. (2013).  Retailing principles: global, multichannel, and managerial viewpoints.  New York: Fairchild.  Biggs, J. and Tang, C. (2011).  Teaching for quality learning at university.  Maidenhead: Open University Press.  Ramsay, P., Maier, P. and Price, G. (2010).  Study skills for business and management students . Harlow: Longman. 

Unless otherwise specified by your module leader, the University uses the Harvard (author-date) style of citing and referencing. For more guidance and support on how to reference effectively check out the  Referencing Guide . You can also  book an appointment  with an Academic Engagement Librarian for extra help with referencing. 

While the main results of your study should be placed in the body of your dissertation, any extra information can be placed in the appendices chapter. This supplementary information, for instance, can consist of graphs, charts, or tables that demonstrate less significant results or interview transcripts that would disrupt the flow of the main text if they were included within it.  

You can create one long appendix section or divide it into smaller sections to make it easier to navigate. For example, you might want to have an appendix for images, an appendix for transcripts, and an appendix for graphs. Each appendix (each graph or chart, etc.) should have its own number and title. Further, the sources for all appendices should be acknowledged through referencing and listed in the bibliography. 

Don’t forget to mention each appendix at least once during your dissertation! This can be done using brackets in the following way: (see appendix 1). 

Resources and bibliography

Burnett, J. (2009).  Doing your social sciences dissertation . England: Sage Publications Ltd.

Cottrell, S. (2014).  Dissertation and project reports. A step by step guide.  England: Red Globe Press.

Saunders, M. N. K., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2015).  Research methods for business students . England: Pearson.

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Formatting Your Thesis or Dissertation with Microsoft Word

  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication, Acknowledgements, & Preface
  • Headings and Subheadings
  • Citations and Bibliography
  • Page Numbers
  • Tables and Figures
  • Rotated (Landscape) Pages
  • Lists of Tables and Figures
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Some Things to Watch For
  • PDF with Embedded Fonts

Table of contents

If you created your headings and subheadings with styles, and numbered your pages as demonstrated in the Page Numbers tutorial, Microsoft Word can be used to automatically generate a table of contents. Automatic generation of the table of contents has 2 advantages:

  • You don't have to manually type the table of contents. Since the entries in the Table of Content must match exactly the headings, subheadings, and page numbers in the thesis, manually creating a table of contents can lead to unintended errors.
  • You don't have to go back and edit the table of contents if something moves from one page to another. A couple of clicks and Word will automatically update the table of contents for you.

Below is a tutorial demonstrating how to create the table of contents.

Note: You should create the table of contents last to avoid needing to update the table of contents too often.

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Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

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Winter 2024 Newsletter | Awards and Updates

Doctoral dissertation defenses.

Sanna Lokhandwala , Associations Between Early Childhood Sleep, Memory Function, and Brain Development Across the Nap Transition , Advisor: Rebecca Spencer Ramiro Eduardo Rea Reyes , Development of Decision Strategies Under Risk and Uncertainty , Advisor: Youngbin Kwak

Master's Thesis Defenses

Liora Morhayim , Buffering Effects of Negative Intergroup Contact Through Complex Social Identities , Advisor: Linda Tropp Aanchal Setia , The Paradoxical Influence of Social Identity Threat on Self-Group Distancing in the Context of Gender Discrimination , Advisor: Nilanjan Dasgupta

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Maria Galano

UMass Social Psychologist Linda Tropp Honored For Decades Of Research And Social Action

Linda Tropp

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Mohammad Atari

Assistant Professor Mohammad Atari has been awarded the SAGE Emerging Scholar Award by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) recognizing his outstanding achievement in social and personality psychology as an early-career scientist. Congratulations!

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Tables in your dissertation

Published on November 2, 2016 by Kirsten Dingemanse . Revised on January 31, 2020.

Dissertations and theses often include tables. One advantage of tables is that they allow you to present data in a clear and concise manner without having to provide a lengthy explanation in the text. This is particularly helpful in sections such as your results chapter.

Table of contents

Step 1. decide where to insert a table, step 2. create your table, example of a table in apa style, step 3. assign your table a number and title, step 4. clarify your table with a note (optional), step 5. cite the table within the text, where should you add a table.

Tables are often included in the main body of a dissertation, so that readers can view them straight away. In this case, place the table immediately above or below the paragraph in which you introduce or refer to it.

If you are not allowed to include tables within your main text or your tables are very long, you can instead put them in an appendix to your dissertation. However, bear in mind that doing so might make your text less readable, as readers will always have to turn to an appendix . It’s thus better to include at least key tables in the main document.

Be careful. Never directly import tables from a statistical analysis program such as SPSS, as these tables provide too much detailed information. For instance, if you just want to report the results of a t-test from SPSS, your table likely does not need to include figures related to the standard mean error.

Here's why students love Scribbr's proofreading services

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All word processing programs include an option to create a table. For example, in Word’s top menu bar you can either click on the “Table” tab or select Insert -> Table -> New.

word insert table

To keep your tables consistent, it’s important that you use the same formatting throughout your dissertation. For example, make sure that you always use the same line spacing (e.g., single vs. double), that the data is aligned the same way (namely center, left or right) and that your column and row headings always reflect the same style same (for example, bold).

If you are using Word, you can also opt to use one of the program’s pre-set table styles. Doing so will ensure that all of the tables throughout your dissertation have the same formatting. You can apply one of these styles by selecting the table and then selecting one of the preformatted “Table Styles.”

word tabedesigner

For examples of tables in MLA format , check our guide here .

Once you have decided where to incorporate a table, assign it a number (which should then be noted at the top of the table). Different numbering schemes can be used, but the easiest is to just use Table 1, Table 2 and so forth. Numbers will allow you to easily refer to the correct table within the text.

You can also set a table up so that Word automatically assigns it a number. We recommend that you do this, as it will ensure that your table numbers are always correct. For instance, if you add a new table in the middle of your dissertation, Word will automatically adjust the table numbers throughout the rest of the document. Using this Word feature also makes it easy to generate a list of tables .

Automatically numbering tables

To use automatic numbering, click on the tab ‘Reference’ and select ‘Insert Caption’.

insert-caption

Titling tables

It is important that you always give each table a title. If you use automatic table numbering, a table’s title will automatically be noted after its number.

A table title should be clear and comprehensive enough that it does not need to be explained in the text. Readers should be able to understand what a table contains solely on the basis of its title.

Make sure you also follow any title specifications that either your academic program or the citation style you are using dictates. For instance, in APA Style it is customary to put a table’s title under its number.

A note can be used for information that helps to clarify the data in a table. For example, you can specify p-values, define abbreviations or explain further details related to a particular row or column. If you don’t have anything special to convey (and the table is your own creation), you don’t need to include a note.

Table from another source

If you have taken a table from another source, it’s mandatory that you explain this in a note. However, how this should be done varies by citation style . Below we explain how you should handle a table from another source according to the APA Style .

The APA Style specifies that you should write “Reprinted from” or “Adapted from” followed by the title and complete source information of the book or article that you have taken the table from.

It is important that you always refer to your table in the text. This helps readers to understand why the table is included and ensures that you don’t have any “free-floating” tables in your dissertation. All tables should have a clear function.

When citing a table in your running text, mention the table’s number instead of using phrases such as “the table below” (which can create confusion for your readers).

A numbered table in the main document

The table below shows that…

Table 1 shows that…

When referring to a table in an appendix, include both the table number and the appendix number.

A numbered table in the appendix

Table 2 (see Appendix 1) shows that…

There is evidence that… (see Table 2, Appendix 1)

Cross-references

If you automate the numbering of your tables, you can choose to apply cross-references. This feature creates links in your text that lead directly to the corresponding table when clicked. The advantage of this is that the numbering is always correct.

In Word, cross-referencing can be activated by selecting Insert ->  Cross-Reference from the top menu bar. From there set the “Reference type” to “Table” and “Insert reference to” to whatever you wish to include (for example, the entire caption or only the table’s name and number). Then select the table to which you want to link and click “Insert”.

cross-reference-word

Checklist: Tables

Each table has a number.

Each table has a clear, descriptive title.

All tables are consistently formatted according to my style guide or department’s requirements.

The content of each table is clearly understandable in its own right.

I have referred to each table in the main text.

I have correctly cited the source of any tables reproduced or adapted from other authors.

Your tables look great! Use the other checklists to improve your thesis or dissertation.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Dingemanse, K. (2020, January 31). Tables in your dissertation. Scribbr. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/tips/tables-in-your-dissertation/

Is this article helpful?

Kirsten Dingemanse

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  1. Dissertation Table of Contents in Word

    The table of contents is where you list the chapters and major sections of your thesis, dissertation, or research paper, alongside their page numbers. A clear and well-formatted table of contents is essential, as it demonstrates to your reader that a quality paper will follow.

  2. Order and Components

    Table of Contents, with page numbers List of Tables, List of Figures, or List of Illustrations, with titles and page numbers (if applicable) List of Abbreviations (if applicable) List of Symbols (if applicable) Chapters, including: Introduction, if any Main body, with consistent subheadings as appropriate Appendices (if applicable)

  3. How to Create an APA Table of Contents

    In a thesis or dissertation, the table of contents comes between your abstract and your introduction. It should be written in the same font and size as the rest of your text (usually 12 pt Times New Roman). At the top of the page, write Contents, centered and in bold.

  4. How to Create the Best Table of Contents for a Dissertation

    The table of contents is the section of a dissertation that guides each section of the dissertation paper's contents. Depending on the detail level in a table of contents, the most useful headings are listed to provide the reader concerning which page the said information may be found.

  5. What should be included in a dissertation table of contents?

    What should be included in a dissertation table of contents? All level 1 and 2 headings should be included in your table of contents. That means the titles of your chapters and the main sections within them. The contents should also include all appendices and the lists of tables and figures, if applicable, as well as your reference list.

  6. Table of Contents

    The sections to be included in the Table of Contents are: Lists of Symbols, Figures, Tables, and Illustrations; Acknowledgements Page; Vita; Abstract; Introduction/Prologue/etc,; each chapter, Bibliography/References, and each Appendix. You may list subsections within chapters

  7. PDF APA Style Dissertation Guidelines: Formatting Your Dissertation

    Automate Your Table of Contents & Lists of Tables and Figures . For information on how to insert an automatic table of contents, list of tables, and list of figures, please visit the "Doctoral Students" webpage . on The Graduate School website for video tutorials under the "Resources for Writing Your Dissertation" tab. APA Style, 7 th

  8. University Thesis and Dissertation Templates

    Front matter includes your table of contents, acknowledgements, abstract, abbreviation list, figure list, committee page, and (sometimes) academic history or CV; everything before your introduction is front matter.

  9. Dissertation & Thesis Outline

    All level 1 and 2 headings should be included in your table of contents. That means the titles of your chapters and the main sections within them. The contents should also include all appendices and the lists of tables and figures, if applicable, as well as your reference list. Do not include the acknowledgements or abstract in the table of ...

  10. How to Write a Dissertation

    In the table of contents, list all of your chapters and subheadings and their page numbers. The dissertation contents page gives the reader an overview of your structure and helps easily navigate the document. All parts of your dissertation should be included in the table of contents, including the appendices. You can generate a table of ...

  11. How to Create a Table of Contents for a Dissertation (APA)

    In your dissertation, you will need to have a table of contents. The table of contents should contain all the headings, subheadings, preliminary pages, and supplementary pages in the body of your paper. APA does not specify the guidelines for a table of contents. However, it does provide general guidelines that you can follow.

  12. PDF Table of Contents Manual

    misspellings, etc.) on the Table of Contents page, do not correct the mistakes on the Table of Contents page itself. Rather, go to the heading or subheading in your document and make the necessary corrections. You will need to update the Table of Contents to reflect the changes. Updating the Table of Contents: 1. Go back to the References tab.

  13. Formatting Your Dissertation

    Table of contents, list of tables, list of figures or illustrations, and lengthy tables: single spacing may be used; Fonts and Point Size. ... and Urban Planning often place illustrations at the end of the dissertation. Figure and table numbering must be continuous throughout the dissertation or by chapter (e.g., 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, etc.). Two ...

  14. Dissertation Table of Contents in Word

    The table of contents is where you list the chapters and major sections of your thesis, dissertation, or research paper, alongside their page numbers. A clear and well-formatted table of contents is essential, as it demonstrates to your reader that a quality paper will follow.

  15. KU Thesis and Dissertation Formatting: Table of Contents

    Creating an Automated Table of Contents. Located in the Home tab, Word's Style Gallery makes it easy to set consistent, one-click formatting for headings throughout your document.It is these style settings that Word uses to create an automatic table of contents. Using an automatic table of contents will save you the huge headache of dealing with dot leaders, spacing, and having to completely ...

  16. Dissertation Structure & Layout 101 (+ Examples)

    Table of contents, list of figures and tables The core chapters (the "meat" of the dissertation) Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 2: Literature review Chapter 3: Methodology Chapter 4: Results Chapter 5: Discussion Chapter 6: Conclusion Reference list Appendix As I mentioned, some universities will have slight variations on this structure.

  17. Table of Contents

    Sample table of contents. What to include the abstract the lay summary the preface the table of contents all other preliminary pages the main divisions and subdivisions of the thesis end notes the bibliography the appendices Tables, figures, illustrations and appendices must be listed by number and title, and must include a page number.

  18. PDF How to Prepare your Dissertation in APA Style Style Manual Spacing Margins

    Generating the table of contents . Now you can generate your table of contents. First write the title (in the style of a level 1 heading). Then place your cursor two lines below this and go to the References tab. Click on Table of Contents and select Custom Table of Contents… In the popup window,

  19. Table of Contents

    Table of Contents - Microsoft Word for Dissertations - Research Guides at University of Michigan Library Microsoft Word for Dissertations Automatic Table of Contents An automatic Table of Contents relies on Styles to keep track of page numbers and section titles for you automatically.

  20. Dissertations 2: Structure: Standard

    The table of contents should list all the items included in your dissertation. It is a good idea to use the electronic table of contents feature in Word to automatically link it to your chapter headings and page numbers. Attempting to manually create a table of contents means that you will have to adjust your page numbers every time you edit ...

  21. Table of Contents

    Table of Contents Formatting Your Thesis or Dissertation with Microsoft Word This guide includes video tutorials designed to help you get most of the formatting of your thesis correct the first time. Using these videos to format your thesis will save a lot of time when it comes to having your format checked. Table of contents

  22. Figure and Table Lists

    To do this, follow these steps: Navigate to the References tab, and click "Insert Caption," which you can find in the Captions group. Give your caption a name. In the Label list, you can select the label that best describes your figure or table, or make your own by selecting "New Label.". Next, you can insert the list of tables and ...

  23. Winter 2024 Newsletter

    Doctoral Dissertation Defenses. Sanna Lokhandwala, Associations Between Early Childhood Sleep, Memory Function, and Brain Development Across the Nap Transition, Advisor: Rebecca Spencer Ramiro Eduardo Rea Reyes, Development of Decision Strategies Under Risk and Uncertainty, Advisor: Youngbin Kwak. Master's Thesis Defenses. Liora Morhayim, Buffering Effects of Negative Intergroup Contact ...

  24. Tables in your dissertation

    Step 2. Create your table. All word processing programs include an option to create a table. For example, in Word's top menu bar you can either click on the "Table" tab or select Insert -> Table -> New. To keep your tables consistent, it's important that you use the same formatting throughout your dissertation.