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Table of contents of a thesis

Date published by Date updated: December 15, 2016

In the table of contents, you list all the chapters of your thesis as well as their page numbers.

The table of contents ensures that the reader of your thesis has an overview and can easily find which chapter begins at what page.

We recommend that you always generate a table of contents automatically via Word. This method will ensure that it looks clean and professional. In addition, Word is less susceptible to mistakes and takes little time to create and update the page.

Clear titles

The table of contents shows the systematic structure of your thesis. It is important to use clear chapter and section titles. The reader can then see what kind of information he or she can expect.

Maximum of two pages

The table of contents is an outline of the parts of your thesis. This outline should provide clarity to the reader. That’s why you need to keep the table of contents to a maximum of two pages.

Do you have a table of contents that is longer than two pages? Then omit, for example, the sub-sections (headers from level 3 on) from the table of contents.

What to not put in the table of contents?

The preface, abstract and table of contents don’t need to be mentioned in the table of contents. The first two are located before the table of contents. The reader of your thesis has already seen these pages before getting to the table of contents. You don’t put the table of contents in as an entry because to find the entry you must already know where to find the table of contents, making the entry redundant.

If you have a lot of appendices in your document, which may make the table of contents unclear and too long, then you can also exclude from the table of contents these appendices.

You always include the reference list in the table of contents.

Checklist for the table of contents

Additional lists in your thesis

In addition to the use of a table of contents, you could also use a list of figures and tables, a list of abbreviations, and a glossary. When doing so, make use of the following order:

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Article by Michelle Mertens

Michelle is responsible for the support at Scribbr. Day in day out she receives many questions about thesis proofreading, how to write a thesis and how to prevent plagiarism. She loves to write clear and easy to understand articles about these topics to help students out.

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