The APA (American Psychological Association) created a writing style that helps create consistency in the format of papers submitted within the field. The style has served as a guide for formatting the papers of researchers and students alike within the field.
APA format does not necessarily require a table of content. However, you might need to include an APA table of contents when you have been instructed to add one. A table of content is helpful when your paper is lengthy; for example, a dissertation or thesis. So, if you are to include a table of contents in your paper, it has to adhere to the general guidelines of the APA format. (Also learn about table of contents in Chicago and MLA format)
A table of content is a roadmap of your paper that should contain all the headings of your paper. Also, it is the last thing you add to your paper as it is used to display the location of each section of your paper.
General Guidelines for Creating an APA Table of Contents
The table of content should list all the major headings and subheadings enclosed in the body of your paper, including the preliminary pages as well as the supplementary pages. Although the APA does not specify the guidelines for a table of contents, it should follow the basic format for page format in APA style, which is using 12 pt Times New Roman font, double spaced as well as using one-inch margins on all sides.
In the event whereby your instructor does not specify the format that you are to follow, then you can use the following:
You are expected to title the page “Table of Contents” centered and in bold at the top of the page.
Flush all main headings to the left
Indent sub-heading five spaces
All text should be written in title case
Identify the page number where each heading and subheading begin and include them
Include dotted lines between the headings and their page number to improve readability
You can include lower-level headings, but you will require additional indentation for each level
The table of content must not exceed two pages
To Generate Your APA Table of Contents Using Microsoft Word
Using Microsoft Word, you can automatically set up an APA table of contents that automatically updates the page numbers for each heading and sub-heading. Follow the steps below to enable you to generate an APA table of content for your paper.
Manually set the styles for the APA levels of heading. You can do this by navigating to style ribbon in the Home tab, right-click on “heading 1” and select modify
A popup window will open where you will be able to edit the style to match the guidelines of the APA format. Modify the format, alignment, and spacing to match the guidelines of the APA format.
Repeat the same for the next level of heading till you have gotten the number of levels you wish to include in your table of content.
Then apply each heading style to each heading and subheading in your text. You do this by highlighting the headings and subheadings and select the appropriate heading style in the style ribbon under the Home tab.
Having successfully selected a style for all the heading and subheadings in your paper, you can now generate a table of contents. Go to the page you intend the table of contents to be, then navigate to the reference tab.
Click on “table of contents” and click on “custom table of contents.” A popup window will open, this is where you will select how many levels of heading you want to include in your table of content.
Having successfully chosen the number of levels, then click ok. Microsoft word will automatically generate your table of content.
If you continue to work on your paper, it is crucial to update the table of content as the page numbers might change. You can do this by right-clicking on the table of content and selecting the Update field. Then you choose to update all the information or just the page number. It is, however, advisable to update all information to avoid mistakes.