Formatting Guides

APA Table of Contents Writing Guide (+ example)

APA table of contents
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Today we are going to learn how to make a proper APA table of contents. However, let’s start with some backstory to understand the formatting standards according to the latest APA 7th edition.

In an APA style paper, a table of contents is commonly used in longer research papers or dissertations to provide an organized outline of the document's structure. It helps to increase readability and navigation greatly.

Even though a table of contents is not officially required by the APA guide, you may be asked by the instructor to include one. That’s why we compiled this guide on how to format a table of contents in APA style. Read our detailed instructions to arrange a contents page. Or you can always ask StudyCrumb to "write my paper for me" and get comprehensive help with your work, including assistance with formatting.

Table of Contents APA: Basics

In the present APA table of contents guide, we will show the most convenient and recommendable format for an APA paper. The first thing that you need to remember — it can not exceed two pages in size. So if the table is a must according to the instructor, you may have to exclude some section headings to fit in. It is good to optimize your paper with subheadings, but don’t get obsessed with it.

Here are some of the major formatting rules according to APA Style:  

  • Include at least 2 levels of headings — level 1 and level 2.
  • Use up to 5 levels of headings if it fits the structure.
  • Apply indents to highlight different levels of headings.
  • Locate it right after the abstract, before the intro part. (Read more information if you still wonder on how to write an abstract APA.)
  • Use a 12 pt Times New Roman font.
  • Keep the headings in the table left-aligned.
  • Capitalize all the headlines.
  • Make sure that margins from all sides are 1 inch long.

In all other regards, your formatting sticks to the plain text format. Don’t include any unnecessary formatting or highlighting. And don't be afraid to ask your instructor about it if you have any doubts or questions. At any time, you can buy essay quickly, remember about it.

APA Table of Contents Example

Nevertheless, there is nothing more representative than a proper APA table of contents sample. Pay attention to the length of indents for different heading levels. Check out our sample right below.

Note, there is no fixed standard for the length of indents that you make to highlight every level of headlines. Make sure that your headlines look readable and easy to distinguish.

APA table of contents example

Looking for annotated bibliography example APA? We have got you covered! Open one more of our blogs.

How to Make APA Table of Contents in Word

Microsoft Word is the most likely software for formatting APA style tables of content. That’s why right now, we will learn how to generate automated ones. It is a very simple operation, and you only have to remember easy 3 steps:

  1. Format the headings first
  2. Apply an APA style format
  3. Keep your table updated.

And now, look closer at each individual step, so it will be much easier to remember. So, let’s go! Buy APA format paper entirely from scratch if you have troubles at this point.

Format Your Headings

Before starting working with headings, make sure that all of them are in line with the general formatting style. Normally, the table of contents is generated after the text is finished and proofread. So don’t be in a hurry, even though the contents are located in the very beginning of the text. Make sure that your piece is flawless and doesn’t contain misspellings. Try an online typing test to hone your typing skills quickly.

Formatting headings is easy — just highlight the heading first. Then, find a top panel featuring heading styles and make a right click on the one you want to choose. After it, select Please update Heading X to match selection. Do it with every heading that you have. Assign each one with Heading 1 — Heading 5 roles.  

Example of format headings in APA

Create Table of Contents in APA Formats

One more step and our APA paper with table of contents is as good as ready. From the very beginning, type the page name, keep it centered and aligned to the top. Remember about 1-inch long indents. Make the heading bold to increase readability and navigation.

Then choose the “Table of Contents” option from the “References” menu that is located on the top panel. In the new window, choose the number of heading levels that will be displayed. As you remember, you need at least 2 and not more than 5 levels of headings.  

Example of table of contents in APA format

Keep Table of Contents Consistent

From this point, all the highlighted headings will be automatically synchronized with your table of contents. In case if you make changes to the actual heading, you may also change it in your list in one click. Just make a right click on it and choose the “Update Field” option. In Microsoft Word, you can choose to update either one element or all elements at a time. We recommend updating all the elements to keep your paper consistent and good-looking. Hiring a bibliography writer to work on your table of contents might be helpful as well.

We hope our blog explained all those formatting tricks in a most understandable way. Check out other articles if you have any other questions about academic writing. Good luck with your writing!

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is there a size limit for a table of contents in APA style?

Yes, your table of contents should not be bigger than two pages long. If it is larger, consider deleting it entirely or some of the headlines to fit in.

2. Where in the text is the table of contents located in APA style paper?

The table of contents is located after the Acknowledgment but before the Introduction paragraph.

3. How many heading levels is it required to have in a table of contents?

You need to include at least 2 levels and not more than 5 levels of headings. Just analyze the text and come up with the right format for your paper.

Article posted on:May 3, 2022
Article updated on:May 20, 2024


Leave your comment here:
6/24/2022 11:09 AM
Hi there,

Very informative and helpful information, thanks! However, I'd like to ask about one thing. What sections should I not include in my table of contents in apa? I know that I should remove the cover page and title page, but what else?
6/24/2022 12:34 PM
Hi Whitney,

Yes, you should not include the cover page and title page in your table of contents. Apart from it, if your paper has acknowledgments and abstract pages, which usually go before the table of contents, you should remove them as well. And don't forget to check if the page with the table of contents isn't listed itself.

Hope this helps!
7/6/2022 4:43 PM

I would really like to know how to generate table of contents in word 2010 in apa style? Is the guide from your article about making table of contents in word in apa works for Microsoft Word 2010 as well?
7/6/2022 5:10 PM
Hi Alice,

Yes, you are right, the guide given in this article will suit for creating an automatic table of contents in word 2010. The rules are the same:

1. Adjust your headings (set the styles for APA levels of heading manually if needed).
2. Apply an APA style format.
3. Go to the page where you wish to place your table of contents.
4. Click on the References tab, then select Table of Contents. Then click Insert Table of Contents.
5. Adjust Table of Contents.
6. Keep your table updated.

Hope this information will be useful!
7/6/2022 5:16 PM
Thanks a lot! I managed it)