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The Research Paper Table Of Contents Format: 7 Things To Keep In Mind

When writing a research paper, most writers are focused on how organized it is, the length of the paper, if the information is credible and that it makes sense. However, an important part of the paper that a lot of people overlook is the table of contents. This table will guide readers throughout the paper by showing them where to find certain things. Not all research papers include this section, but here are some things to keep in mind for the ones that do.

Seven things to keep in mind about the format of the Table of Contents:

  1. Headings/Topics - The most important thing in your paper is to have headings or subtopics. If, for instance, you are automatically generating a table of contents on a tool such as Microsoft Word, it is easier for the program to make the table if there are already headings or subtopics in the work that is being presented.
  2. Save it for last - This section of the paper is usually the last thing done. Though it is situated at the beginning of the paper, it is usually prepared when the paper is finished. You must know where everything is in the paper before you can make a table telling your readers where everything is!
  3. Remember its location - The table of contents does not appear as the very first thing in the paper. The title page appears first. And, if there is an abstract, the table will appear after that as well.
  4. Pay attention to the font of headings and subheadings - The headings in the table are usually in bold while the subheadings are not. This makes it easier for people to find the important parts of the paper. For instance, ‘Discussion’ would be a heading so it would be in bold while the different segments of discussion in the paper would follow below it but not in bold.
  5. Include page numbers - Many writers forget that the table of contents should also include the page numbers. The page numbers inform the reader the exact page to go to when they need to find a specific part of the paper.
  6. List the items that appear before the actual table - Although they are presented beforehand, you still should list and give page numbers for the abstract and title page.
  7. Font size matters - People need actually to be able to see the titles in the table so ensure that the font is large enough. A simple rule of thumb is to make the headings either the same font size as the rest of the paper or one size larger.

It may not seem like it, but the table of contents is one of the most important parts of the research paper. Format it well, and essentially you will have an efficient map to your entire paper.