Create a Table of Contents for a Paper in APA Format

You can create a table of contents in APA format by treating the table of contents as another page (or pages) of text in your paper.

Therefore, the paper in APA format will have:

  • a page number in APA format on every page of the paper
  • the title page beginning with a page number of 1
  • every page (including the table of contents) consecutively numbered

The table of contents itself will:

  • be double line spaced
  • have the same font type and size as the rest of the paper

Figure 1 shows the Table of Contents (TOC) in APA format with a page number on every page.

Table of Contents (TOC) in APA format with a page number on every pageFigure 1: Table of Contents (TOC) with every page of the paper numbered

Preparation Before Creating a Table of Contents in APA Format

Before you actually create the table of contents, your table of contents style should be in APA format.

The table of contents should be double spaced, and have the same font type and size as the rest of the paper.

If necessary, format the table of contents to satisfy APA requirements.

When to Create a Table of Contents

You can create and update the table of contents anytime. To have entries in the table of contents, you need to have headings with Word Outline Levels set to 1, 2 or 3 as follows:

  • APA Level 1 headings to Outline level 1
  • APA Level 2 headings to Outline level 2
  • APA Level 3 headings to Outline level 3

You can add, change or delete your headings at anytime.

Create the Table of Contents (the First Time)

Select References, then Table of Contents in Microsoft WordFigure 2: Open Table of Contents selections

Figure 2 instructions (if required) are:

  1. Select the References tab from the main menu.
  2. Select the Table of Contents in the Table of Contents group.
    A dropdown menu with Table of Contents options will appear (see Figure 3).
Select Table of Contents with appropriate headingFigure 3: Select Table of Contents heading

Figure 3 instructions (if required) are:

  • Select Automatic Table 1 if you want the heading "Contents" for the table of contents.
  • Select Automatic Table 2 if you want the heading "Table of Contents" for the table of contents.

The heading is the only difference between the two options.

Note: You may have to format the heading ("Table of Contents" or "Contents") separately in APA format.

Update the Table of Contents

If the last thing you do before you submit your paper is to create a table of contents, then you do not need to update the table of contents.

However, most people (myself included) create a table of contents during the writing process, and update the table of contents periodically.

You must update your table of contents whenever you add, change or delete a heading.

Even if you do not add, delete, or change a heading, you should update your table of contents (as shown in Figure 4).

Why?

Because adding, changing, or deleting text may change the page numbers.

Make sure to update the table of contents just before you submit your paper.

How to update the Table of Contents in WordFigure 4:Table of Contents update in Word

Summary

To create a table of contents in APA format, you should (as shown above):

  • Assign Microsoft Word Outline levels to each of your headings that are to appear in the table of contents.
  • Format your table of contents in APA format.
  • Create the table of contents, either during the writing process, or at the end.
  • Update the table of contents as you add, change, or delete headings and text.
  • Do a final update of the table of contents before submitting your paper.

See here for more information about creating a table of contents.