How to Create a Table of Contents in APA Format

There are no official guidelines for a table of contents in APA format.
However, institutions and instructors often demand a table of contents in an APA formatted paper.
Format the table of contents (following APA principles) as follows:

  • Use the same font type and size as used in the rest of the paper, for example, Times New Roman 12.
  • Double line space the entries.

Microsoft Word can easily create and maintain a table of contents in APA format.

To create the table of contents, you must:

  1. Give your headings an outline level if they do not have one.
  2. Prepare the table of contents in APA format.
  3. Create the table of contents.

Preparation for the Table of Contents

Set Outline Levels for Your Headings in Microsoft Word 

A Microsoft Word outline level is the hierarchical level that is assigned to some text.
Microsoft Word uses the outline levels to create the table of contents.
Set your headings in Microsoft Word as follows:

  1. APA Level 1 headings to Outline level 1
  2. APA Level 2 headings to Outline level 2
  3. APA Level 3 headings to Outline level 3
Figure 1 is an example of outline levels for each heading in a table of contents in APA format.
If your APA headings already have these levels, then go to set up table of contents in APA format.
If your headings are in APA format but do not have the correct outline levels, then continue.
(See set up your headings in APA format if you need help to style your headings in APA format.) 

Heading levels in a Table of Contents in APA FormatFigure 1: Table of Contents in APA Format With Hierarchy Levels

The outline levels can be set up anytime before the table of contents is generated, for example, you could do this as you write your paper.
For example, Figures 2 and 3 show an  APA Level 2 heading being set to Outline level 2 in Microsoft Word.

Select APA level 2 heading to set outline level in Microsoft WordFigure 2: Select Heading Text for APA Level 2

Figure 2 instructions (if required) are:

  1. Select the heading.
  2. Open the Paragraph dialog box.

Set APA Level 2 heading to Microsoft Word outline level 2Figure 3: Example - APA Level 2 Heading Set to Outline Level 2

Figure 3 instruction (if required) is:

  1. Set the Outline level as follows:
    - APA Level 1 heading to Outline level 1
    - APA Level 2 heading to Outline level 2 (example in Figure 3)
    - APA Level 3 heading to Outline level 3

Set Up the Table of Contents in APA Format

Select Table of Contents submenu in Microsoft WordFigure 4: Select Table of Contents Submenu in Microsoft Word

Figure 4 instructions (if required) are:

  1. Select the References tab.
  2. Select Table of Contents from the Table of Contents group.
  3. Select Custom Table of Contents to open the Table of Contents dialog box (see Figure 5).
This will allow you to modify the table of contents into APA format.

Select modify Table of Contents dialog box in Microsoft WordFigure 5: Select Modify in Table of Contents Submenu

Figure 5 instruction (if required) is:

  1. Select Modify.
The Style window (see Figure 6) will open to begin modifying the table of contents into APA format.

Select Modify for Level 1 Heading styleFigure 6: Select Modify for Level 1 Heading

Figure 6 instruction (if required) is:

  1. Select Modify.
The Modify Style window (see Figure 7) will open so you can format the table of contents into APA format.

Note: Figure 6 shows the APA Level 1 Heading being selected for modification.
If the APA Level 2 Heading is being selected for formatting, select TOC 2.
If the APA Level 3 Heading is being selected for formatting, select TOC 3.

Set Font type and size for APA level 1 headingFigure 7: Set APA Font Type and Size for Level 1 Heading

Figure 7 instructions (if required) are:

  1. Select the font type and size for your APA format.
    The font type and size will already be in APA format if it is the default in your Word document.
  2. Select Format.
This will let you choose Paragraph (see Figure 8) to format.

Select paragraph to be formattedFigure 8: Select paragraph to be formatted in APA style

Figure 8 instruction (if required) is:

  1. Select Paragraph.
    This will let you style the Paragraph (see Figure 9) in APA format.

Select Double Line Spacing for Level 1 headings in APA formatFigure 9: Double Line Spacing for APA Level 1 Headings

Figure 9 instructions (if required) are:

  1. Select Double Line spacing.
    Make sure all other settings are as shown, in particular, Before and After spacing is set to zero.
    The paragraph style will now be in APA format.
  2. Select OK.
    Select OK in all other open dialog boxes.

Creating a Table of Contents in Microsoft Word in APA Format

Four different formats are shown:

  • page number in Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3 ...) on every page including the title page (see Figure 10)
  • page number in Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3 ..) starting at 1 on the table of contents page (see Figure 11)
  • page number in Arabic numerals starting at 1 after the table of contents (see Figure 12)
  • Roman numerals (i, ii, iii ...) for the table of contents, and Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3 ...) for the main body of work (see Figure 13)

Table of Contents With a Page Number on Every Page

The most obvious way to create a table of contents in APA format is to treat the table of contents as another page (or pages) of text.
Therefore, the table of contents in APA format (as shown in Figure 10) will:

  • have a page number in APA format on every page of the table of contents
  • be double line spaced
  • have the same font type and size as the rest of the paper
Example of a paper with a table of contents in APA formatFigure 10: Table of Contents in APA format

See how to build a table of contents with a page number on every page.

Page Number Starting at 1 in the Table of Contents

Example of Table of Contents Beginning With Page Number 1Figure 11: Table of Contents With Page Number 1

See how to build a table of contents starting with page number 1.

Page Number Starting at 1 in the Main Text

Page numbering starting after the Table of Contents in APA formatFigure 12. Page Numbering Starting After the Table of Contents

See how to build a table of contents with the page number starting at the main text.

Roman Numerals in the Table of Contents and Arabic Numerals in the Main Text

Roman numerals for table of contents and Arabic numerals for main textFigure 13: Roman and Arabic Numerals for Page Numbers

See how to build a table of contents with page numbers in Roman numeral format.

Summary

The APA style says nothing about creating a table of contents in APA format. The  APA blog will explain why.
However, this does not mean you cannot have one. A table of contents is often required.
Follow the guidelines above and your instructor's guidelines to create a table of contents in APA format.