How to Write a Table of Contents: Basic, MLA, and APA Styles

How to Write a Table of Contents: Basic, MLA, and APA Styles
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Usually, tables of contents are used in documents that consist of several chapters or sections. Creating a table of contents may seem to be a simple task, however, different formatting styles and rules regarding spacing may cause some problems if students are not familiar with these standards.

College-Writers.com decided to help you prepare a good table of contents by explaining the features of the most common styles: MLA and APA. The MLA style is popular in literature, while APA is used in social sciences. If there’s no particular style specified by your professor, you may need to create a basic table of contents.

Basic Table of Contents

First, let’s see what a basic table of contents looks like. This table should demonstrate how your paper is organized, and what topics are addressed in it. You should include every section of your paper and provide a corresponding page number. If your work has big sections, you can benefit from making descriptive headlines so that your audience could easily find the necessary information on any specific subtopic. For example, if this article was several pages long, its table of contents would look like this:

Introduction……………………………………………………….1

Basic Table of Contents…………………………………………3

APA Style Table of Contents……………………………………5

MLA Style Table of Contents……………………………………6

Entries in your table of content should be written using capital letters, just like headlines in your paper. To make your table easy to read, line up page numbers. You can do it manually or use various programs that can format your text documents automatically. These programs can also help with spacing.

APA Table of Contents

You may or may not use the APA style in your papers, depending on your field of study, the type of your paper, and requirements of your school. Literature reviews traditionally don’t have a table of contents, having only a standard title page. In this case, you should also include an introduction and a reference list. If your paper has several major sections, its table of contents may look like this:

Abstract………………………………………………………….2

Introduction…………………………………………………….5

Method…………………………………………………………..6

Results……………………………………………………………9

Tables……………………………………………………………11

References………………………………………………………14

The title shouldn’t be underlined or written in bold font. An APA table of contents should also include an abstract and a list of references. Obviously, you should also follow the general guidelines of the APA style. When creating a table of contents according to the APA style, you may also benefit from making descriptive headlines.

MLA Table of Contents

Your MLA style paper may have a table of contents if it’s long enough. The MLA format doesn’t have any strict requirements regarding breaking up the text so you can approach this issue as you like, taking into account the type of content. Here’s a list of suggested sections for an MLA paper:

  • Acknowledgments;
  • Foreword;
  • Introduction;
  • Body (three parts);
  • Conclusion (Summary);
  • Afterward;
  • Explanatory Notes;
  • Appendices;
  • Contact Organizations;
  • Glossary;
  • Endnotes (if you don’t use citations in parentheses or footnotes);
  • Bibliography;
  • Index.

You should also include a title page, however, there’s no need to number it, unless your title is on the main page of your paper. Don’t forget that the MLA style also requires you to provide a list of tables and illustrations. Here’s an example of a table of contents written according to the MLA format:

Contents

Introduction……………………………………………………..2

Arts………………………………………………………………..5

Government……………………………………………………..8

Works Cited……………………………………………………..10

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