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APA (7th edition) Citation Guide

Paragraph Structure


The main Idea is also known as the “topic sentence,” is often the first sentence of the paragraph, and usually focuses on a single idea.
Evidence is the information that supports the assertion made in the topic sentence. It is the part of the paragraph where writers will incorporate content from the sources they have read.
After presenting evidence from the literature, writers then need to analyze that evidence in the context of the topic. In other words, you need to tell the reader what the evidence means and why it’s important. This can be hard to separate from the evidence, and some paragraphs might require weaving together multiple pieces of evidence and analysis. 
Finally, writers need to link back to the papers main idea/and or link to the next paragraph. Don’t just jump from one idea to the next; rather, help your reader transition with linking text. 

Table of contents

APA Style provides various formatting guidelines for academic papers, but it does not have specific rules regarding the table of contents.

If you include a table of contents in an APA style paper or thesis, make sure it adheres to general APA format guidelines. You can automatically create the table of contents by applying APA heading styles in Word.

Table of contents

  1. APA format guidelines for the table of contents
  2. How to generate a table of contents in Word

APA format guidelines for the table of contents

In a thesis or dissertation, the table of contents comes between your abstract and your introduction. It should be written in the same font and size as the rest of your text (usually 12 pt Times New Roman). At the top of the page, write Contents, centered and in bold.

In APA Style, you can use up to five levels of headings, each with its own formatting style. In the table of contents, you should include all level 1 and 2 headings, left-aligned and formatted as plain text. Level 2 headings are indented.

Including lower-level headings in the table of contents is optional. Add an additional indent for each level. If you have a lot of headings in your text, you may not be able to include them all – your table of contents should not be more than two pages long in total.

How to generate a table of contents in Word

To automatically generate a table of contents in Word, you’ll first have to apply heading styles throughout your text. After that, you can generate the table of contents.

Applying heading styles

First, go through your text making sure that each level of heading is in keeping with APA Style rules:

Heading level Formatting
Level 1 Centered, Bold, Title Case Capitalization
Level 2 Left-Aligned, Bold, Title Case Capitalization
Level 3      Indented, bold, sentence case capitalization, ending with a period.
Level 4      Indented, bold, italicized, sentence case capitalization, ending with a period.
Level 5     Indented, italicized, lowercase paragraph heading ending with a period.
7th edition updates
In the 7th edition of the APA manual, levels 1 and 2 are the same, but level 3, 4, and 5 headings look different:


Level 3 Left-Aligned, Bold and Italic, Title Case Capitalization
Level 4     Indented, Bold, Title Case Capitalization, Ending With a Period.
Level 5     Indented, Bold, Italic, Title Case Capitalization, Ending With a Period.

Next, update the heading styles listed in the Home tab at the top:

  1. Highlight a level 1 heading.
  2. Right-click the Heading 1 style and select Update Heading 1 to match selection
  3. Do the same for each level of heading.

Once you’ve done this you can update any other headings quickly using the heading styles. Make sure all headings are in the appropriate style before proceeding.

Generating the table of contents

Now you can generate your table of contents. First write the title (in the style of a level 1 heading). Then place your cursor two lines below this and go to the References tab.

Click on Table of Contents and select Custom Table of Contents… In the popup window, select how many levels of heading you wish to include (either two or three) under Show levels, then click OK:

Updating your table of contents

Now you have a table of contents based on your current headings and page numbers; if you continue working on your text after this, be sure to go back and update your table of contents at the end, as headings and page numbers might change.

You can do this by right-clicking on the table of contents and selecting Update Field. Then you can choose whether to update all information or just the page numbers; it’s best to update everything, just to be sure.

APA table of contents


Because there is no standard format for a table of contents in APA style, you should always defer to the provided guidelines for your assignment.

If your instructor does not have a preferred format, consider using the following:

  • Title the page “Table of Contents” and center the title at the top of the page.
  • Use an outline format for the different sections of your paper. For the main headings, use Roman numerals. Follow by using Arabic numerals to list any sub-level headings. If you have lower-level headings, list them using lower-case letters. 
  • All main headings should be flush-left.
  • Sub-headings should be indented five spaces. 
  • All entries should use title case.
  • Identity the page number where each heading and subheading begin flush-right. Include dot leaders between the headings and the page number to improve readability.