Addressing Level 3 Table of Contents Problems

Trying to get APA format and Microsoft Word capabilities can be a problem at time - especially when it comes to the automatic Table of Contents.

As noted in an earlier posting, if you format each of your headings with a Format Style (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3) MS Word can create a Table of Contents for you.

Problem is that the Level 3 APA heading causes a problem so that it won't register in the Table of Contents. The problem is that the heading is on the same line as the regular text.  See the example below:

Level 3 Example:
     Generation Z. This generation is a unique generation because they will not have lived in a time when the World Wide Web didn't exist.

There are two ways to beat this problem:
  1. Don't worry about it.  Be happy with only having levels 1 and 2 in your Table of Contents - Be Done With It.
  2. Insert the lines for the Level 3 headings into the Word-Generated Table of Contents and place the Level 3 heading and page number into it manually.
Deciding which of these tactics will be completely up to you.  If you select option 2, I have created a 4-minute video that explains the process.

Happy Writing and 
I would appreciate your feedback on how well this addressed your needs.

Table of Contents - Make MS Word Your Worker

The most meticulous part of writing your review is the Table of Contents.  This is obviously the last thing that you do (after writing the abstract) and that is not the time you want to be bogged down with details.  

Tips about Headings and Subheadings 

  • The Headings are the main parts of your review: Abstract, Table of Contents, Introduction, Methodology, Analysis and Discussion, Conclusions and Recommendations, and References.
  • Subheadings are GOOD.  They provide a visual framework for your readers. 
  • Subheadings should probably only be used in the Analysis and Discussion and Conclusions and Recommendations sections.  
  • You don't need subheadings in the Introduction and Methodology.

Using MS Word to Create Your Table of Contents 

MS Word can actually create your Table of Contents for you. You just need to tell MS Word which lines are the headings, subheadings, sub-subheadings and sub-sub-subheadings.  You do this by assigning a Style to each heading.  If you are using the UNI IT Masters Template, you will find that Headings 1 - 4 have already been created for you using the APA 6th Edition format.

I am going to describe how to prepare your headings and then create your Table of Contents in the steps below.  There will also be videos at the end of this posting which will demonstrate how to create a Table of Contents. (BTW, I am using a Mac to create this Table of Contents because that is what I have available. I have included a video at the end which will explain how to do it with Windows.)

Preparing Your Review for Your Table of Contents

  1. Write your review and insert headings where necessary.  
  2. Using the template, the Main Headings (Heading 1) have already been formatted.  They are bold and centered.
  3. Highlight a subheading (Heading 2) and click on the Heading 2 box in the Styles Section of the Home Menu at the top of your document in Word.  This should make this subheading bold and left justified. Do this throughout your review.
  4. Highlight a sub-subheading (Heading 3) and click on the Heading 3 box in the Styles Section. This should bold this sub-subheading and indent it 5 spaces.
  5. You get the idea - continue this to your sub-sub-subheadings, but I don't think that you will have any of those.

Asking MS Word to Create Your Table of Contents

Now that you have identified the headings et al. that you want to be included in your Table of Contents, MS Word can create your Table of Contents
  1. Place your cursor where you want your Table of Contents to be located.
  2. From the Insert Menu, select Index and Tables.
  3. Select Table of Contents from the appearing window. 
  4. Select From Template (See, we even created the TOC template for you.)
  5. VOILA!!!!!   You have a Table of Contents!

Updating Your Table of Contents

As you make ongoing changes to your review, it will mess up the accuracy of your TOC.  You can update it at will.  (Will who?)
  1. Right-Click on your TOC.
  2. Select Update Field.
  3. Make either selection on your appearing window.
  4. VOILA!!!!!   You have an updated TOC!

Creating a Table of Contents using Windows (Word 2013)

Creating a Table of Contents Using Mac OSX (Word 2011)

How to Modify Existing Heading Styles for the APA Format

If you want to create an automatic Table of Contents in Word, then you need to format each of your headings using the appropriate Style format (see an earlier posting).

Word uses Headings 1, 2, 3, etc to identify the position of each title in the Table of Contents.  Therefore, you need to modify each of the Word headings so that they will match the heading formats defined by APA.

I have created a 7-minute video that demonstrates how you can do this.  Remember that you are not creating new styles.  You are modifying existing styles.

Using the Five Levels of Heading in APA Style

Organization is a key element in article/review organization.  This organization is achieved through the headings the writer uses to provide a framework for the reader.

The American Psychological Association has a set of 5 levels that they include in their framework: (The following graphic was shared in the APA Style Blog.)

Here are some points that you should realize about these headings:
  • All of the levels are bolded except level 5
  • Level 1 is the only level centered.
  • Level 2 is the only level left justified.
  • Levels 3 - 5 all end with periods.
  • Levels 1 & 2 are the only levels that use Title Capitalization.  Levels 3 - 5 use Sentence Capitalization.
  • Levels 4 & 5 are indented.
Here is the beginning of a sample document using these headings. Click here to get to the rest of the document.

Turning Your Readings into Notes into Your Review

One of the greatest challenges in writing your review is collecting and organizing information from all of the articles you have collected.   

I found a blog posting, How to Get Your Literature Review to Write Itself  

This article explains how you should always read your articles with a computer next to you.  Have a document open so that you can take your notes directly into the document.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Module 11: Refining Your Abstract

You are almost done!!!

You have written your Introduction, Methodology, Analysis and Discussion, Conclusions and Recommendations.   Now all that you need to do is complete the beginning and the end of your Literature Review.  You need to complete your Abstract and your References.


You have been reading abstracts forever.  These are the short, 150-word descriptions that give you a brief description of the contents of the article.  Within this short passage, you expect to find the topic, purpose, methodology and conclusions. This provides a usable overview for researchers.

Your abstract should follow the same structure as your review:
  1. Describe the topic in one sentence;
  2. Explain the purpose, thesis or organizing construct and the scope of the article;
  3. List the sources used; and
  4. Review the conclusions.
The best way to evaluate the completeness of an abstract is by asking yourself if it tells enough about the article for a researcher to read and decide whether this article will be useful for her research.

Here is an example of a good abstract that follows the outline above:

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can be used to create differentiated learning environments. This review examines the effects of Universal Design for Learning on student achievement in a secondary school setting. Seven peer-reviewed research studies and one doctoral dissertation published between 2002-2010 were selected for analysis. The reviewed research studies indicated that students tended to perform better when material was presented through a multitude of channels and students were given a choice of methods for demonstrating proficiency. Future research into using UDL in the K-12 curriculum was recommended. (88 words)

Did it accomplish what was intended?  Please note that it is only 88 words.

Module 10: Sharing Your Conclusions and Recommendations

     Now that you have captured your readers' attention with your captivating Introduction . . . and you have informed them of the research questions you will pursue . . . and you explained how you went about your search . . . and you shared your findings . . . it is time to tell your readers "what you think."
     Up to this point, your readers didn't care about your thoughts.  All that they wanted to know was what studies had to say about answering your specific research questions.

Writing the Conclusions:Now it is time for you to share your own opinions. You have the opportunity to tie together the loose ends that you have discovered as you combed through the literature. This is where you can discuss what your discoveries mean to you and ultimately to the rest of the world.   This is where you cite the studies you have already introduced and share the similarities and differences you found when you were working on them.  To avoid redundancy, review the list of ideas at the bottom of this post.

Writing the Recommendation: 
Remember that this section has two parts.  It has your conclusions and then it has your recommendations for how this information should be researched/applied in the future.  The recommendations section is where you can direct your readers towards ways to extend and use your literature review.  This section will include recommendations for:

  • Future research
  • Classroom applications
  • Educational policies and procedures
  • Program revision or other warranted situations

The recommendations section is often where future researchers will get their ideas of what else to explore.  Administrators will gain their brainstorms for how to use this information to improve educational institutions.

Writing It - Do not underestimate the importance of the conclusion - it is the last thing the reader reads. It should give your writing a sense of completeness and leave a lasting impression on the reader.

     There is no one correct way to write a conclusion but you might think about the following:
  • Synthesize - don't summarize! Don't repeat things said in the main body (the reader has already read this!) but show how your ideas,  your examples and your references have combined to support your line of argument.
  • Don't introduce new information. Remember that you are bringing closure to what has already been presented.
  • Reference and Cite Studies. This is where you will be citing and referencing the research you have previously introduced.  You MUST Compare and Contrast the outcomes of those studies to support your conclusions!!
  • Bring your paper full circle by echoing the introduction. But talk about the topic now with the hindsight of having developed your ideas in the body of your review.
  • Emphasize key material but acknowledge where there are opposing viewpoints which might qualify your argument.
  • Pose questions which still remain to be answered or further explored or require further study.
  • Point out the importance of the implications of what you have said on your field of research or your area of work.
  • Describe lack of closure - You may feel you were not always able to arrive at conclusions to your questions. Being able to recognize the lack of a conclusion can be good in that it demonstrates you understand the complexity of the problem.
  • Leave on an exciting note - You might save a provocative or exciting insight or quotation to add spice to your conclusion. But take care not to risk diverting attention from the arguments you have developed - avoid leaving the reader with a new direction that needs researching when you want your ideas and deliberations on your topic to take centre stage.
Hints for Writing a Conclusion - This document does a good job of providing a mindset for writing your conclusion. Read it carefully for hints on how to begin your conclusion as well as examples of what your conclusion should NOT be. 

EXAMPLE of a Conclusions and Recommendations section from a 33-page IT Masters Degree Literature Review.

Leave your reader feeling fulfilled and on a good . . . 

Module 9b: Am I Writing an Annotated Bibliography or a Literature Review?

Differences Between an Annotated Bibliography and a Literature Review

The biggest challenge that you can encounter when you are writing a Literature Review is how to present the relevant studies.  You have spent hours researching and reviewing journal articles about research studies that are relevant to your topic. You want to share them and the easiest way is to describe each of the studies in a paragraph or two.  This is a logical process, but it can get confusing to your readers if you just bombard them with study after study without any additional narrative that ties them together.  This sort of content presentation is called an Annotated Bibliography.

Annotated Bibliography

When the emphasis of a written document is individual articles, then is it called an Annotated Bibliography.
An Annotated Bibliography is defined as a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited. (Engle, 2016)

Annotated Bibliography Example:

A Literature Review

Galvin defines a Literature Review as “a well-written analytical narrative that brings readers up-to-date on what is known about a given topic.” (p.11)   Helen Mongan-Rallis (2006) states that a literature review “goes well beyond merely summarizing professional literature.  It focuses on a specific topic of interest to you and includes a critical analysis of the relationship between different works, and relating this research to your work.“

We are writing an Integrative Review which “reviews, critiques, and synthesizes the representative literature on a topic in an integrated way that new frameworks . . . are generated.”  This type of review includes all of the studies that the author can find that are relevant to a specific topic or theme in the research. The studies are organized using the topics/themes as the framework, not the articles. (USC Libraries, 2005)

Buttram, MacMillan, and Koch (2012) created a table that compares Annotated Bibliographies with Literature Reviews.  This graphic contrasts the purpose, structure, and components found in each of this genre.

Furthermore, they created a figure that describes how an annotated bibliography can feed into a literature review.  This is especially useful because it depicts how appropriate studies are compared and contrasted throughout a literature review.  The review is driven by the topics/themes, not the research.  The research is just used to provide the necessary foundation for discussing each topic/theme.

An annotated bibliography might be a valuable way to organize your research, but ultimately you will want to use your findings to share and substantiate your interpretation of how studies have explored the various themes and subthemes of your selected research topic.

Is it clearer now?  What are the realizations that you experienced?  Are you still confused about the structure or intent of a literature review? 

Please answer these questions and provide any other resources that you may deem useful for you colleagues by placing them in the comments section of this RWLD.