Table of contents
A table of contents, usually headed simply "Contents" and abbreviated informally as TOC, is a list of the parts of a book or document
The term document has multiple meanings in ordinary language and in scholarship. WordNet 3.1. lists four meanings :* document, written document, papers...

 organized in the order in which the parts appear. The contents usually includes the titles or descriptions of the first-level headers, such as chapter titles in longer works, and often includes second-level or section titles (A-heads) within the chapters as well, and occasionally even third-level titles (subsections or B-heads). The depth of detail in tables of contents depends on the length of the work, with longer works having less. Formal reports (ten or more pages and being too long to put into a memo
Memo may refer to:* Most commonly Memorandum.* Bench memorandum, law* Memorandum Recordings - record company* Mêmo* MEMO - specialization in electrical engineering that studies Microwaves, Electromagnetism and Optoelectronic...

 or letter) also have table
Within an English-language book, the table of contents usually appears after the title page
Title page
The title page of a book, thesis or other written work is the page at or near the front which displays its title and author, usually together with information relating to the publication of the book...

, copyright notice
Copyright notice
A copyright notice, either as symbol or phrase, informs users of the underlying claim to copyright ownership in a published work.Copyright law is different from country to country, and a copyright notice is required in about 20 countries for a work to be protected under copyright...

s, and, in technical journals, the abstract
Abstract (summary)
An abstract is a brief summary of a research article, thesis, review, conference proceeding or any in-depth analysis of a particular subject or discipline, and is often used to help the reader quickly ascertain the paper's purpose. When used, an abstract always appears at the beginning of a...

; and before any lists of tables or figures, the foreword
A foreword is a piece of writing sometimes placed at the beginning of a book or other piece of literature. Written by someone other than the primary author of the work, it often tells of some interaction between the writer of the foreword and the book's primary author or the story the book tells...

, and the preface
A preface is an introduction to a book or other literary work written by the work's author. An introductory essay written by a different person is a foreword and precedes an author's preface...


Printed tables of contents indicate page numbers where each part starts, while online ones offer link
In computing, a hyperlink is a reference to data that the reader can directly follow, or that is followed automatically. A hyperlink points to a whole document or to a specific element within a document. Hypertext is text with hyperlinks...

s to go to each part. The format and location of the page numbers is a matter of style for the publisher. If the page numbers appear after the heading text, they might be preceded by characters called leaders, usually dots or period
Full stop
A full stop is the punctuation mark commonly placed at the end of sentences. In American English, the term used for this punctuation is period. In the 21st century, it is often also called a dot by young people...

s, that run from the chapter or section titles on the opposite side of the page, or the page numbers might remain closer to the titles. In some cases, the page number appears before the text.

If a book or document contains chapters, articles, or stories by different authors, the author's name also usually appears in the table of contents.

In some cases, tables of contents contains a high quality description of the chapter's but usually first-level header's section content rather than subheadings.

Matter preceding the table of contents is generally not listed there. However, all pages except the outside cover are counted, and the table of contents is often numbered with a lowercase Roman numeral page number. Many popular word processor
Word processor
A word processor is a computer application used for the production of any sort of printable material....

s, such as Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word is a word processor designed by Microsoft. It was first released in 1983 under the name Multi-Tool Word for Xenix systems. Subsequent versions were later written for several other platforms including IBM PCs running DOS , the Apple Macintosh , the AT&T Unix PC , Atari ST , SCO UNIX,...

, WordPerfect
WordPerfect is a word processing application, now owned by Corel.Bruce Bastian, a Brigham Young University graduate student, and BYU computer science professor Dr. Alan Ashton joined forces to design a word processing system for the city of Orem's Data General Corp. minicomputer system in 1979...

, and StarWriter
StarOffice Writer
Oracle Open Office Writer is the word processor component of the Oracle Open Office software package. It was formerly known as StarOffice Writer, and before that, StarWriter. Writer is based on Writer and is similar to Microsoft Word and Corel's WordPerfect.- History :StarWriter was...

 are capable of automatically generating a table of contents if the author of the text uses specific styles for chapter titles, headings, subheadings, etc.

There is one on this very page above.


Example with leaders:
Chapter 1: Getting Started . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Next Steps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Example without leaders:
Chapter 1: Getting Started 1
Introduction 2
Next Steps 3

Example with authors:
1. Introduction to Biology Arthur C. Smith 1
2. Microbiology Susan Jones 10
3. Advances in Biotechnology T.C. Chang 24

Example with descriptive text:
Chapter 1 3
In which we first meet our hero and heroine, attend
a gala feast, and begin an unexpected journey.

Chapter 2 12
The journey takes an unusual turn, and new villains
are discovered.

Earliest use

Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 credits Quintus Valerius Soranus
Quintus Valerius Soranus
Quintus Valerius Soranus was a Latin poet, grammarian, and tribune of the people in the Late Roman Republic. He was executed in 82 BC while Sulla was dictator, ostensibly for violating a religious prohibition against speaking the arcane name of Rome, but more likely for political reasons...

 (d. 82 B.C.) as the first author to provide a table of contents to help readers navigate a lengthy work. Pliny's own table of contents for his encyclopedic Historia naturalis ("Natural History") may be viewed online in Latin and in English (following dedication).
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