APPENDIX B: Page Numbering and Table of Contents using MS Word

Proper page numbering and a useful table of contents are important features of a professionally presented technical report. The directions provided here apply to Microsoft Word but directions for other tools, such as Google Docs, are similar to those described here.


The key to proper page numbering is in the headers and footers of the document. To insert automatic page numbering, first position cursor to be able to edit the header or footer. This can be done from the Insert menu where you can select “Edit Header” from the pull-down menu visible when clicking on “Header”. If you want to place the page number in the footer, the directions are identical except you want to edit footer rather than header. Once in the header (or footer), click on “Page Numbers” to view the pull-down menu that provides the various choices for page numbering. Select the choice that suits you and the document will automatically insert those page numbers on all pages.

Although most students know how to add an automatic page number in either the header of footer of the document, few know how to control how that looks throughout the document. All pages before the first content page of the report (the introduction), should not include page numbers. To control which pages have the page numbers on them, follow these steps:

  1. Put the insertion point at the end of the page right before the introduction.
  2. Click on the Page Layout tab.
  3. Click on the pull down arrow next to “Breaks” in the Page Setup section of the Page Layout tab.
  4. Then click on “Next Page” under Section Breaks. This will create a new section starting on the next page.
  5. Enter in the Header and Footer of this new section and click on “Link to Previous” if it is already selected. Removing the link to the previous headers and footers means that you can create headers and footers in this new section that are disconnected from the previous section. In this case, you want nothing in the header or footer for the title page and table of contents page but you want to insert an automatic page number in either the header of footer of the new section.


To create an automated table of contents, you need to have used “Styles” to select the style for report section headings such as “Introduction” and “Background Theory”. If you haven’t done that, it is not too late. Just go to each heading, select that line and select what heading level it is in the Styles section of the Home tab. If you like the look of your headings, you can change the heading style to that look by right clicking on the heading, click on “Styles”, and then select the choice that says “Update Heading ‘#’ to match this selection”.

Once all your headings have been assigned a heading level, then go to the page where you want to insert the table of contents, click on the “References” tab, then click on Insert Table of Contents …. Word will automatically create the table. If you need to update page numbers due to edits, just right click on the Table of Contents and select “Update Field”. You can update the whole table or just the page numbers. If you made changes to heading names, then you need to update the whole table, but otherwise, just updating page numbers does the job.


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Technical Report Writing Guidelines Copyright © by Leah M. Akins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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