Index of the thesis: stylistic guide to the graphic layout

If you need practical help to write the index of your thesis, you are in the right place!

The index is the backbone of your thesis. To understand its importance and better understand the role it plays as a bridge between you (the author) and the reader, take a look here. Once you have framed its functions, here are some stylistic tips to know.

Where is it placed?

Unlike what happens for books, whose index can be freely inserted at the beginning or at the end, a precise rule applies to the degree thesis. Always at the beginning of your discussion. In particular, the elements and their order of appearance are as follows:

  • frontispiece
  • Dedication (if any)
  • Index
  • Preface (if any)


In this way the reader will find it easily and can immediately decide which topics to consult and where to find them.

What form should it have?

To meet the requirements of clarity and immediacy, the index must appear in a precise form. The bulleted list. It therefore creates a hierarchical structure, within which you will insert the titles of the chapters, sub-chapters and possibly paragraphs. To do this, use multi-level bulleted lists.

The optimal graphic layout

Very important in the creation of the index is the choice of the graphic layout. It must absolutely respect the hierarchical structure of the topics covered. In particular, the index must be:

  • Well structured – respects logical connections
  • Clean – do not insert unnecessary formatting
  • Readable – space lines between them
  • Homogeneous – identifies each level with a specific character
  • Symmetrical – always shows the same subdivision for everyone

Difference between index and summary

Often index and summary are confused with each other. There are certainly analogies and for this reason it is good to establish a boundary between these two elements in order to be able to use them correctly.

(We have dedicated an in-depth article to this topic. Take a look at What is the difference between Index and Summary?)

Index. Report the structure of the thesis objectively. It tells us, for each topic, where to find it (ie the page number) and what its position is in the hierarchy (if it is a chapter, a sub-chapter or a paragraph). Nothing more.

Summary. It is a brief summary that gives us more information on the various items listed, without however going into the merits of the actual reading. It tells us, in a nutshell, what that chapter is about, under chapter or paragraph.

He breathes a sigh of relief: in the thesis the presence of the summary is superfluous!

Well! With these style tips your index will surely be perfect! Do you need even more practical advice? Read “How to write an automatic index with Word”.

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