Glossary of a dissertation

A glossary is a list of all terms used in your dissertation that are not immediately obvious to the average reader.

When do you use a glossary?

You add a glossary whenever this increases the readability of your dissertation. If you use, for example, many technical terms then it is advisable to add a glossary.

Sort terms alphabetically

Sort the glossary in alphabetical order and provide a short explanation or definition. Sorting the terms alphabetically ensures that the reader can easily look up the terms.

What can proofreading do for your paper?

Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words and awkward phrasing.

See editing example

Where do you put the glossary in your dissertation?

You place the glossary at the beginning of the document, just after the table of contents (or, if applicable, the list of figures or list of abbreviations). Readers of your dissertation can then first look through the key terms before they actually read your dissertation in full.

If you only have a few terms that need explaining, you can choose to add the explanations in a footnote. This method saves the reader the work of flipping back to the glossary.

Abbreviations do not belong in the glossary

Don’t explain an abbreviation in the glossary. If you have a lot of abbreviations, put these in the list of abbreviations. Do you only have a few abbreviations in your dissertation? Then you can explain the abbreviations in the text.

Example Glossary


Example glossary

Additional lists in your dissertation

In addition to the use of a glossary, you could also use a list of figures and tables and a list of abbreviations. When doing so, make use of the following order:

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Michelle Mertens

Michelle is responsible for the support at Scribbr. Day in day out she receives many questions about thesis proofreading, how to write a thesis and how to prevent plagiarism. She loves to write clear and easy to understand articles about these topics to help students out.

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