List of Abbreviations | Example, Template & Best Practices

A list of abbreviations is an alphabetical list of abbreviations that you can add to your thesis or dissertation. If you choose to include it, it should appear at the beginning of your document, just after your table of contents.

Abbreviation lists improve readability, minimizing confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader. This can be a worthwhile addition to your thesis or dissertation if you find that you’ve used a lot of abbreviations in your paper.

If you only use a few abbreviations, you don’t necessarily need to include a list. However, it’s never a bad idea to add one if your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they will not be known to your audience.

You can download our template below in the format of your choice to help you get started.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Example list of abbreviations

Example list of abbreviations

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Best practices for abbreviations and acronyms

There are a few rules to keep in mind about using abbreviations in academic writing. Here are a few tips.

  1. Acronyms are formed using the first letter of each word in a phrase. The first time you use an acronym, write the phrase in full and place the acronym in parentheses immediately after it. You can then use the acronym throughout the rest of the text.
Example: Introducing acronyms
All participants took part in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program. DARE targets young adults in high-risk neighbourhoods.
  1. The same guidance goes for abbreviations: write the explanation in full the first time you use it, then proceed with the abbreviated version.
Example: Introducing abbreviations
The research investigated commonly used acoustic-phonetic measures (ac. phon. measures). These ac. phon. measures were first researched by Strik et al. (2020).
  1. If you’re using very common acronyms or abbreviations, such as USA, PC, or NASA, you can abbreviate them from the get-go. If you’re in doubt, just write it out in full the first time.
Abbreviations in APA
Note that if you are using APA Style, there are additional specific requirements for the use of abbreviations and acronyms in your dissertation.

Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.

Try for free

Additional lists to include

As well as the list of abbreviations, you can also use a list of tables and figures and a glossary for your thesis or dissertation.

Include your lists in the following order:

Tip
Don’t forget to include your list of abbreviations in your table of contents!

Frequently asked questions

Do you always have to write out abbreviations?

As a rule of thumb, write the explanation in full the first time you use an acronym or abbreviation. You can then proceed with the shortened version. However, if the abbreviation is very common (like PC, USA, or DNA), then you can use the abbreviated version from the get-go.

Be sure to add each abbreviation in your list of abbreviations!

Is a list of abbreviations mandatory in my thesis or dissertation?

If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation, you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations.

If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimizing confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.

What is a list of abbreviations?

A list of abbreviations is a list of all the abbreviations that you used in your thesis or dissertation. It should appear at the beginning of your document, with items in alphabetical order, just after your table of contents.

What is the difference between an acronym and abbreviation?

An abbreviation is a shortened version of an existing word, such as Dr. for Doctor. In contrast, an acronym uses the first letter of each word to create a wholly new word, such as UNESCO (an acronym for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Is this article helpful?
Tegan George

Tegan is an American based in Amsterdam, with master's degrees in political science and education administration. While she is definitely a political scientist at heart, her experience working at universities led to a passion for making social science topics more approachable and exciting to students. A well-designed natural experiment is her favorite type of research, but she also loves qualitative methods of all varieties.