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.
Example list of abbreviations
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.
- 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.
- The same guidance goes for abbreviations: write the explanation in full the first time you use it, then proceed with the abbreviated version.
- 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.
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:
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 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?
- 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).