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Glossary in a Dissertation – A Comprehensive Guide

Published by at August 26th, 2021 , Revised On September 20, 2023

A list of glossary contains all those terms used in your dissertation, but the meanings of which may not be evident to the readers. Here is all you need to know about the glossary in a dissertation.

Basically, any term you use in your dissertation that you know, without a doubt, is not going to be common knowledge to readers outside of your field, is included in a list called glossary. And since every field has its unique, technical jargon, a glossary list can contain many terms some readers might not have even heard of before.

A typical glossary in a dissertation may look something like this:

glossary in a dissertation

Do you Even Need Glossary in your Dissertation to Begin with?

You may or may not be required to have a separate list of glossaries in your dissertation. The decision whether to have a list of glossaries in a dissertation depends on whether it will improve the readability of your paper.

For example, if you are writing a dissertation for an engineering degree and have used several technical terms that readers—especially laymen—may not be familiar with, \ it is advised to add a glossary in a dissertation.

Listing Terms in a Glossary

A recommended practice of adding a glossary in a dissertation is to sort the terms alphabetically and provide a definition or explanations for each of those terms. Having the terms listed in alphabetical order will help the readers to easily locate the information they are interested in.

Location of a Glossary List in a Dissertation

The glossary list is generally placed at the beginning of the dissertation paper, just after the list of tables and figures or the list of abbreviations. However, if your paper does not have a list of abbreviations or a list of tables and figures, you can place the glossary right after the table of contents.

This gives readers the opportunity to understand the meanings of key terms they are not familiar with even before they start to read the main content of the paper.

However, if you haven’t used a lot of technical terms in your dissertation, you can choose to provide an explanation and meanings of the few terms that you have used in the form of footnotes.

Difference Between Abbreviations and Glossary

It is important not to confuse the glossary in the dissertation with the abbreviations, which are put in the list of abbreviations.

A list of abbreviations contains all the terms that have abbreviations. For instance, if you have used terms like NASA, UNICEF, UNESCO, UN, NIH, etc., such terms along with what they stand for will come under the list of abbreviations.

Note, however, that only their full forms, and not their meanings, are mentioned in that list. That is what’s mentioned in a glossary list, though: meanings. Definitions of terms, terms that were used in the dissertation. The terms themselves aren’t abbreviation.

For instance, in a linguistics’ dissertation, you might end up creating a glossary list containing terms like phenomenology, code-switching, diglossia, etc. Notice how these are complete terms, not abbreviations.

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Example of a Glossary in Dissertation

If you haven’t created a list of glossaries before then you will find the below example of a glossary in a dissertation particularly useful:

example of glossary

Other Lists you can have in your Dissertation

You might also want to have a list of tables and figures as well as a list of abbreviations in your dissertation particularly if you are writing a master’s or PhD dissertation. However, make sure to keep the following order:

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FAQs About Glossary in a Dissertation

It’s a list of special terms—single words, phrases, etc.—that are not commonly known to the ‘average’ reader or to a reader who isn’t an expert in that field.

Ideally, words are included in a glossary. However, in some cases—depending on the topic—abbreviations, phrases etc. might also be mentioned within the list of glossary in a dissertation. Sometimes, it might also include a brief definition of how to pronounce a certain word/phrase.

Keep in mind two things while creating a glossary list: keep the language of the definition simple so that every kind of reader can understand it. That’s why a glossary is given, to begin with, to simplify technical jargon and inform laymen. Secondly, arrange the terms inside it alphabetically.

No matter how many times a word or a phrase appears in your dissertation, include it and define it only once in your glossary. There should be no duplicate entries in a glossary list.

About Owen Ingram

Avatar for Owen IngramIngram is a dissertation specialist. He has a master's degree in data sciences. His research work aims to compare the various types of research methods used among academicians and researchers.