Importance of Abbreviations and Acronyms in Dissertation

You see a dissertation that has a perfect first chapter and a flawless last chapter, and everything in between is spot on as well. Can you call this dissertation perfect? Well, a big “YES” may seem like the right answer here, but guess what? You cannot call a dissertation perfect only based on the information given above. Here’s why?

A dissertation is composed of many portions, and you have to get every one of them right. As opposed to what most think, a dissertation does not start with chapter 1 and it surely doesn’t end on the last chapter.


Here, Portions do not mean chapters. Apart from the chapters, a dissertation has other little portions like, abstract, acknowledgements, list of figures, appendices, and list of abbreviations.

Your dissertation can not be perfect if you don’t get these portions right – and this blog will discuss one such portion in detail – the list of abbreviations.

In this blog, you will find all the information you need to nail the “list of abbreviations” section.

What are Abbreviations and Acronyms?

Let’s first start with understanding what abbreviations are, the purpose behind their usage and the rules for using abbreviations in your dissertation.

You probably already know what abbreviations are – they are short forms of words. For example, the word, “doctor” can be written as, “Dr.” which is an abbreviation.

Whether you plan to hire a premium thesis service or go for a cheap thesis writing service you should let them know if you want  to add a list of abbreviations in your thesis,

Acronyms, on the other hand, are abbreviations that are constructed using the first letters of all the words in a term. For example, USA is an acronym of United States of America.

Be Careful!

The first letters of words like “and”, “of” and “for” don’t make it to the abbreviation.

Why do you include them in your dissertation?

Generally, acronyms and abbreviations are used to avoid the use of long words. They serve the same purpose in your dissertation as well. They help maintain the flow of your paper by allowing you to use the shortened form of a term instead of using the full word or phrase.

Rules for Using Abbreviations and Acronyms

Rule#1 – When using a particular abbreviation in your dissertation for the first time, always use the full form followed by the abbreviation in parenthesis.
Rule#2 – Only follow Rule#1 on the first appearance of a particular abbreviation – when using the same abbreviation again, just use the shortened form.


If you choose to omit any abbreviation from the list, always define it on the first appearance.

Example of Acronyms in a Thesis or Dissertation

“The literature suggest that reinforced concrete (RC) has a wider range of application than Fibre Reinforced Polymers (FRP). As a result, RC is used more frequently in the construction industry than FRP.

This example is the perfect demonstration of both the rules. The text in green shows the first appearance of the abbreviations (rule#1) and the text blue shows how abbreviations are used later in the thesis (rule#2).

List of Abbreviations in a Thesis or a Dissertation

You are now familiar with abbreviations and acronyms and you know how to use them in your dissertation, now is the time to compile the actual list of abbreviation.

When and why is there a need for a list?

A typical dissertation contains several abbreviations. If your dissertation contains abbreviations that your readers (which in case of a dissertation, are supervisors and evaluators) might not be familiar with, having a list of abbreviations section can assist them in understanding those abbreviations and they can refer to it as a guide.


This is not a mandatory section and if your dissertation contains only a few abbreviations, there is no need for a list.

Where Does a List of Abbreviations Go?

When including a list of abbreviations, insert them near the start of the report after your table of contents. To make it clear that your document contains an abbreviated list, also add a separate heading to your table of contents.

Note: The page number for your list of abbreviations should continue from the page number that proceeds it; there is no need to reset it for this section

Where do you put the list of abbreviations?

The list of abbreviations should appear at the beginning of the document, just after the table of contents. The list should also be included in your table of contents.

If you only use a few abbreviations, you don’t need to include a list—follow the guidance below on how to define abbreviations within the text

How is it written?

The abbreviations in the list must be arranged in alphabetical order.

What purpose does it serve?

This section of your dissertation serves two main purposes:

  • It helps your supervisor better understand your research and,
  • It helps maintain the flow in your writing by not having to define the abbreviations again and again.

Be Careful!

Do not include common abbreviations – because they will fill out the list with terms that your readers are already familiar with.

Here is a few examples of acronyms and abbreviations that you should not include in your list; USA, PhD,Dr. and Ltd. etc.

Where Does a List of Abbreviations Go?

You can’t just put the list of abbreviations anywhere you want. Like everything there is a proper place for the list of abbreviations – which is in the beginning of your dissertation, before the first chapter and after the table of contents. And also make sure to include the heading of list of abbreviations in the table of contents.

Be Careful!

Do not reset the page number for your list of abbreviations – continue from the page number that precedes the list.

Example list of abbreviations

Here is an example of how a list of abbreviations look like in a dissertation. This list mentions the abbreviation, the full form of it and the page number on which the term is first defined.

Abbreviations in APA

APA is among the most popular formats out there and hence a blog on list of abbreviations would be incomplete without discussing the APA guidelines on using abbreviations. So, when using abbreviations in APA formatted dissertation, make sure to follow these guidelines:

The full form of abbreviations and Acronyms must be spelled out completely on the first appearance in the document.

Abbreviation must only be used if they fulfil the following conditions: follows a convention, is apt to be familiar, will prevent unnecessary repetition, and will save space.

An acronym or an abbreviation must not be used at the beginning of a sentence.

Things to do and things to avoid

Dos Don’ts
Always continue the numbering. Do not reset the page numbering for this section.
Include only those abbreviations that require explanation. Do not include the common abbreviations that your readers might be familiar with.
Always include the heading of list of abbreviations in the TOC. Don’t omit the heading of List of abbreviations from the TOC.

The take away:

For a perfect dissertation, you don’t just have to make sure that all the chapters included in it are flawlessly written, you also have to pay attention to the other, smaller sections of your dissertation.

List of abbreviations is one of those portions that are not included in any of the chapters in a dissertation.

List of abbreviations assist your reader by defining the abbreviations used in your thesis.

It comes after the table of contents and before the first chapter.

When using abbreviations in APA format, there are certain guidelines that you must abide by.

Now, you know everything about the list of abbreviations and you’re all set to nail this portion.

Congrats! You are one step closer to a perfect dissertation!


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