List Abbreviations Dissertations

If you use a large number of abbreviations or symbols, you should include a List of Abbreviations or List of Symbols.

This type of list identifies the abbreviations or symbols that are used in the body and appendices of the disquisition, and provides a definition for each item. This is for the benefit of those who will read your disquisition at a later date.

If you include a large number of both abbreviations and symbols, you should create a separate list for each type of item.

All abbreviations or symbols that are used in the text and appendices must be included in the list.

The List of Abbreviations/Symbols must appear after the List of Tables, Figures, Schemes, etc. For more information, see Required Order of Elements.

  • Alignment – Abbreviations and symbols must be aligned flush against the left margin. Use dot leaders to connect the abbreviation or symbol with the definition.
    When the definition of an item is longer than one line, subsequent lines should be aligned with the first word in the definition.
    To avoid awkward gaps between words, do not justify the alignment.
  • Dot leaders – Use dot leaders to connect the abbreviation or symbol with its definition.
  • Font and Margins – The font must be the same size and type as the rest of your disquisition. The margins must also be the same size as the rest of your disquisition.
  • Order – The List of Abbreviations/Symbols appears after the List of Tables, Figures, Schemes, etc. For more information, see Required Order of Elements.
  • Page numbers – Page numbers must be consistent with the rest of the disquisition. This is considered part of the prefatory material, and must use lower-case Roman numerals.
  • Spacing – Use double-spacing between entries in the lists. If the definition of an item is longer than one line, use single-spacing between the lines of that definition.
  • Example – For an example of a List of Abbreviations/Symbols in the correct format, download this file.


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Date published October 20, 2014 by Michelle Mertens. Date updated: March 24, 2017

In the list of abbreviations, also called the explanation of acronyms, you provide alphabetical abbreviations of important terms in your dissertation. By looking at this alphabetized list, the reader can easily locate defined abbreviations.

When do you use a list of abbreviations?

If you use a lot of technical abbreviations in your dissertation, then it is advisable to provide a list of abbreviations. Not every reader of your dissertation will be familiar with these abbreviations, and many will find them difficult. The readability of your document is improved with a list of abbreviations.

Where do you put the list of abbreviations in your dissertation?

You place the list of abbreviations at the beginning of the document, just after the table of contents. The readers of your dissertation can then find any abbreviations unknown to them in this specific place.

You add the list of abbreviations header to your table of contents, so that is it clear to the reader that an explanation of abbreviations has been added to your dissertation.

It may be that you only have a few abbreviations that require explanation. You can provide these explanations in a footnote. Then the reader doesn’t have to pause to backtrack for those few abbreviations.

Example list of abbreviations


Example: List of abbrevations

Using abbreviations (acronyms) in your text

There are many rules with regard to using abbreviations in a dissertation. In short, when you use an abbreviation, or more specifically an acronym, in your dissertation for a particular word or phrase, you write the first occurrence of the word or phrase in full. Immediately thereafter, you place in parentheses the abbreviation that you will use in the rest of the document.

Example: Write the abbreviation in full at first mention

In this study, the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) at Vroom & Dreesman (V&D) is examined. At V&D, CRM has been used for many years to ensure that the focus is on customer contact and that this contact is increasingly improved.

Abbreviations according to the APA style

Do you use the APA style? The APA style sets additional specific requirements for the use of abbreviations in your dissertation.

Additional lists in your dissertation

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

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