How To Provide A Definition Of Key Terms In A Dissertation


A common and standard section in a dissertation is the definition of terms. This is a key part as it helps the reader to understand the key terminology and concepts particularly if you have used unusual terms or terms that are not widely known.


Importance of definition of terms

One major mistake that most students make is to go overboard with their extensive definition of terms or doing the exact opposite and providing just but a few definitions. You should bear in mind that your dissertation will be read by other scholars who are already familiar with the terms that are related to the design and methodology. When you clearly define the terminology, it will be possible for you to enhance the reader’s understanding of the important terms.


Which terms do you define?

There are two instances where definition of terms should be defined. These are:

  • Where the term is not widely used

  • Where a term has a unique or specific meaning in a context and it is necessary for the reader of the dissertation to understand the actual meaning. For instance, a word such as success can be used in various contexts. It could be that the goal of the research design is to evaluate the success and nature of a program .In this case, it is necessary to inform the reader how the term success has been operationalized.

How to do definition of terms

It is important for you to ground the definition of terms in peer-reviewed sources that will help to support the definition. This can help to rationalize the terminology before understanding and connecting the language to the common usage of terminology in a field. It may also be necessary for you to alphabetize your definitions to ensure that your readers are able to easily navigate when searching for terms that they don’t understand.

You also need to clearly define the acronyms. When developing your dissertation, you can easily get deeply immersed in your topics and the details including common acronyms around that topic. This can make you to easily forget that your readership audience may not understand the meaning of the acronym particularly in that context of the study. This is why it is important for the student to include the parenthetical definition of an acronym in the first chapter where it appears. When you follow these guidelines, it will be easy for you to provide definition of key terms in a way that is easy for your reads to understand.

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