Do want to know more about writing a section with a definition of terms in the thesis? Make sure to check the article from our experts on Here you will find all the useful information and even more! 


What is a Definition of Terms in the Thesis

This is a part of a thesis where you explain to readers the key terms and concepts of your work. It serves several aims. First of all, it makes your readers aquatinted with terms and concepts they might have not seen before. Secondly, it helps to clearly define and interpret the major ideas of your paper. For instance, when writing about democracy, you may mean the greek idea of democracy, or current democracy, or the idea of it. In the Definition of terms section, you will be able to clarify what exactly you mean and avoid unnecessary confusion or discussions. 


Definition of Terms — Where to Write It?

Usually, there is a specific section that aims to define concepts and terms. However, specifics of the research or possible limitations may eliminate the necessity to create a separate part of the text. For instance, if you are studying a narrow concept that does not presuppose any other terms, you may omit this part. In such a case, it would be enough to mention one-two key terms in an introduction. 


How to Know What Exactly Should Be Included

Your paper may have plenty of terms — should you include all of them? Or, vice versa, you don’t see any terms that require specific clarification? Choosing which terms should be explained and which can be omitted is the first challenge when writing the definition of terms section. Here is a brief explanation that might be helpful. 


Do include:

  • terms that are frequently mentioned in your study but are not commonly understandable 
  • terms that are crucial for the explanation of the major concept of your thesis
  • concepts that may have several meanings (if they are frequently mentioned) 
  • discipline-specific acronyms
  • particular theoretical constructs
  • terms of the foreign nature


Do NOT include:

  • terms that the majority of your readers understand 
  • mostly unknown terms if you mention them once 


How Exactly Should We Define the Terms

First of all, clearly state the term and its possible variations. For instance, it may have shortened form, different aspects of writing depending on tradition, or crucial synonyms. Then, explain the major meaning of the concept. Make sure to follow this definition throughout the paper and don’t add other meanings as you develop your idea. Sometimes you may also mention the origin of the term. For instance, you may write the Latin or greek form of the word: it will help to define possible shades of the term or discover connections that are not obvious.


What is also important, you should support your definitions with reliable sources, preferably — peer-reviewed. Of course, if you wish to add your specific interpretation — do it; however, it would be wise to mention other definitions and arguments for your vision of the concept. 


How to Organize Definition of Terms

The organization is extremely simple here. You may order your terms according to the alphabet or according to their relevance to the text. It depends on the topic of your text: if you write about a specific term, it would logical to put its explanation first. However, if terms in this section are used with the same frequency and are of the same importance, alphabetical order would be preferable.


If you need to explain your terms in several sentences (and that is what is done usually), dedicate a separate paragraph to each term. However, if you decide to mention several terms that are barely used in your thesis and are connected in some way, you can write about them in one paragraph.

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