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How to Create an Appendix for a Dissertation

Creating Appendices, Tables of Contents, Abbreviation Lists, and Glossaries as Necessary Points

The question of whether a paper needs to have all or some of these elements can depend to a large extent on the subject or topic you are writing about and the rules prescribed by your college or university. Therefore, it is essential to check any guide or handbook issued by your institution.

Creating Appendices

When it comes to creating one or more appendix, you should keep these three critical things in mind:

  • These parts are not usually marked.
  • You should not use appendices as a way of getting the stipulated word count, e.g., for “reducing” the number of words in the main body. (Where something is sufficiently important, it should be included in the body text.)
  • You should use appendices only when you need to include data that is useful to a research project or study, but not entirely essential.

Therefore, for instance, where you have used a survey questionnaire as a methodology or means of collecting primary research data, the questionnaire results should be analyzed in one or more of the body paragraphs of your paper and a blank questionnaire added as an appendix. Likewise, if the work you are doing concerns the American Constitution and the manner in which “freedom of speech” is an absolute right, you could discuss this matter in one (or more) of the body paragraphs and add an appendix containing a full copy (or a copy of the relevant parts) of the US Constitution.
The terms “appendix” and “appendices” are respectively the singular and plural versions of the same word. So, following from this, each appendix should be titled, for example, Appendix A, Appendix B, etc., and the entire section (where there is more than one appendix) should be given the title “Appendices.” In the event there is only a single document to be appended, just use the title “Appendix.”

Creating Tables of Content (ToC)

The easiest way to create this part of a dissertation is to use the table of contents feature in Microsoft Word (or whatever word processing system you use). If it is your first time using this feature, there is an in-built help tool you can use to learn about it. Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the steps and this should save you a lot of time later on because you will know what mistakes to avoid.
In the case, you choose not to use an automated tool but to create your contents table manually, bear in mind that your list will have to be formatted in a consistent and clear way. Furthermore, you may have to update the page numbering at frequent intervals and especially when you are proofreading, editing, and polishing your final paper.
Do your best to avoid creating tables of content that are excessively long. For instance, it is not necessary for a dissertation with 15,000 words to have a ToC that is four pages long. Try to avoid creating too many sub-sections that are only a sentence long. In most cases, two levels of sub-sections are sufficient for a dissertation e.g. Sections 2, 2.1, and 2.1.1. And, even so, you should carefully consider if just one level is enough.

Creating Lists of Abbreviated Words (Abbreviations)

The line between an excessive amount of abbreviations in a dissertation and not enough is quite a fine one. An abbreviated version of an entity’s name or the acronym should only be used where a term appears repeatedly throughout a text. Where an entity or organization is mentioned only once, it is not necessary to provide an abbreviated version. Equally, so, if it is mentioned numerous times per page, it is useful to abbreviate it since this helps with the flow and it can help you manage the word count requirement.
However, here are some points you need to be aware of:

  • Firstly, it is necessary to spell out the abbreviation or acronym in the body of the text the first time you use it e.g. “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has announced a change in military policy that is likely to affect all member nations.” (NATO 2010). After this first use, you need only use the abbreviated version – e.g., NATO – and there is no need to place it within brackets.
  • If an abbreviation or acronym has not been used for a while within a text, it is possible that readers may not remember its meaning so it can help to use it again to remind them. Therefore, good writing practice implies an abbreviation should be “reintroduced” the first time it is used in each new chapter or at least at intervals of a few thousand words.
  • It is also worth remembering that an excessive use of acronyms in any one sentence can frustrate and exhaust the reader, some or all of whom may be marking your paper! While the following sentence is fictitious, it stresses this point. “News reports from CNBC, CNN, and the BBC indicate that NATO has informed the UK and USA of the presence of WMDs in a number of non-NATO member countries.” This would be better written as, “CNBC, CNN, and the BBC report that NATO has informed Britain and America of the presence of weapons of mass destruction in a number of countries outside the alliance.”

It is more usual to find lists of acronyms and abbreviated words in papers of a scientific nature e.g. biology, chemistry, and engineering dissertations. They are much rarer in subjects related to English, history, politics, religious studies, and the like. If you are in any doubt, consult your tutor or course supervisor.


Glossaries are not needed in dissertations for undergraduate or for Master’s level. Rather, these papers might include short definitions of unusual or highly technical words, terms, and phrases.


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October 6, 2017
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