Each technical term used in a dissertation must be defined

Writing a dissertation means that you have put countless hours of work, emotion, and love into a lengthy paper which you now have to hand over to readers who you know will critique and judge all of your hard work. This can be nerve wracking to say the least.

Those hours and hours of working on your dissertation mean that you are the authority on the topic and that you know, potentially, almost everything there is to know about it. In effect, your readers will be thrown into your world where you feel comfortable and you know what you are talking about. These readers do not know as much about your topic as you do, so you will have to make sure that your dissertation effectively defines all of the terms which you use.


  • Would someone outside of your field understand this term?
  • Is your definition understandable to the average reader?
  • Does your definition contain any other unique or difficult terms?

These are some questions which you should think about when you are giving your dissertation a final read over. If you have a glossary of terms or an appendix which explains difficult terms then you should definitely have someone from outside your field read the definitions. If you are writing a dissertation about psychology your paper should still be understandable to someone who has a degree in another field. Your definitions themselves should actually be understandable by an average reader. A definition which is loaded with more confusing or field specific terms is basically useless to your readers.

Does it Really Matter?

Remember that you want to do everything in your power to make your dissertation readable, understandable, and engaging for those who will be reading and judging it. You do not want to make it overly difficult for your readers to get through your thesis by making it laden with terms that only you will understand.

Your hard work will be much more appreciated by your readers and professors if you take the time to make sure that your dissertation is geared towards a specific audience and not towards your own thought process. Asking friends and family to read your dissertation might be a good way to get a feel for the flow and the readability of it. Your dissertation is a part of you that you want to share with other people so you should make it as open and understandable as possible.

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