I am currently writing my master thesis in computer science, more specifically on voice activity detection, a sub-area of automatic speech recognition using neural networks. I asked my supervisor if I needed a glossary and he told me that was up to me. I looked at other computer science works, some have a glossary, some don't. Now I'm unsure on what to do. Here are my thoughts:

On the one hand, a glossary is useful especially in printed documents to quickly find the best explanation for important terms. It provides a proper place for definitions. And to me it provides a feeling of "scientificity".

On the other hand, almost all readers will use my work in pdf form. Thus they can easily search for appearances and definitions on a given phrase. Given my work is only of use to computer scientists I'd consider them aware of these functionalities. Thus a glossary feels a bit anachronistic.

I hope this qualifies as a proper question and isn't too opinion based, I figured rules here might be a little less strict considering the "proper" way of writing something is often influenced by personal preference.

  • 3
    This question might be better placed at academia.stackexchange.com – Llewellyn Aug 9 '20 at 19:51
  • Alright, I'll try it there. If I get an answer should I post it here for future reference? – Scipio Aug 10 '20 at 13:12

Thanks for pointing me at Academia.SE. The answer I got there and consider useful is as follows:

I'd encourage you to include a glossary.

I expect your work to use a mixed vocabulary from different fields of science, e.g. computer science, signal processing, or even linguistics. Your paper might be read by people who are not as familiar with all these fields as you are. And some of the terms might not have a common, generally-accepted definition. Or they might gain a different meaning over time (e.g. "AI" now has a rather different meaning today than it had in its early years).

So, defining and explaining the vocabulary that you use seems quite necessary to me, to make your paper accessible to an audience from slightly different fields of research, and understandable for a longer period in time.

As a (maybe old-fashioned?) reader, I'd prefer to have these definitions in one place, not forcing the reader to search through all occurrences of the word just to find its meaning.


I would suggest using a glossary as well.

Aside from the reason provided in Academia you must consider you are writing in a field of knowledge that is quickly evolving.
You should implement a glossary to clarify what a term means in your work and in the timeframe you are writing.
It is quite possible in IT that terms may evolve in a relatively short timespan, broadening their initial scope. A reader in 10 years may quickly decide if your work is outdated by giving a cursory look at your glossary.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.