I'm writing a Computer Science Dissertation and am wondering if I should make all mentions of terms in my glossary hyper linkable to the corresponding glossary definition. Should I or shouldn't I?

EDIT: Thanks for the feedback guys. Although the advice is somewhat conflicting, I think I'll hyperlink the first mention of these terms in the report. Might leave this until I've written the entire dissertation too! Else I might get too caught up in ironing out something that isn't worth very much, haha.

More advice is welcome! Thank you!

  • 5
    As a side note the "glossaries" package does this for you. Mar 30, 2021 at 8:03
  • See, for example, the WHATWG HTML specification for an extremely well-linked document, albeit in HTML and not LaTeX. However, reading such a large and complicated standard is made a much more palatable task with the thousands of internal links.
    – texdr.aft
    Mar 30, 2021 at 8:56

5 Answers 5


Yes you should. But hide all the links: \usepackage[hidelinks]{hyperref}.

You cannot expect the reader to start on the first page and finish at the last, someone interested in a particular topic jumps to a subsection and will be happy to find a linked glossary term.

Manually linking the terms at the beginning of each chapter contradicts a main advantage of Latex.

  • 4
    This changes the appearance of non-glossary hyperlinks too. Mar 29, 2021 at 22:00
  • 7
    As it should. Might be a personal preference, but those link boxes just make the text harder to read. Try to click on the word/reference/citation. If it is a well-made document, it will be a link.
    – derptank
    Mar 29, 2021 at 22:05
  • 2
    @derptank LaTeX no longer automatically generate boxes around links. Mar 30, 2021 at 1:49
  • 21
    I don’t think this is a good suggestion unless you style the link text (in bold, or a different color etc) to make it evident that this is a link. It’s not good practice to have links that are completely invisible and rely on the reader randomly hovering their mouse over pieces of text to look for links (or worse yet, having to tap pieces of text with their finger if reading on a touch screen device).
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 30, 2021 at 2:25
  • 7
    People are not used to invisible hyperlinks, which makes them a bad choice. Mar 30, 2021 at 4:53

As user2768 said, hyperlinking for all mentions is probably excessive. In particular, in a long discussion of gizmos, the reader won't benefit from having a hyperlink at every occurrence of "gizmo". But it could be useful to have a hyperlink for the first occurrence in each chapter (or even each section if the sections are long). If a general rule like that doesn't work well, then ask yourself, whenever you use a glossary word, "Would a reader benefit significantly from a hyperlink here?"

  • 1
    In a similar vein, when using acronyms (through the acronym or glossaries packages) it's common practice to reset which ones have been spelt out in full at the beginning of every chapter. Occasionally it's also worth spelling them out in other places, e.g. figure captions where the short form is crucial in the figure itself; late in a long chapter where it was only mentioned towards the beginning
    – Chris H
    Mar 30, 2021 at 8:56
  • 1
    Wikipedia usually hyperlinks at the first occurrence which is a good compromise
    – qwr
    Mar 30, 2021 at 21:02

You shouldn't: Your thesis will be overfull with hyperlinks.

  • 1
    This is correct if the links are a separate color or text style. If they are not visually distinct, they cannot appear cluttered. Mar 29, 2021 at 22:00
  • In five years how many of those links will still be present, or, if they are, with appropriate content? Mar 30, 2021 at 0:18
  • 12
    @A_rural_reader: The hyperlinks being discussed are internal to the document.
    – RLH
    Mar 30, 2021 at 0:31
  • 6
    @AnonymousPhysicist if the links are not visually distinct then you have just forced an unwanted game of “where’s Waldo?” on your readers. Not a good idea either. Links should be visible, and (as you seem to agree) used sparingly to avoid cluttering the text.
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 30, 2021 at 2:28

The two parts are the index and the glossary. I think this works best when the two are not separated.

We go to an index to find out where in the main document we need to go to learn about a specific term. Hyperlink a term to the index when you want the reader to find a specific concept, principle, or formulation associated with the term by going backwards from the index itself. Otherwise, do not hyperlink.

The first definition of a term within the main document deserves hyperlinking into the index. That may sometimes not be the first use of the term.


In below, terms to index are in [ ], with {this sub-link} as the message. Reappearances of that term not put in the index are in ( ).

An [atom]{smallest unit of matter} is the smallest unique chemical constituent of any matter. The (atom) cannot be divided to smaller components with unique chemical behavior. The [atom]{its fundamental particles} contains protons, neutrons, and electrons as its base fundamental particles. The [atom] does not directly contain muons, or gluons, or bosons as its base fundamental particles. An example of the unique chemical nature of an (atom) is its participation in a chemical reaction. One [mole]{with substances} of a substance contains a defined number of [atoms]{atoms in a mole}.

Now that we have the index, build the glossary. Use one (bi-directional) link between the glossary term and the index term. This can suffice to provide both one place to find the term (the index) as well as one point of reference to find the glossary term from any point where it is indexed.


The glossary might say this:

[atom]{link to index term} - The smallest unique chemical consistent of any matter.


[mole]{link to index term} - A unit of substance that contains a defined number of physical or chemical things.

... and the index might say this:


  • [definition]{link to glossary}
  • [smallest unit of matter]
  • [its fundamental particles]
  • [atoms in a mole]


  • [definition]{link to glossary}
  • [with substances]

If you do not build both an index and a glossary, then only reference the glossary term in a bidirectional manner at that point where you define the term or first use it in the main content. Other hyperlinks would be redundant. Why? Presumably, if this is going to ePub or PDF, the final document will have its table of contents sidebar that can be used for navigation at any other point.


Follow ups for the mechanics of doing glossaries can be directed to the TeX StackExchange, perhaps especially referencing practices with the glossaries package.

  • This answer seems to implicitly assume that hyperlinks to the glossary are bidirectional. There doesn’t seem to be a reason that all links to the glossary must result in glossary references to the text.
    – RLH
    Mar 30, 2021 at 0:34
  • @RLHI I confused glossary with index. I've revised accordingly. Mar 30, 2021 at 0:57

To follow up on existing answers with personnal experience. In my thesis, I linked all notations to their definition. In their report, one member of the jury says (roughtly translated) : "The existence of links between notations and their definition is particularly useful", and later, "We can also notice the systematic of links not only between a reference to a definition or a lemma and its defintion, but also between notations and definitions. Those links improve considerably the reading comfort.". When writing a dissertation, one should have in mind that the document, which contains non-trivial elements, is meant to be read by other people. Anything you can do to ease the reading improves the understanding of your document.

Of course, all those links should be hidden, not to disrupt reading comfort. If you use hyperref, something like hidelinks=true in hypersetup should work properly (as a matter of fact, when I was writting, I actually turned the color on to check that I did not miss any links).

The easiest way to do this reference work is to use macros. For each notation, term, etc., you create a macro which automatically adds the reference. For elements that always have the same form (e.g., since you are in computer sciences, names of class, functions, etc.), it additionnally ensures that your names are consistent. For elements that may change (e.g. verbs, nouns), the easiest way is to take what should be displayed as parameter.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .