1. Organisation and nomenclature. The dictionary is organised alphabetically. For individuals from early periods, for royalty in all periods, and for most Gaelic names, this usually means by forename (e.g. AEBBE; MARGARET, Saint, Queen of Scotland; CATRIONA NIC FHEARGAIS). For later periods, and for the majority of subjects, this is by surname (e.g. KAY, Christina). For women who married, this may take the form HILL, Amelia, n. Paton, (n. = née, maiden name); or KING, Jessie, m. Taylor, (m. = married) indicating the name of the subject's husband, whether or not she adopted the name. Because Scottish women generally kept their own surname on marriage up to c. 1750, in entries for subjects living before this date, the husband's name is not listed in the heading. Details of any marriages are included in the body of the entry. For subjects dating from after c. 1750, who married more than once, m1, m2, etc. refer to first and subsequent marriages.
Square brackets indicate a pseudonym: e.g. DAVISON, Euphemia [May Moxon]. Round brackets indicate an alternative perhaps more familiar name, e.g. LEE, Janet (Jennie). Where a subject might be searchable under more than one name, a cross-reference is provided. Names beginning with Mac, Mc or M' are listed consecutively, as if they began with Mac.
2. Parents. The names of parents of subjects are given when known. Omission indicates lack of information. Unless otherwise indicated, the parents of the subject were married to one another.
3. Co-subjects. About 200 entries also include a co-subject (in bold type): sisters, colleagues, partners, or women in some way associated with the main subject. Co-subjects are all listed in the thematic index (see 6 below).
4. Group entries. There are three such: the 'Four Maries' – the attendants of Mary, Queen of Scots; the 'Glasgow Girls', women artists from the Glasgow School of Art; and the 'Scottish Women's Hospitals', an all-women initiative of the First World War. Some of the leading members of these groups have separate entries as well.
5. Cross-referencing between entries. An *asterisk before a name indicates that there is a separate entry on that individual. By following threads, readers will be able to trace pathways through the dictionary linking networks of women.
6. Thematic index. To follow up a field, such as medicine, media or women's suffrage, readers should use the thematic index (below, pp. 386–403), which contains 77 headings, and includes all subjects and co-subjects under their chief activities. A number of names appear under more than one heading.
7. Abbreviations within entries. Abbreviations have been used for institutions or organisations, ranging from the well known (STUC = Scottish Trades' Union Congress) to the less familiar (GAHEW = Glasgow Association for the Higher Education of Women). The reader is referred to the full list of abbreviations on pp. xv–xxii.
8. Further information and sources. Every entry contains a note about the sources of information and possible further reading, listed in the following order: archive sources; works by the subject; secondary sources. For reasons of space, here too a number of abbreviations have been used, e.g. NLS = National Library of Scotland. The full list is on pp. xv–xxii. A frequent reference is ODNB (2004), which refers to the printed version of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. One or two references are to the ongoing online update (www.oxforddnb.com). When prefixed with an asterisk thus * ODNB, this indicates that the same contributor wrote the ODNB entry. The mention (Bibl.) indicates that a bibliography is provided by that source. For writers with a long list of publications, reference is made to bibliographies, or in some cases, where these do not exist, to the Women's History Scotland website. See 10 below. Generally, websites are only listed if they offer essential information.