The Acknowledgments Section of a Dissertation
No dissertation can be completed solely by one person. Surely, you’ve had help along the way; whether it’s through moral support or people advising you on the actual thesis itself. The acknowledgments section is where you thank all these people for supporting you from day one, both in the research and writing process. It is not just an expression of gratitude, but also a way to honestly assert that you had help along the way.
This section is one of the few points in a dissertation where you have the liberty to add your personal touch.
Who can you thank?
Broadly speaking, there are two categories of people you can thank. Your professional acknowledgments comprise people who helped you in researching and writing the dissertation, and your personal acknowledgments are for people who provided non-academic support.
Let’s look at both categories one by one.
These are people who helped you in your dissertation in their professional or academic capacity. They may have provided resources, helped you formulate the focus and principal arguments of the dissertation, or played a key role in data collection processes. They may have also guided you through a large part of your study’s methods and methodology or allowed you to take part in their own research project for experience.
- Supervisors or advisors
- Laboratory staff
- Peers and colleagues who may have helped you
- Organizations or institutions that lent you support
- Research participants
- Editors and/or proofreaders*
*Some universities will require you to acknowledge your editors and proofreaders. Check your university’s guidelines to see if this is required.
After expressing your gratitude to all the people who helped you compile the dissertation, you can thank people in your personal life who you feel inspired or supported you through the course of working on the project.
- Family members
Bear in mind that it’s better to acknowledge people who were there for you during the time you undertook the dissertation (as opposed to, say, a high school teacher who you generally feel inspired by.)
Include funding details in this section
In addition to acknowledging the intellectual labor and moral support that helped you finish the dissertation, thank your financial backers. These include any grants or scholarships you’ve won, funding bodies, or even private donors.
How to write the acknowledgments section
You don’t have to think too hard about an introduction or a conclusion, and you can simply begin with “I’d like to thank” and elaborate on how they contributed to the project. Similarly, you can end with your last thanks.
As far as the structure and organization of the acknowledgments is concerned, prioritize the order based on the type of support they lent you. Traditionally, your professional acknowledgments must precede your personal ones.
Your writing style can be a bit informal here, as the acknowledgments section is not a part of the dissertation body. But while you do have the freedom to deviate from formal academic writing conventions, it’s best to keep it crisp and professional.
When acknowledging your academic collaborators, write their full names and titles.
Professor Charles Wodehouse
Robert Sullivan, PhD
Dr Douglas Adams
If you received any support from public or private organizations or institutions, write out their complete names as well.
The New York Public Library
Child Rights and You, London Chapter
Where should the acknowledgments section go?
The acknowledgments section goes right after the title page, before the abstract.
While this is the general convention, check your university’s guidelines to check if they have specified a place for this page.
How long should it be?
Typically, this section should not be over a page in length. It can be as short as one paragraph or it can take up the whole page. How long this section depends on the number of people you’d want to thank.
Can I add humor here?
While it’s not particularly inappropriate to be witty or humorous in this section, ensure that it still maintains the professional tone that is required of a dissertation.
Here are some examples of researchers wielding their sense of humor onto paper:
Lastly, I’d like to thank Jacques Derrida, whose pedantic observations about language have furthered research in my field considerably.
My deepest gratitude goes to Rico, my parrot, who, perched on my shoulder daily, provided unwavering support and unexpected moments of wisdom.
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