Thesis & Dissertation Acknowledgements | Tips & Examples
In your acknowledgements, it’s okay to use a more informal style than is usually permitted in academic writing, as well as first-person pronouns. Acknowledgements are not considered part of the academic work itself, but rather your chance to write something more personal.
To get started, download our step-by-step template in the format of your choice below. We’ve also included sample sentence starters to help you construct your acknowledgments section from scratch.
Who to thank in your acknowledgements
Generally, there are two main categories of acknowledgements: professional and personal.
A good first step is to check your university’s guidelines, as they may have rules or preferences about the order, phrasing, or layout of acknowledgements. Some institutions prefer that you keep your acknowledgements strictly professional.
Regardless, it’s usually a good idea to place professional acknowledgements first, followed by any personal ones. You can then proceed by ranking who you’d like to thank from most formal to least.
Typically, it’s only necessary to mention people who directly supported you during your thesis or dissertation. However, if you feel that someone like a high school physics teacher was a great inspiration on the path to your current research, feel free to include them as well.
It is crucial to avoid overlooking anyone who helped you professionally as you completed your thesis or dissertation. As a rule of thumb, anyone who directly contributed to your research process, from figuring out your dissertation topic to your final proofread, should be mentioned.
A few things to keep in mind include:
- Even if you feel your chair didn’t help you very much, you should still thank them first to avoid looking like you’re snubbing them.
- Be sure to follow academic conventions, using full names with titles where appropriate.
- If several members of a group or organization assisted you, mention the collective name only.
- Remember the ethical considerations around anonymized data. If you wish to protect someone’s privacy, use only their first name or a generic identifier (such as “the interviewees”)/
There is no need to mention every member of your family or friend group. However, if someone was particularly inspiring or supportive, you may wish to mention them specifically. Many people choose to thank parents, partners, children, friends, and even pets, but you can mention anyone who offered moral support or encouragement, or helped you in a tangible or intangible way.
Some students may wish to dedicate their dissertation to a deceased influential person in their personal life. In this case, it’s okay to mention them first, before any professional acknowledgements.
How to write acknowledgements
After you’ve compiled a list of who you’d like to thank, you can then sort your list into rank order. Separate everyone you listed into “major thanks,” “big thanks,” and “minor thanks” categories.
- “Major thanks” are given to people who your project would be impossible without. These are often predominantly professional acknowledgements, such as your advisor, chair, and committee, as well as any funders.
- “Big thanks” are an in-between, for those who helped you along the way or helped you grow intellectually, such as classmates, peers, or librarians.
- “Minor thanks” can be a catch-all for everyone else, especially those who offered moral support or encouragement. This can include personal acknowledgements, such as parents, partners, children, friends, or even pets.
How to phrase your acknowledgements
To avoid acknowledgements that sound repetitive or dull, consider changing up your phrasing. Here are some examples of common sentence starters you can use for each category.
|Major thanks||Big thanks||Minor thanks|
Note that you do not need to write any sort of conclusion or summary at the end. You can simply end the acknowledgements with your last thank you.
Acknowledgements section example
Here’s an example of how you can combine the different sentences to write your acknowledgements.
A simple construction consists of a sentence starter (in purple highlight), followed by the person or entity mentioned (in green highlight), followed by what you’re thanking them for (in yellow highlight.)
Acknowledgements dos and don’ts
- Write in first-person, professional language
- Thank your professional contacts first
- Include full names, titles, and roles of professional acknowledgements
- Include personal or intangible supporters, like friends, family, or even pets
- Mention funding bodies and what they funded
- Appropriately anonymize or group research participants or non-individual acknowledgments
- Use informal language or slang
- Go over one page in length
- Mention people who had only a peripheral or minor impact on your work
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Frequently asked questions about the acknowledgements section
- Whom should I thank in the acknowledgements?
In the acknowledgements of your thesis or dissertation, you should first thank those who helped you academically or professionally, such as your supervisor, funders, and other academics.
Then you can include personal thanks to friends, family members, or anyone else who supported you during the process.
- Do I have to thank my supervisor?
Even if you feel your supervisor did not contribute greatly to the final product, you must acknowledge them, if only for a very brief thank you. If you do not include your supervisor, it may be seen as a snub.
- Where do the acknowledgements go in a thesis or dissertation?
- How long should the acknowledgements be?
In a thesis or dissertation, the acknowledgements should usually be no longer than one page. There is no minimum length.
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