What is a Dissertation Preface? | Definition & Examples

A preface is your opportunity to inform your audience about your experiences during the writing of your thesis or dissertation.

A preface is much more personal than other types of academic writing. It is written mainly in the first person and is one of the few places where using first-person is considered acceptable. Your preface is typically written upon completion of your thesis or dissertation, as a final step.

What is included in a preface?

The following items can be included in the preface:

  • Your (brief) personal background
  • Any (brief) personal experiences or circumstances that motivated you to pursue this type of academic work
  • The target group for which your thesis or dissertation was written
  • Your name, the place name, and the date at the time of writing, at the end of the preface

While it’s common practice to briefly acknowledge any individuals and/or institutions who have helped you during your writing and editing process, these should mostly be saved for your acknowledgements section.

Indeed, it is often common practice to write either a preface or an acknowledgements section, not both.

Dissertation preface example

Check out this example about how to write a preface. The trick is to write the preface in a style that is personal, yet still professional. Remember that this is one of the few occurrences where first-person is acceptable, and in fact encouraged.

Dissertation preface example

Dissertation preface example

Before you lies the master thesis “Digital Eavesdropper: acoustic speech characteristics as markers of exacerbations in COPD patients.” It has been written to fulfill the graduation requirements of the Language and Speech Pathology program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I was engaged in researching and writing this thesis from February to August 2021.

I noticed during my previous studies that I avoided stepping outside my comfort zone. This year I wanted to approach the thesis differently, by choosing a subject which required skills I did not yet have. I have worked with unfamiliar computer clusters, operating systems and FTP applications such as Ponyland, Linux, and FileZilla. I have also gained more experience with programs I was already familiar with. Also, I have learned that struggling is part of the process. Therefore, this thesis has taught me valuable lessons both professionally and personally.

I would like to thank my supervisor, Dr. Dana Scully, for the excellent guidance and support during the process. I deliberately chose you to be my supervisor, because I knew you would provide me with challenges. This has maximized the learning opportunities, for which I am grateful. I also want to thank Dr. Fox Mulder from the pulmonary health department at the University of North Carolina Medical Center for his contribution to the data collection for this study. I would like to thank the research lab at the department for providing me with scripts to align, analyze, and transform my data.

Finally, I want to thank my family and friends for being there for me. I would also like to thank you, my reader: I hope you enjoy your reading.

Walter Skinner
Chapel Hill, August 14, 2021

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Tegan George

Tegan is an American based in Amsterdam, with master's degrees in political science and education administration. While she is definitely a political scientist at heart, her experience working at universities led to a passion for making social science topics more approachable and exciting to students. A well-designed natural experiment is her favorite type of research, but she also loves qualitative methods of all varieties.