Preface of a thesis or dissertation

In the preface, you inform the reader about your experiences during the writing of your dissertation. You can also use the preface to help the reader get started and to thank people who have helped you with your dissertation.

The preface is a part of the dissertation that is written only after your dissertation is completed. The preface has a strong personal character and is written mainly in the first person (‘I’ or ‘we’).

Parts of the preface

The following items can be included in the preface:

  • Your personal background (in brief)
  • Your personal experiences or the circumstances that motivated you to write your dissertation (in brief)
  • The target group for which your dissertation was written
  • The division of labor (when the dissertation has been written by more than one person)
  • Acknowledgements to individuals and institutions who have helped you in the writing and checking of the dissertation

The preface ends with you name,  place name, and date at the time of writing.

Difference between preface and acknowledgements

Acknowledgements are often a part of the preface. You thank those who have helped and supported you during the writing of your dissertation. Write a separate acknowledgements section if you need extra space to thank people. This is useful, for example, with a doctoral dissertation because the writing of such a document takes a long time and often many people are involved in the process.

We advise you to write only a preface for your dissertation rather than both a preface and acknowledgements section.

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Example preface

We have written an example of a preface in which we take every item on the checklist into account.

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Bas Swaen

Bas is co-founder of Scribbr. Bas is an experienced academic writer and loves to teach. He helps students by writing clear, simple articles about difficult topics.

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