What to consider when writing your dissertation acknowledgments
Once you’re at the stage where you’re writing your dissertation acknowledgments, you may be tempted to kick back and relax. After all, the hard part of writing the dissertation itself is over and a list of thanks should be simple to churn out.
However, the acknowledgments are an important part of your overall work and are something that most people who read your dissertation, including prospective employers, will look at.
So we encourage you to approach this part of the process, brief as it may be compared to the long haul of writing the dissertation, with the same high level of care and attention to detail. It’s an explicit and permanent statement of who made a real impact on your work and contributed to your academic success.
Plus, the people you thank are often deeply moved by being included—some even go so far as to frame the acknowledgments. Aim to make yours sincere, memorable and something that people will be touched by.
Who to thank in your dissertation acknowledgments
First things first: who should you include in your dissertation acknowledgments? If you’re not sure who to thank, try the brainstorming technique to generate some ideas. Make a list of everyone, both professional and personal, who was involved at any point during your work on your dissertation, and then thin down the list from there.
As you select the people and groups to include in your dissertation acknowledgments, keep in mind that it’s essential to acknowledge your supervisor and anyone else with a visible connection to your work. It’s an unfortunate reality that not every supervisor goes above and beyond to provide feedback and guidance to the students they are supposed to supervise. However, leaving them out, even if you personally felt disappointed by their involvement or lack thereof, could be seen as a snub.
You should end up with a fairly short list of people to thank. While being mindful of professional etiquette and personal feelings, be choosy about who makes the final cut since your acknowledgments should be limited to no more than a page (and ideally much shorter than a full page).
What to say (and not say) in your dissertation acknowledgments
Now that you have your list of people and groups to thank, it’s time to start writing. Before your first pen or keystroke, however, check your university’s guidelines as your institution may have specific rules around what can and cannot be included.
The standard practice is to begin with the formal and then progress to the informal, so the first people to mention would be supervisors, mentors, committees, and other professional contacts. Use their full names and titles and go into brief detail about how they contributed to your work.
Once those are done, you can move on to the personal thanks, which can include friends, family, even pets. If you are so inclined, it is also considered appropriate to thank God or make mention of spiritual support. You may also choose to inject a little humor at this point, but don’t get carried away and definitely don’t include sarcasm or critical comments of any kind, including self-critical ones. Remember that the acknowledgments precede your dissertation, which you want to be taken seriously.
A couple more basics that are essential to know when creating your acknowledgments:
- Position: Acknowledgments should be placed after the title page and before the abstract
- Perspective: Write from the first-person perspective and speak in your own voice
Good Examples of Dissertation Acknowledgments
A really good way to get a sense of how to write your own dissertation acknowledgments is to read ones written by others. Notice which ones you respond particularly well to and use them as a model upon which to base your own.
Here are some good examples to help you get started:
I couldn’t have reached this goal without the help of many people in my life. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support.
First, my sincere thanks to my dissertation committee. The value of their guidance cannot be overstated. Dr. Elaine Gooding and Dr. Matthew Hunter provided much wisdom that helped me chart my course. I couldn’t have asked for a better supervisor than Dr. Fiona Moore, whose knowledge and experience guided me every step of the way.
Next, I’d like to thank my partner, Elliott. Your votes of confidence kept me going when my spirits dipped. I couldn’t have done this without you.
Last but not least, I’d like to acknowledge the emotional support provided by my family and friends. We made it to the top of the mountain! I look forward to celebrating with all of you.
Several people played a decisive role in my success and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them.
My chair, Dr. Ronald Saulk, provided invaluable support and infinite patience and I am truly grateful for all of his wisdom and guidance. I also owe the entire staff of the Wilhelm Library a debt of gratitude. From tracking down books and arranging for interlibrary loans to keeping the coffee maker in the lobby well-stocked and in good working order, they offered the practical help and kind gestures that made all the difference.
I’d also like to thank my family and God, for always being there for me.
A final word on writing dissertation acknowledgments: Have fun!
One final piece of advice: enjoy this process. Writing a dissertation doesn’t happen every day, and the opportunity to acknowledge the important people in your life in a published format is as rare as it is wonderful.
What’s more, this part of your dissertation is unlike any other. It’s unbounded by the conventions that apply to the formal work and a chance to really flex some creative muscle and let your personality shine through.
So make the most of it and have fun!
Frequently Asked Questions about dissertation acknowledgments
What do you write in dissertation acknowledgments?
In your dissertation acknowledgments you thank everyone who has contributed to your work or supported you along the way. Who you want to thank is a very personal choice, but you should include your supervisors and anyone else with a visible connection to your work. You may also thank friends, family and partners.
How do you write an acknowledgment for a PhD thesis?
First, you need to come up with a list of people you want to thank in your dissertation acknowledgments. As a next step, begin with the formal and then progress to the informal, so the first people to mention would be supervisors, mentors, committees, and other professional contacts. Then, you can move on to the personal thanks, which can include friends, family, even pets.
Who do you acknowledge in a dissertation?
Who you acknowledge in your dissertation is ultimately up to you. You should, however, thank your supervisor and anyone else with a visible connection to your work. Leaving them out, even if you personally felt disappointed by their involvement or lack thereof, could be seen as a snub. In addition, you can thank friends, partners or family.
How do you acknowledge a dissertation supervisor?
There are many ways so you can acknowledge your dissertation supervisor. Some examples can be found in this article above. If you need more examples, you can find them here.
Where do you put acknowledgements in a research paper?
While acknowledgments are usually more present in academic theses, they can also be a part of research papers. In academic theses, acknowledgments are usually found at the beginning, somewhere between abstract and introduction. In research papers, acknowledgments are usually found at the end of the paper.