How to write acknowledgements in a thesis or dissertation

Navigating the intricate process of writing a thesis or dissertation can be challenging.

One crucial, yet often overlooked part is the thesis acknowledgement. It is also the only bit of my thesis that anyone really reads.

This section allows you to express gratitude to those who contributed to your academic journey. From supervisors and professors to family and friends, the acknowledgement section provides a platform to thank all who played a part in your work.

Whether you’re unsure about how to begin or looking for the best ways to acknowledge your mentors, this blog will provide valuable insights and practical advice to help you create an impactful thesis acknowledgement.

What is your thesis acknowledgement?

A thesis acknowledgement is a section in your thesis where you express gratitude to those who helped and supported you during your research and writing process.

It typically comprises two parts: professional and personal acknowledgements.

  1. Professional acknowledgements include your supervisor, colleagues, other academics, funding bodies, or institutions that significantly contributed to your work.
  2. Personal acknowledgements encompass your family and friends who provided emotional support or helped with editing and proofreading.

The acknowledgements section is usually more informal than the rest of your thesis, and it’s acceptable to write in the first person. It’s typically placed at the beginning of your thesis, either before the abstract or the table of contents.

Although the length may vary, it usually doesn’t exceed one page. It’s crucial to plan ahead, listing everyone you wish to thank and consider their specific contribution to your work.

Who to thank in your acknowledgements

In your acknowledgements, you should first thank the members of academia who contributed to your research, including:

  • funding bodies,
  • supervisors,
  • professors,
  • editors,
  • proofreaders,
  • and research participants.

Mention them using their full names and titles.

If an authoritative figure in your field provided feedback, their acknowledgement adds weight to your research.

Despite the circumstances, a brief thank you to your supervisor is necessary.

Personal acknowledgements can include friends, family members, or even pets who provided inspiration or support during the writing process. Always refer to your university’s guidelines on acknowledgements.

Creating an acknowledgement can be slightly subjective, as the order and individuals to be thanked can vary greatly depending on the circumstances of the work and the author’s preferences.

However, generally, this example follows a common structure:

Typical OrderAcknowledgement Category
3Friends for distraction or moral support
4Significant Other

The order can be customized based on the importance of the roles these individuals played in the author’s journey.

Some may prefer to thank family or significant others first, while others might start with professional relationships such as advisors or collaborators.

It’s also crucial to keep in mind that the way of expressing gratitude can differ significantly between cultures and individuals.

How Long Should My Acknowledgements Be?

The length of an acknowledgement section varies depending on the individual and the nature of the project.

Some people prefer to keep their acknowledgements brief and only thank those individuals who made significant contributions to their work.

Others may choose to include a more extensive list of people, such as mentors, colleagues, and friends, who provided support and encouragement throughout the process.

In general, it is recommended to keep your acknowledgements concise and focused on those who had a direct impact on the project

. Including a heartfelt thank you to these individuals is a meaningful way to show appreciation for their efforts.

However, it is important not to get carried away and turn the acknowledgement page into a long list of names. Remember that the focus should be on quality rather than quantity, as the acknowledgement section should not overshadow the main content of the project. 

Where Should My Acknowledgements Go?

The placement of your acknowledgements can vary, but it’s typically located in the first part of your thesis.

Mine is right after the abstract and before the introduction of my PhD thesis. 

You can place it right before your dissertation abstract or before the table of contents. However, the exact positioning may depend on the guidelines and requirements provided by your university.

Always ensure to check your university’s formatting requirements to be sure you’ve chosen the correct location for your acknowledgements section. 

Thesis acknowledgement examples

Here is my PhD thesis acknowledgement.

Here are some sentence starters that you can use for inspiration:

1. “This thesis acknowledgement is a tribute to all the people who made my academic journey worthwhile.”
2. “I would like to thank my supervisor, whose unwavering support has been instrumental in the completion of this thesis.”
3. “In this acknowledgement section, I extend my deepest gratitude to all who have walked with me on this challenging but fulfilling journey.”
4. “Firstly, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the academic staff who provided their invaluable expertise and guidance.”
5. “My thesis would not have been possible without the endless help and support from my colleagues.”
6. “Special thanks go to my family, whose constant encouragement fueled my perseverance during the completion of this dissertation.”
7. “In the professional acknowledgements, I would like to acknowledge the significant contributions made by my research participants.”
8. “I would also like to thank the funding bodies, whose financial support made this research possible.”
9. “Through this acknowledgment, I express my heartfelt gratitude to my friends who have been my pillars of strength.”
10. “The completion of this thesis or dissertation is the culmination of efforts from various individuals whom I would like to express my sincere appreciation.”
11. “This thesis acknowledgement section is an opportunity to give thanks to those who made this journey less daunting.”
12. “I would like to express my gratitude to my editor, whose meticulous proofreading greatly improved my thesis.”
13. “Without their dedication, this thesis would not have been possible.”
14. “I express my sincere gratitude to all those whose names appear in this acknowledgement for their invaluable input.”
15. “In this acknowledgement for my thesis, I extend my appreciation to all those who have been part of this journey.”

Top tips to write acknowledgements

  1. Plan Ahead: Make a list of the people you want to acknowledge and their specific contributions to your work.
  2. Follow University Guidelines: Check your university’s formatting and content guidelines to ensure your acknowledgements adhere to them.
  3. Use First Person: Unlike the rest of your thesis, the acknowledgements can be written in the first person.
  4. Keep it Brief: The acknowledgement section should generally not exceed one page. Be concise and precise in expressing your gratitude.
  5. Maintain Professional-Personal Order: Start with professional acknowledgements (e.g., supervisors, colleagues, funders) before moving on to personal ones (e.g., friends, family).
  6. Be Specific: Highlight the specific contributions each person or organization made to your thesis.
  7. Use Full Names and Titles: When acknowledging academic contributors, use their full names and appropriate titles.
  8. Use Informal Language: Acknowledgements can be written in a more informal style, but avoid colloquial language.
  9. Proofread: Ensure your acknowledgements are free of spelling and grammar errors.
  10. Be Genuine and Sincere: The acknowledgements section should sincerely reflect your gratitude to the people who helped you in your academic journey.

Wrapping up – writing your acknowledgements section

As we reach the conclusion of this informative journey into the art of writing acknowledgements for a thesis or dissertation, it’s clear that this often-overlooked section carries significant emotional and professional weight.

A dissertation acknowledgements page is more than just a list of names; it’s a chance to express genuine gratitude and give due credit to all who have contributed to your academic journey. 

Remember, writing this section of your thesis isn’t an obligatory chore but a genuine opportunity to thank those who supported you.

From the tireless members of your thesis committee to the friends and family who offered emotional support, it’s a platform to acknowledge all the people who helped.

From mentors who provided expert guidance, colleagues who offered invaluable insights, to the institutions that funded your research – everyone deserves a heartfelt note of thanks.

Sample acknowledgements in a thesis often include both professional acknowledgements first, followed by personal ones, ensuring that all contributors are recognized appropriately. Always remember to use full names and titles for professional acknowledgements, and express your gratitude sincerely.

The acknowledgement page isn’t a place for long tales, jokes or anecdotes; instead, keep your acknowledgements concise, specific, and heartfelt.

As shown in the thesis acknowledgement examples, you should reflect on the people and organizations that significantly contributed to your research or writing, whether in a substantial technical manner or through support and guidance throughout the process. 

Studentship that allowed you to pursue your research, faculty who guided your studies, even friends who provided distractions when they were most needed – all these contributors deserve your thanks. Remember, it’s okay to use their first names for those who’ve been part of your personal journey, but for professional acknowledgments, full names and titles are recommended. 

As a PhD student, your acknowledgements should reflect your journey – the struggles, the triumphs, and most importantly, the people who have helped you along the way. Whether you include a list of names in alphabetical order, or you decide to group people or organizations, remember to be genuine, concise, and respectful. 

Whether it’s a thesis dedication to a mentor, expressing gratitude to your parents, thanking your friends for their love and encouragement, or even including certain political aspects that influenced your research, the acknowledgments section is yours to personalize. 

Writing a thesis or dissertation is a monumental task, and the people who support you through it are worth acknowledging. Keep this guide in mind when you write your thesis acknowledgements, and don’t forget to thank those who’ve been there for you – for in the journey of research and writing, no one truly walks alone. 

The last sentence may be a heartfelt statement, “I would like to express my gratitude to all those who walked with me throughout my research journey – your support was my strength, and this achievement is as much yours as it is mine.”

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.