The Purpose of Acknowledgements
The acknowledgement section of a thesis or dissertation is where you recognise and thank those who supported you during your PhD. This can be but is not limited to individuals, institutions or organisations.
Although your acknowledgements will not be used to evaluate your work, it is still an essential part of your thesis. This is because it can have a positive (or negative for that matter) influence the perception of your reader before they even reach the main body of your work.
Who Should I Acknowledge?
Acknowledgements for a PhD thesis will typically fall into one of two categories – professional or personal.
Within these categories, who you thank will ultimately be your decision. However, it’s imperative that you pay special attention to the ‘professional’ group. This is because not thanking someone who has played an important role in your studies, whether it be intentional or accidental, will more often than not be seen as a dismissal of their efforts. Not only would this be unfair if they genuinely helped you, but it could also jeopardise any opportunities for future collaborations.
This may include, but is not limited to:
- Funding/sponsorship providers
- – Lab assistants
- Research participants
This may include, but is not limited to:
- Key family members and friends
- Individuals who inspired you or directly influenced your academic journey
It should be noted that certain universities have policies which state only those who have directly supported your work, such as supervisors and professors, should be included in your acknowledgements. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you read your university guidelines before writing this section of your thesis.
How to Write Acknowledgements for PhD Thesis
When producing this section, your style of writing can be more informal compared to the rest of your thesis. This includes writing in first person and using more emotive language. Although in most cases you will have complete freedom in how you write this section of your thesis, it is still highly advisable to keep it professional. As mentioned earlier, this is largely because it will be one of the first things your assessors will read, and so it will help set the tone for the rest of your work.
In terms of its structure, acknowledgements are expected to be ordered in a manner that first recognises the most formal support before moving onto the less formal support. In most cases, this follows the same order that we have outlined in the ‘Who Should I Thank’ section.
When thanking professionals, always write out their full name and provide their title. This is because although you may be on a first-name basis with them, those who read your thesis will not. By providing full names and titles, not only do you help ensure clarity, but it could also indirectly contribute to the credibility of your thesis should the individual you’re thanking be well known within your field.
If you intend to include a list of people from one institution or organisation, it is best to list their names in alphabetical order. The exception to this is when a particular individual has been of significant assistance; here, it would be advisable to list them.
How Long Should My Acknowledgements Be?
Acknowledgements vary considerably in length. Some are a single paragraph whilst some continue for up to three pages. The length of your section will mostly depend on the number of individuals you want to recognise.
As a general rule, try to keep your acknowledgements section to a single page. Although there are no word limits, creating a lengthy acknowledgements section dilutes the gratitude you’re trying to express, especially to those who have supported you the most.
Where Should My Acknowledgements Go?
In the vast majority of cases, your acknowledgements should appear directly after your abstract and before your table of contents.
However, we highly advise you to check your university guidelines as a few universities set out their own specific order which they will expect you to follow.
Phrases to Help You Get Started
We appreciate how difficult it can be to truly show how grateful you are to those who have supported you over the years, especially in words.
To help you get started, we’ve provided you with a few examples of sentences that you can complete or draw ideas from.
- I am deeply grateful to XXX…
- I would like to express my gratitude to XXX…
- I would like to offer my special thanks to XXX…
- I would like to extend my sincere thanks to XXX…
- …for their assistance at every stage of the research project.
- …for their insightful comments and suggestions.
- …for their contribution to XXX.
- …for their unwavering support and belief in me.
Thesis Acknowledgement Examples
Below are three examples of PhD thesis acknowledgements from which you can draw inspiration. It should be noted that the following have been extracted from theses which are freely available in the public domain. Irrespective of this, references to any individual, department or university have been removed for the sake of privacy.
First and foremost I am extremely grateful to my supervisors, Prof. XXX and Dr. XXX for their invaluable advice, continuous support, and patience during my PhD study. Their immense knowledge and plentiful experience have encouraged me in all the time of my academic research and daily life. I would also like to thank Dr. XXX and Dr. XXX for their technical support on my study. I would like to thank all the members in the XXX. It is their kind help and support that have made my study and life in the UK a wonderful time. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to my parents, my wife and my children. Without their tremendous understanding and encouragement in the past few years, it would be impossible for me to complete my study.
I would like to thank my supervisors Dr. XXX and Dr. XXX for all their help and advice with this PhD. I would also like to thank my sisters, whom without this would have not been possible. I also appreciate all the support I received from the rest of my family. Lastly, I would like to thank the XXX for the studentship that allowed me to conduct this thesis.
I would like to thank my esteemed supervisor – Dr. XXX for his invaluable supervision, support and tutelage during the course of my PhD degree. My gratitude extends to the Faculty of XXX for the funding opportunity to undertake my studies at the Department of XXX, University of XXX. Additionally, I would like to express gratitude to Dr. XXX for her treasured support which was really influential in shaping my experiment methods and critiquing my results. I also thank Dr. XXX, Dr. XXX, Dr. XXX for their mentorship. I would like to thank my friends, lab mates, colleagues – XXX, XXX, XXX, XXX for a cherished time spent together in the lab, and in social settings. My appreciation also goes out to my family and friends for their encouragement and support all through my studies.