The acknowledgments section of a thesis or dissertation offers a special space for the author to express gratitude and recognize those who have supported and facilitated their research journey. Beyond a mere formality, it’s a heartfelt way to appreciate the communal nature of academic endeavors. This article will explore all you need to know about thesis acknowledgments, what to include, and how to write them. Read on!

What is the purpose of the acknowledgments section in a thesis?

  • Expression of Gratitude: At its core, the thesis and dissertation acknowledgements section allows the author to express gratitude and thank those who supported, guided, and facilitated their research journey. This could include academic mentors, peers review, research participants, financial sponsors, and personal support like family and friends.
  • Recognition of Contributions: Academic research is rarely an isolated endeavor. Many individuals often contribute directly or indirectly to the project. By acknowledging these contributions, the author recognizes the collaborative nature of academic research and various individuals’ roles in shaping the final output.
  • Academic Transparency: Acknowledging financial grants, fellowships, or institutional support provides transparency about any external funding or resources that supported the research. This transparency can be important for understanding potential biases or influences on the research.
  • Personal Reflection: Writing a thesis can be a long and challenging journey. The acknowledgments section offers a brief respite from the formal and rigorous academic tone of the rest of the document. It’s a space for authors to reflect personally on the journey and the human side of research.
  • Setting the Tone: Beginning with gratitude and appreciation can set a positive and humble tone for the document, creating goodwill with the reader.
  • Building and Maintaining Professional Relationships: Acknowledging the support and guidance of mentors, peers, and other professionals is courteous and essential in maintaining and fostering professional relationships in academia and the respective field of study.

Who to thank in your acknowledgments

Acknowledgments in a Ph.D. thesis are divided into two distinct types – professional and personal.

Professional acknowledgments

Advisors and Mentors: These individuals possess deep expertise in the subject matter and guide researchers through the research. With their extensive knowledge and experience, they challenge, critique, and refine your ideas, ensuring that your work stands up to rigorous academic scrutiny.

Their feedback, patience, and encouragement are invaluable, shaping the research output and the researcher’s thought processes and approach to the discipline.

Committee Members: As the evaluative layer, committee members provide a multi-dimensional perspective to your work. With diverse backgrounds and expertise, they ensure that the research is holistic, comprehensive, and meets the rigorous standards of academia.

Their probing questions, constructive criticisms, and insightful suggestions are instrumental in elevating the research’s quality.

Research Participants: The unsung heroes of many dissertations, research participants offer their time, experiences, and sometimes even personal stories to lend authenticity and depth to the research. Their contributions form the backbone of primary research, especially in sociology, psychology, and medical sciences.

By willingly participating, they breathe life into hypotheses and theoretical frameworks, transforming them into tangible findings.

Funders and Sponsors: Behind the scenes of many groundbreaking research projects are the organizations, institutions, or benefactors who provide the necessary financial fuel. Their support, whether through grants, scholarships, or direct funding, is pivotal in ensuring that the research sees the light of day.

These entities play a crucial role in turning academic dreams into reality, from covering the costs of essential resources to facilitating field trips, workshops, or interviews.

Personal acknowledgments

Family Members: The journey of crafting a thesis or dissertation is often paralleled by family members’ unwavering support and love. Parents, with their enduring faith in your capabilities; partners, with their understanding of late nights and missed occasions; siblings, offering both cheerleading and constructive teasing; or children, serving as unwitting motivators with their innocent inquiries about one’s progress—all play a crucial role. Their sacrifices, understanding, and belief often form silent success.

Friends: They provide a fresh perspective when academic fatigue sets in, and offer spontaneous coffee breaks and more ideas. Their encouragement and occasional reality checks help maintain a balanced perspective.

Whether it’s a peer from the same field offering feedback or a friend from a different discipline asking probing questions, these bonds play a pivotal role in shaping the final output.

Pets: Pets often emerge as silent companions, offering unconditional affection and warmth. A cat curling up beside a laptop, a dog insisting on a walk (providing an unplanned but necessary break), or even fish swimming peacefully in a tank—these creatures offer solace in their own unique ways.

Their presence serves as a soothing balm, reminding scholars of a world beyond research, filled with simple joys and unconditional love.

How to write acknowledgments

Major Thanks

These acknowledgments are reserved for the majors of your research journey—individuals or institutions without whose contribution the study might have faltered or remained incomplete. Their influence permeates the project, and their input is often the backbone of the research.

Example: “Foremost, I extend my profound gratitude to Dr. Jane Doe. Her unparalleled expertise, coupled with her unwavering support, laid the foundation for this dissertation. Her feedback, patience, and guidance became the guiding light, steering this research towards its successful culmination.”

Big Thanks

Following the major thanks are the ‘big thanks,’ dedicated to those who have played significant roles at various stages of your journey. They might not be at the forefront of every step, but their contributions have enriched the research process and helped navigate challenges. This category often includes secondary mentors, librarians, peers, and sometimes even research participants.

Example: “A heartfelt appreciation goes to the research team at ABC Hospital for their diligent assistance and to the librarians of Elmwood Library, whose dedication to aiding researchers made the process smooth. Their resources and timely help ensured that I had all the necessary tools at my disposal.”

Minor Thanks

The ‘minor thanks’ section is a warm nod to the silent supporters. It’s a space to acknowledge those who may not have been directly involved in the academic aspect but contributed to the researcher’s well-being and motivation or simply provided occasional respites from the rigors of academic work. These acknowledgments add a personal touch, reflecting the human side of research.

Example: “A special mention to my close circle of friends, who became the oasis of laughter in the intense desert of research. Their encouragement and well-timed distractions were therapeutic. And to Oliver, my golden retriever, whose joyous tail-wags and cuddles provided solace during the most stressful times.”

How to phrase your acknowledgments

Carefully choosing your phrasing and ensuring each acknowledgment is genuine and specific conveys genuine gratitude and recognizes the essential roles that each individual and entity played in your academic journey.

Be Genuine: It provides a brief, heartfelt moment of sincerity in an otherwise heavily academic document. Your words should emanate from your personal experiences, reflecting your unique relationships and interactions throughout your research journey.

  • Example: “To Mrs. Green, the late-night conversations, brainstorming sessions, and your unyielding belief in the relevance of this study were the anchors I didn’t know I needed.”

Be Specific: Generalized statements can sometimes dilute the impact of your gratitude. Being precise and explicit in detailing how someone contributed to your work is essential. This not only lends weight to your acknowledgment but also makes the person being thanked feel truly valued for their role.

  • Example: “A special mention to Mr. Thomas from the lab – your expertise in data analysis was instrumental in shaping the results section, particularly Figure 7.”

Keep It Concise: While you should be specific, it’s also essential to maintain brevity. The acknowledgment section should be a series of succinct, impactful notes of gratitude, not an extended narrative.

  • Example: “To Sarah – for the timely edits and your keen eye for detail. Your inputs were invaluable.”

Use Varied Language: A diverse range of expressions can make your acknowledgments more engaging. While it’s important to keep the language professional, variations in phrasing can add warmth and nuance to your gratitude.

  • Examples:

“I am indebted to Professor K for her visionary guidance.”

“My sincere appreciation goes to the administrative staff for their relentless support.”

“I cherish the camaraderie and insights provided by my peer group, especially John and Lia.

Prioritize and Structure: Begin with the most pivotal contributors before moving on to others. This hierarchical approach ensures that the primary players in your research journey are appropriately spotlighted.

  • Example: “Foremost, I owe a debt of gratitude to my advisor, Dr. X, for his unwavering support and guidance. Subsequent thanks go to the department, my fellow researchers, and my family for their constant encouragement.”

Acknowledgments section example

First and foremost, my heartfelt appreciation goes to Professor C. White, who not only served as my academic guide but also instilled in me the values and ethics of the nursing profession. Her expertise in pediatric care was pivotal in directing the trajectory of this research. I am immensely grateful to the nursing department at [University Name] – the support and camaraderie I found here have been unparalleled. Special mention goes to John and Emily, fellow nursing students, for the countless study sessions, debates, and shared experiences; their feedback and perspectives enriched my work and broadened my horizons.

I cannot express enough gratitude to my parents, who have always been my pillar of strength. They've witnessed the long hours, triumphs, and setbacks and consistently provided encouragement and wisdom. Their faith in my capabilities has often been my guiding light.

And lastly, to my loyal canine companion, Buddy – for the silent comfort during the late nights and early mornings, for being a beacon of joy during stressful times, and for always reminding me of the simple joys of life. Your wagging tail and cheerful barks made this journey easier.

Thesis and Acknowledgments dos and don’ts


  • Your acknowledgments should reflect heartfelt appreciation. The reader should feel the warmth and sincerity behind your words.
  • While it’s essential to acknowledge all who supported you, the section should be brief. Ensure each acknowledgment is meaningful, but avoid overly lengthy narratives or anecdotes.
  • Begin with the most significant contributors, your academic mentors, and then move to colleagues, peers, and personal supporters. It provides a hierarchical flow to your acknowledgments.
  • Recognizing organizations, institutions, or individuals who provided grants, scholarships, equipment, or any other resources that aided your research is crucial. It’s both a matter of courtesy and academic transparency.


  • Avoid Negative Remarks or Air Grievances: The acknowledgment section is a space for gratitude and positivity. Using this section to vent frustrations or point fingers at perceived slights or wrongs is inappropriate and unprofessional.
  • Refrain from Being Sardonic or Ironic: While humor can be refreshing in certain circumstances, be careful about its application here. Sarcasm or irony might not translate well in written form and can be insincere or disrespectful.
  • Avoid Being Overly Casual or Using Jargon: While the acknowledgment section is more personal than other parts of your thesis or dissertation, maintain a balance between warmth and professionalism. Avoid using slang, overly casual phrases, or inside jokes that could be misinterpreted or confusing to readers.
  • Double-Check for Omissions: Not mentioning a key contributor can be considered a grave oversight. Before finalizing, cross-reference your list of acknowledgments with any notes or records to ensure no one significant has been left out.

Final Thoughts on Thesis and Dissertation Acknowledgments

Acknowledgments, though brief, are a significant section of your thesis or dissertation. They offer a moment to reflect on the journey and recognize the collective effort behind individual achievement. When penned with sincerity, they become a gracious note of thanks in the symphony of research.

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