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How to Write an Acknowledgement for a Dissertation

How to Write an Acknowledgement for a Dissertation

11 min Read|February 07 2024
|Written by:

Thomas Babb


Acknowledgements are one of the most important parts of writing a dissertation or thesis. Although not something that you’ll be critiqued on, giving thanks is an important part of the process. But how do you actually write an acknowledgement for a dissertation?

Your acknowledgements are where you get to thank people who supported you throughout the years, may it be during the process of researching and writing, or just generally in your studies. To help you write the best acknowledgement for your dissertation possible, we’ve pulled together absolutely all the information you’ll need.

In this article, we’ll cover what you should in include in your acknowledgements, how to write one, why they’re important, and how to get started. Let’s jump right in.

What to Acknowledge in Your Dissertation and Who To Thank

Of course, as you would expect, there is no need to thank every person that was part of your studies. Especially if you’re completing a PahD, then you will have been in education for years. To go through and thank every single person that contributed to your studies would simply be impossible. Okay, maybe not impossible, but it sure would make for a long dissertation acknowledgements section.

That said, it’s important to thank the people who both helped and supported you emotionally and academically throughout your dissertation. Here below, you’ll find who you should thank and the most important examples to make your life easier when writing your acknowledgements.

Personal Dissertation Acknowledgements

Personal acknowledgements, as their name says, are anything that’s personal to you. Here, you’re free to include whoever particularly supported you. Mentioning every member of your family isn’t necessary, and we don’t recommend it. However, choose 1 or 2 people that were there for you all the time and encouraged you on the path to your end qualification.

If you’d like, you could select a few different people and whiz through them. You don’t have to dedicate an entire paragraph to every single person that’s supported you. Sometimes, a list is more than enough. In fact, this is actually what you’ll see on a lot of PhD dissertation acknowledgements, with people wanting to include as many people as possible without taking up much space.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that whatever you say, goes. You’re the one that has to write an acknowledgement for a dissertation, meaning you can put whatever or whoever you’d like in there. While there are some general rules to follow, always do what you think is best.

Professional Dissertation Acknowledgements

Unlike personal acknowledgements, professional acknowledgements are meant to thank important people in your academic sphere that supported you throughout your university journey. This may include, but are not limited to:

  • Professors
  • Colleagues
  • Classmates
  • Supervisors
  • Funding bodies
  • Librarians
  • Research participants (for instance, people who filled out a survey for you)

It is important to note that some universities have strict policies stating that only professional individuals that directly supported your work should be cited in your acknowledgements. For this reason, make sure to always read the guidelines before starting to write your acknowledgement for your dissertation or thesis.

Should You Always Thank Your Supervisor in your Dissertation Acknowledgements?

As mentioned previously, some universities will push you to thank your supervisor since they directly supported your work during your studies. Apart from that, we recommend that thanking your supervisor is probably a good thing to do.

After all, this person has been there for you during the potential years it took for you to get this qualification. Beyond just providing guidance, academic supervisors do a lot of work behind the scenes to make your qualifications happen. Be sure to give them enough respect in this section that your university requires.

While the answer to this question is probably yes, nothing is set in stone. If you genuinely believe that they didn’t help you, or there was friction between you and your dissertation supervisor, then a curt nod to them might be all you need.

How to Write an Acknowledgement for a Dissertation

When writing acknowledgements for a dissertation or thesis, the style can be more informal compared to the rest of the dissertation. However, keeping it somewhat professional will help you succeed and look better when your assessors read it. In addition, it will also set the tone for the rest of the thesis.

The process of writing an acknowledgement can be difficult. To give you a helping hand, we’ve come up with these three steps that you can follow:

  • Generate Ideas
  • Group Them
  • Structure
  • Write

Let’s break these down further.

Generate Ideas

The very first step when needing to write an acknowledgement for a dissertation is going to be brainstorming. You should take some time to go through the past couple of years in your head. Grab a pen and some paper and write down any names that come to mind. At first, this will be obvious. Your supervisor's name will come to mind, as well as any other large figures you’ve encountered on your journey.

Spend around 30 minutes writing down absolutely everyone you can think of that’s had a positive impact on you during this process. Some could be major players, while others could just be friends that have supported you. At this point, that difference doesn’t matter.

This step is all about making sure you don’t accidentally leave someone out that should be on there. As always, be sure to move through both personal and professional names, jotting down all the people that have been a part of your journey. Creating this basis will help make sure you include everyone you want there, as well as help you instantly know who is more important to include in the acknowledgements than others.

Group Them

As we’ve suggested, as you create this mindmap of different people that have helped you, some names will definitely stand out more than others. While one person could have been pivotal in the creation of your dissertation, others could have just been minor positive influences.

Once you have a completed mindmap of absolutely everyone you can think of, it’s time to categorize them. There are three main categories you should include here:

  • Massive Thanks - This category is for those people that really carried you through this project. Your academic supervisor, best friend, parents, partner, or someone else that was essential to you completing the paper. These are people that you must absolutely include in when turning to write your acknowledgement for a dissertation. If you could only select a few people, these are the chosen few that would make the cut.
  • Big Thanks - This category is for people that have definitely lent you a hand along the way. Maybe it’s your flatmates that have coached you through some tough times or a peer that you’ve bounced ideas off. This section will be filled with people that are most likely going to make the cut, but not in the first paragraph.
  • Thank You - Finally, we turn to the third category we can put people into. Don’t get things twisted, these people still definitely helped you during your dissertation. Maybe they provided some insight, or maybe they’re just people you think you should thank. No matter who they are, this category is a catch-all for them.

Across these three categories, you’ll now have a fairly clear hierarchy of which people are the most important in your project and which are the least. If you’re short on space, then you’re going to cut people out of your dissertation acknowledgements from the bottom tier up.

Once you have this list, it’s going to be much easier to then actually write an acknowledgement for a dissertation. You’ll have a range of people to touch upon and will know exactly where they fall in your list of priorities. Knowing who to include is always the first step, so if you’re already this far, you’re flying.


Next, we turn to structuring your dissertation. To help you with this, we’ve actually created a whole article filled with some of the best dissertation acknowledgement examples for you to browse through. These will help you understand what you should include and how you should structure your writing.

When structuring your acknowledgements, also break it down into paragraphs. This logical structure is both easy to follow and easy to plan. You only need to decide if you start with the most important people of the least important. For example, you could cover a list of names before then going into longer descriptions of the Massive Thanks group of people.

Alternatively, you could start with a longer paragraph that gives thanks to your Massive Thanks group before then transitioning and moving down to Big Thanks and, finally the Thank You group.

The wonders of online writing are that you can write out each paragraph and then structure them however you’d like. Move things around and see which structure speaks to you.

Write your Dissertation Acknowledgements

Once you’ve got all of your names and know the structure you want to follow, it’s time to write the acknowledgement section of your dissertation. This could be the hardest part, but with the level of planning you’ve done, things might just flow.

We recommend that you let your creativity flow here. Just writing, without editing or without double checking what you’re doing. Letting yourself get into a flow state where you continue to produce words will allow you to get as much down on paper as possible. From there, all you need to do is edit, which is considerably easier than writing itself.

Although this may seem strange, you’ve got to remember that the whole point of an acknowledgement section is to give thanks to people. Speaking from your heart - as cheesy as that sounds - is absolutely the way to go here. Unfortunately, there isn't any easy way to ‘hack’ this; you just need to get pen to paper and let your gratitude show.

As a side note, you should always use full names as well as titles. In fact, by proving their title, you will be able to add credibility and value to your thesis, depending on the reputation they have.

Why Is The Acknowledgement Part Of A Thesis So Important?

Given all the factors above, why is the acknowledgement part so important? First of all, and while it doesn’t have any academic impact on thesis, or dissertation, they simply look incomplete without it. Also, it would show that you respect your supervisor, colleagues, or even classmates, and that will certainly give you some extra points.

Although this is your project, you didn’t get there alone. The acknowledgement part of a theis is so important because you’re clearly stating that you worked from a position of community on this project. The final work is yours, by the support and mental help you got along the way are a reflection of the net of friends, family, co-workers, and academic support that you’ve always had.

This is your moment to say thank you for all of that, permanently cementing names that mean a lot to you within your final copy of your thesis dissertation. Well, done, you’ve done it.

How To Get Started And Write Acknowledgements For Your Thesis

Getting started when writing the acknowledgement section of your thesis is simply the most difficult part. What to write, formal or informal style, and how to thank your superiors or peers the right way is important. Below, you’ll find some great start sentences to your acknowledgement part: 'I would like to...'

  • Offer my special thanks to [full name - title]
  • Express my sincere gratitude to [full name - title]
  • Thank my supervisor/professor [full name]
  • Pay my special regards to [full name]
  • Deeply grateful to [full name]

These are all great ways to start the acknowledgement part of your thesis. However, let’s see how to end the acknowledgement of each individual in order to remain professional and impress the assessors.

  • Assistance in the research project/survey that helped me deeply.
  • Useful and insightful comments, feedback, and suggestions.
  • Always believing in me at every stage of my studies
  • For their contribution

Considering that only around 2% of the general population in the UK has a doctoral degree, not many people will have had the opportunity to write a thesis acknowledgement section. This can create a lot of pressure, as you’re not too sure what to expect. One of the best places to learn more about what is required is going directly to your supervisor. They can give your resources and push you in the right direction.

highest proportion of people with a doctoral degree


Turning to your supervisor when needing to write an acknowledgement for a dissertation is also a good idea because they’ll be well-versed in the general formula that your university uses when creating these sections. Often, they’ll have their own PhD that you could use as a reference. Equally, you can ask them how much is too much when it comes to thanking them.

While everyone likes a bit of praise, this is your project at the end of the day. Make sure to focus on people that helped you, but don’t give away too much credit. After all, you’re the one that’s achieved this exciting academic feat.

Closing Thoughts

This is what you had to know and how you should write an acknowledgement for a dissertation or a thesis. Starting from a more informal yet professional style to finding the right words and, ultimately, impressing your assessors with a complete thesis, this is the right path to follow. If you need any help with crafting your acknowledgements section or the final steps of your dissertation, be sure to reach out to one of our expert writing tutors.

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Professional tutor and Cambridge University researcher

Thomas Babb

Written by: Thomas Babb

Oxford University - PhD Mathematics

Thomas is a PhD candidate at Oxford University. He served as an interviewer and the lead admissions test marker at Oxford, and teaches undergraduate students at Mansfield College and St Hilda’s College. He has ten years’ experience tutoring A-Level and GCSE students across a range of subjects.

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