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Dissertation acknowledgements

Dissertation Acknowledgements

The acknowledgement section is the shortest section of your entire dissertation and does not contribute to your overall mark. It also does not have to be written using strict academic writing structures or academic languages so you can put yourself at ease. It is probably the only section where you can allow the reader to know a bit about your personal life.

Why should I write acknowledgements?

Other than being a requirement for most universities the acknowledgements does have some benefits for you.

Firstly, it forces you to think more deeply about how people assisted you with your work process and possibly forcing a small part of your brain to remember a useful piece of passed-on information that may have otherwise been forgotten. It also shows the teacher that you have taken the time to reflect on your progress of creating academic papers.

Secondly, it is useful as a reflective tool. Without getting into too much detail yet into how you go about writing your acknowledgments, you are encouraged to write how people close to you provided aid with your academic strengths and weaknesses. As you are putting the final touches to your acknowledgement page you can reflect on how the journey through your thesis improved or created certain strengths and/or diminished certain weaknesses. It is also easier to trace the sources of these improvements to a particular person or moment in time more easily and add this to your acknowledgement page (opps we are getting ahead of ourselves).

Lastly, it is a way of letting your reader/lecturer know where you got help from, what things you needed help with in the future and what things you can confidently do on your own.

So enough about the reason. Now we want to give you a bit of an idea of how to go about doing this section and thus have prepared a detailed guide that will make the process of writing the acknowledgements simple and easy.

Where does the acknowledgements go in a dissertation?

Like the acknowledgement in a fictional novel, the acknowledgements of a thesis go after the abstract page but before the note on transliterations and list of abbreviations or before the first chapter of your work.

How long should the acknowledgements be?

It can be as long or as short as you want. Some authors have written 3 pages but you may choose to do less than 100 words or more. The standard is about half a page.

What do I write if nobody helped me?

Some people will write “none” but we highly discourage this. There may be times when you are convinced that you received no help with your thesis. We encourage that you take a few minutes to really take an honest accounting if this is the case as you will probably find that there was at least one person who helped spark a thought in your mind.

How to write acknowledgements for your dissertation

The overall purpose of this section is express your gratitude for those individuals or groups or people who have contributed academic support, food and shelter, guidance, etc. towards your dissertation. So best make sure you thank the lecturer who both taught you the subject material and/or will be the one marking your work.

First, we would encourage you to start by taking the reader through the journey of the dissertation writing, highlighting some of the challenges faced in your ‘quest for knowledge’. This is a great way to give your readers some context as to who helped you overcome a given challenge.

Next we come to the executive order of importance of the people who helped you from the “most important/biggest contributor to the least important. Obviously you do not write it as blatantly as that. We would advise that you acknowledge your main academic supervisor and then lecturer first. Put a comma between the names of each person or the moments in life that helped you (one lady even wrote how the eclipse in 2017 helped her overcome writer’s block).

After writing the order of people who helped you, the next part is to write about their specific contribution/s to the thesis. As mentioned at the beginning this allows for the reader to connect the contributors to the problems that were solved. It is also possible to combine the executive order with the people individual contributions into individual paragraphs with the person’s name and their contribution in order of importance.

Another structure to employ is based on the three moves which is basically a three-paragraph structure which is as follows:

  • Reflective
  • Thanking
  • Announcement

The reflective section is where you write a little bit about your journey, what challenges you came across, what you did to overcome then and what was learnt as a result.

In the thanking section you write the name of the person who help you and how they helped you.

The announcement section is not used very often by students but is used by those who want to dedicate the work to a close someone or take personal responsibility for their dissertation. However, with most universities you are required to declare and sign that the work is yours before submitting the documents so this section is normally pointless.

We stress that many people, who you don’t know, will be reading your acknowledgements as well so avoid being too personal.

Tip: As you are writing your dissertation, maintain a list of those who have supported you in your work. This will reduce the time spent trying to remember who contributed to a given sector or provided some very insightful information.

What mustn’t I include in the acknowledgements

Acknowledgements do not include any cited material or resources. These come in subsequent sections of your thesis. It is also important to be as specific as possible about the level and kind of help that you received and not just the names of those who helped you.

What kind of language can I use in the acknowledgements?

Avoid using the popular ‘I would like to thank…’ and instead use a variety of discourse markers. We have a few suggestions below for you:

  • I am grateful to…
  • I am indebted to…
  • Let me first acknowledge… without whom this…

As you can see you are permitted to write in the third person. You could also include a famous quote, a few jokes or sentences from another language you know, Latin is a popular choice.

On a final note

Avoid rushing this section as you may leave someone out who made a small or big contribution to your work.

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