Most of your thesis or dissertation will contain technical, scientific, and heady language, but your dissertation acknowledgement will probably contain the exact opposite. Acknowledgements for papers are typically found before the first chapter and should be very easy for you to write. You can write your acknowledgements in simple, everyday language that reads quite smoothly; this doesn’t have to be the identical to your typical academic writing for graduate students. Even though you can write your dissertation acknowledgement in a short amount of time, you should make sure that your writing style remains heartfelt and pure; you should avoid coming across as smug or arrogant. Though you can include several names in your acknowledgements, you should only include names of people who actually did help you during your dissertation or thesis journey because of limited space and reader patience. In general, you should keep your acknowledgements on one full, double-spaced page of the same font type and size that you are using throughout the rest of your paper. Acknowledgements that are much longer than this will wear on your professional readers and review board, and the last thing you want to do is annoy the people to whom you will be defending your paper. Below you will find more information about whom you can include when you write acknowledgements for you dissertation or thesis.
Before you even begin writing your dissertation acknowledgement, take time to make a list of people who are linked to your dissertation or thesis in any way. These people may have read or edited your paper or may have encouraged you or listened to your academic woes. In terms of family or friends to include, only list people who were active in your graduate studies. You really don’t have the space to include the cousins you haven’t seen or talked to since Grandma’s funeral ten years ago. However, if there were people who inspired your work, do not forget to include these people on your list of names. For example, you might want to include a grandfather whom you never met but who was the first member of your family to graduate from high school or college, maybe even under less than ideal circumstances. When you mention these people in your acknowledgements, remember to state specifically how they helped you. This will mean a lot to these people, and they will be grateful that you remembered exactly what they did for you along the way.
Take a look back at your list of contributors, and be sure to mention the members of academia who helped you complete your dissertation or thesis. Again, you only have room for major contributors, not your freshman biology professor. Professionals to include could be advisors, upper-level professors, lab assistants, librarians, colleagues, or classmates. Anyone who assisted you in researching, conducting experiments and surveys, or writing could be a candidate for you to include in your dissertation acknowledgement. For academic contributors whom you choose to mention in your acknowledgements, you should use their full names and titles. However, if you are mentioning friends, you might consider only using first names to protect their identities. If several people within a large group assisted you, you only need to state the group name.
The Acknowledgments section of your dissertation is unlikely to win you any marks, but since it's probably the third or fourth page that your marker will read, you don't want to start by forgetting to thank someone important. After all, one of the markers is often your supervisor or another academic who may have helped you. Don't irritate them before they get to page 5!
This section is often written at the last minute. If you're in a rush, we've put together an article that should help you write your dissertation acknowledgements section in 10 minutes or less. It's certainly not the only way to write the acknowledgments section, but it's a fairly robust one. You can access it here. However, since the person marking your dissertation may also have helped you at some point, it is worth spending more time getting this right if you can.
Some academics have conducted research on the structure of acknowledgement sections in dissertations. Whilst this research does not explain whether a particular structure will be preferred by the person marking your dissertation, it does show you the typical structure students' use in their Acknowledgments section. We illustrate this structure, but remember that ultimately this is a personal choice. There is no "one best way".
The common acknowledgement structure is based on three moves: (a) the reflective move; (b) the thanking move; and (c) the announcing move. You can think of each move as a paragraph within your Acknowledgments section that communicates something different to the reader. For example, the thanking move refers to the paragraph of the acknowledgments section where you thank various people and/or organisations for their help during the dissertation process, setting out the reasons for thanking them. In the sections that follow, we take you through each of these three moves, providing examples.