How to write the acknowledgements of your dissertation – two examples included


The acknowledgement section of your dissertation is a special section to write. It tends to evoke many emotions of gratefulness toward one’s ecosystem, the support network that carried us through the dissertation. It is often done with a bit of moisture in the eyes.

While one would think that the words for the acknowledgement section will flow naturally onto the paper, this is not always the case. After writing a dissertation of 315 pages, being subdued to brutal peer review and subjected to multiple rules, regulations, policies and guidelines, one cannot imagine writing a full page coming straight from the heart.

Well, here you are, looking for some guidance. I’m happy to help. Let’s look at a few frequently asked questions around the acknowledgement section.

Who are most commonly acknowledged?


I looked at my own and several other people’s acknowledgements to see who are commonly acknowledged. Here’s a list that may give you some ideas of who you want to recognise. There is no need to try to include all of them; just do as you feel is right.


  • Supervisors, advisors, thesis committee members
  • Funding bodies or sponsors
  • Research collaborators, expert consultants
  • Technical support staff
  • Laboratory or research group colleagues
  • Librarians
  • Department staff and other faculty
  • Administrative staff who assisted with paperwork and logistics
  • Study participants
  • Proofreaders and editors
  • Fellow PhD students, academic peers, writing group members
  • Family members (parents, partners, children, pets)
  • Friends who provided emotional support
  • Mentors from earlier academic stages
  • Life coaches and counselling services

Word of caution: if you plan to acknowledge specific people, start making a list early so you have time to add when you wake up in the middle of the night, realising you have not named Aunt Becky for her pancakes that carried you through the long days of data collection. If you are going to write the acknowledgement section the night before submission, you may miss someone out… not good for the relationship going forward, especially if it is someone who really deserves to be named.

Can I borrow (aka copy) someone else’s acknowledgement section?


Okay, no one ever asked me this question, but I wonder how much of this is happening out there.

Many years ago, one of my postgraduate students was quite copy-and-paste proficient. As a result, we struggled a bit with the similarity report, and he was sent back to the drawing board a few times to rethink and rephrase. But the one thing that he also "sourced from elsewhere" was the acknowledgement section, and although this did not come out in the similarity report, it featured the name of his spouse, except… it referred to his ‘husband’ followed by a name that does not belong to his wife. I knew his wife, and although this is none of my business - maybe he indeed had both a husband and wife - I casually ran my observation by him when we met the last time before he submitted. The shock on his face told me that a life lesson had just landed.

In which order do I need to acknowledge the troops?

I’d say start with your supervisors; they were (if all went according to plan) the closest to your project. Then move on to anyone who helped you in any way, be it your stats, technical analysis, etc. Also, acknowledge your funding sources. Once you are done with the formal side of things, move on to the informal.

Friends and family, thank those who are close to your heart. I see many people end this section with the person/people closest to them, like their nuclear family, partner, or kids.

What do I mention when I acknowledge them?

In addition to the names and roles of those you want to thank, also add what you thank them for, i.e., what they contributed to your project, how they helped or supported you, and add what the ultimate impact was. Such as, I’d like to thank Sarah Green for helping me format my dissertation into a professional-looking masterpiece, or I’m grateful for the support of Henry Doe regarding the advanced statistical analysis that allowed us to compare our findings with some of the world's largest research studies.

Where can I find some examples of acknowledgements sections?


Right here! Getting inspiration from others always helps.


You can also browse existing theses and dissertations. Here's a video that demonstrates how to find them.


Example 1:

To my supervisor, […], thank you for guiding me through this journey. I experienced growth in my professional and personal life, but most of all, I experienced the postgraduate journey through the eyes of a postgraduate student once again. You were good for me, and I will pay the kindness forward to the postgraduate students under my supervision.


I would like to acknowledge my lab members and collaborators, […], for their unrelenting support. May we engage in many more fruitful collaborations while creating an impact in the world of musculoskeletal motion analysis. Furthermore, I would like to thank the […] for funding as well as all participants who took part in this project.

Example 2:

[Supervisor 1], thank you for always availing space in your diary for my project; thank you for your calm nature and for your amazing ability to solve any problem. [Supervisor 2], thank you for your phenomenal research expertise and, most of all, for your wisdom from day one. Also, thank you for believing in this project and for providing financial support to develop the department’s first mobile movement laboratory.


To the participants of this study, I appreciate your time and effort, and I enjoyed your enthusiasm for the game of cricket. To the research assistants who lifted the load during the data collection phase, you decreased my cortisol levels immensely.


I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the [Funding Body 1], the [Funding Body 2], and the [Funding Body 3] – without financial support, this project would not have been possible.


[…], our HOD, and all my colleagues in the Department of […] for the inspiration given to me in different forms throughout my study period.


My family – my mother, for always showing interest in my well-being and “survival”; to my father, for teaching me to forget about the past, to live for the future and to keep the peace; to my three brothers and sisters in law, for all the happy conversations, braais, holidays and everything else that was needed for a balanced life.


Evah, for all the long hours of support. Then, to my husband, […]…. thank you for the numerous “clinical reasoning sessions” around the pace bowling technique and how the biomechanics of it as perceived by coaches and players. Thank you for trying to convince me that I’m the best researcher, lecturer, physiotherapist, writer, reader, cook, mother, wife, golfer (non-inclusive list) out there. Thank you for all your love and support. And to my two precious baby boys, who each had their turn to accompany me “in situ” in my endeavours to complete this thesis.


To the Almighty… thank you Lord.

Now that you have read all of the above, put it away, open a blank page and let it come from your heart.

Enjoy the emotion of gratitude and the last stretch of the postgraduate journey.

Photo by wewe yang.


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