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How to write the Acknowledgments Section of your Thesis or Dissertation

Writing the Acknowledgments for your thesis may seem trivial and is often written after everything else has been finished. But when you’re actually ready to start it, it may not seem so easy? After all, who really helped you with your thesis? Hopefully, your adviser helped you a little… but writing your thesis is often a very stressful, solitary period when you’re mostly by yourself. You may feel like writing, “I want to thank myself for having the intelligence, forbearance and determination to write this brilliant freakin’ dissertation,” but of course, that won’t fly. Moreover, writing soppy platitudes of gratitude to your peers and advisers may ring false, even absurd… but that’s how it’s done.

Incidentally, last night I watched a movie about a brilliant Chinese grad student whose professor said he ‘wasn’t a team player’ and denied his dissertation. The student went nuts and ended up killing everybody in the department. For better or worse, you are part of the academia, and there is a certain social protocol involved – part of which includes flattery in your acknowledgments. Just deal with it.

Thank your adviser. Thank your supervisors, your professors, your classmates. Thank your family, your girlfriend, your dog. Thank God if you want. Remember that your acknowledgments will actually be the first part of your dissertation! Make it nice, simple, sincere, but also demonstrate some writing ability.

Tips for writing the Acknowledgments Section of your Thesis or Dissertation

Read somebody else’s and copy! Some people will be good at writing acknowledgments. Some may not be. Don’t be afraid to take a good format and personalize it. Here, I’ll even give you one of my own:

First I would like to thank my advisor ____________ for his support and helpful guidance. His knowledge and advice have helped me to keep on track and work at a smooth pace. My gratitude goes out as well to all the professors in the__________________department for their advice and teachings; their careful revisions of my essays have honed my research and organizational skills and made my writing a little less amateurish. I am indebted to my school colleagues who have helped make my learning an enjoyable and stimulating experience. Lastly I wish to thank my family and my many close friends, whose enthusiasm, interest and support in this project have given me the motivation to realize this achievement.

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