Writing Acknowledgements

The help that the writer has received from persons or institutions during the research and writing process is often acknowledged in the finished text. Below, advice is given on how to write such acknowledgements in academic texts.

Acknowledgements

In academic writing it is appropriate to give credit to funding bodies, departments and individuals who have been of help during the project, for instance by supporting it financially or by giving feedback on the text during its composition and revising stages. Such brief written notes of thanks are called acknowledgements.

In journal articles, there may be a brief note indicating gratitude to those who have been of help, whereas acknowledgements in book-length studies (e.g. doctoral theses) will sometimes be considerably longer. Departments and publishers have guidelines and standards for how such acknowledgements should be phrased. Likewise, some funding bodies provide guidelines as to how their contribution should be credited.

Generally, acknowledgements contain the following elements: 

  • Full name of all individuals who are being thanked.
  • A brief statement as to what kind of help the writer has received from each individual, group of people, scholarship, etc.

In some disciplines, ethical clearance or some other kind of permission is needed, and it is often stated in the acknowledgements that such permission has been granted.

A note on spelling: 'acknowledgement' can also be spelled 'acknowledgment'.

Definition: Distinction between 'acknowledgement' and 'dedication' (click to expand/contract)

Note the distinction between 'acknowledgement' and 'dedication': a dedication is a personal statement "which says in whose honour something has been written, made, performed, etc." (Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary).


Example: Acknowledgements regarding financial and critical support (click to expand/contract)

Below are three examples of acknowledgements for research publications. Different funding bodies and publishers may have different preferences as to how acknowledgements should be phrased. Note, too, that practices vary between disciplines.

 

Example 1 

I gratefully acknowledge the support and generosity of The Birgit and Gad Rausing Foundation for Arts Research and the Crafoord Foundation, without which the present study could not have been completed.

(Halldén, 2005, p. 34)

Example 2 

The research for this paper was financially supported by the Norwegian Research Council, grant no. 141687/540. In developing the ideas presented here, I have received helpful input from Berit Anne Bals, Harald Gaski, and Peter Svenonius. Ollu giitu! I also thank the audiences at Grammar in Focus 2003, Lund, BLS 29, Berkeley, the Thursday Night Linguistics Seminar, University of Tromsø, and three anonymous reviewers for their feedback.

(Julien, 2007, pp. 159-160)

Example 3

We thank Tim Clutton-Brock, University of Cambridge, for support and allowing us to work on the Kuruman River Reserve as well as the use of long-term life history data on meerkats. Thanks go to Helen Eaton and Samuel Guiton for their assistance in data collection. We would like to thank the Roche Research Foundation (Switzerland), Harry Crossley Foundation, and National Research Foundation (South Africa) for financial support during this study. MBM was financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation, SNF-Förderprofessur Nr 631-066129. This study was conducted with ethical clearance from the Ethical Committee of the University of Stellenbosch and under licence from the Northern Cape Department of Nature Conservation.

(le Roux et al. 2009, p. 1105)


For further reading: Aspects of acknowledgements (click to expand/contract)

There have been some linguistic studies on the writing of acknowledgements in academic writing. In an article by linguists Hyland and Tse (2004), for instance, a large number of Master's theses and PhD dissertations from different disciplines were analysed. Stating that acknowledgements "offer students a unique rhetorical space to convey their genuine gratitude for assistance and to promote a favourable social and scholarly character" (p. 259), the article shows how acknowledgements are constructed and also argues that students will need help in structuring their acknowledgements.

  • Hyland, K. & Tse, P. (2004) "I would like to thank my supervisor": Acknowledgements in graduate dissertations. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 14, 259-275. [Access article via LibHub]

In the following article, Paul Hollander (2001) discusses acknowledgements from a sociological point of view: