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So, I'm just now finishing my master's thesis. When thinking about who helped me aside from my official supervisors some of the StackExchange fora (especially Stack Overflow and TeX) came into my mind. I asked some questions in these fora but most of the time I was just looking for information in older posts (and finding it most of the time). Now one the one hand it feels weird to me to acknowledge a site I browsed to, e.g., find out a certain programming command (like I would not really think about acknowledging Wikipedia). But on the other hand I am really grateful for some of the quick and professional answers I got from StackExchange users.

So what do you think, should I acknowledge StackExchange in my thesis?

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@EnergyNumbers: I read this question but in my opinion it was too specific for my case and also more about the technical side (how to acknowledge SE rather than should I). –  Lukas Brunner Jun 11 at 16:41
    
The answers there completely answer that part of your question that is answerable here. The rest is fishing for opinion, which is out of scope on this site. –  EnergyNumbers Jun 11 at 20:09
    
I won't point to specific questions, but I've had authors ask me whether they can cite or acknowledge me somehow for code or ideas I've provided in Stack Overflow questions. I think that ended up as a footnote in a paper. There's also a type of citation that you don't see too much anymore, but can still be very helpful, if you contact the author specifically: "personal correspondence". –  Joshua Taylor Jun 12 at 0:56
    
I've seen it done: dwig.lmc.gatech.edu/projects/Quitmeyer/site/papers/… –  Jayraj Jun 17 at 18:00

2 Answers 2

up vote 23 down vote accepted

Your acknowledgement is a place where you are free to thank anyone or anything (I have seen dogs being thanked) you think deserve mentioning. To acknowledge StackExchange is highly appropriate since it is a community driven open site where help can be obtained to solve problems from many different perspectives.

In my PhD thesis, I, perhaps a bit over-ambitiously, thanked Donald Knuth for creating TeX. Had StackExchange been in existence back then, some of the terror of writing my thesis in plain TeX would have been eased and it would have been placed along-side Knuth in the acknowledgement.

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To the down-voter: downvoting is a part of this stackexchange and according to the help center ...voting down a post signals [the opposite:] that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information. So in view of this, providing a down-vote without a comment is not very constructive and does not allow anyone the possibility to improve an answer or even understand what may be wrong with it. –  Peter Jansson Jun 11 at 14:18
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Not only did I thank TeX.StackExchange, but the developers of LaTeX 2ε and the developers of a few of the most useful packages (namely TikZ and PGF Plots). Their code was just as useful as the scientific code I used, so I think the acknowledgement was well deserved. Perhaps I should have cited Knuth too... oops! A bunch of data points is useless if I can't plot them! I would be very hesitant in thanking paid software developers, though. –  Moriarty Jun 11 at 14:25
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@JAB Sorry, to clarify: I mean I wouldn't thank the developers of a non-free piece of software. I might cite its use, but not in the acknowledgements section. StackExchange is a free resource, so anyone on here should be thanked. –  Moriarty Jun 11 at 16:02
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@Moriarty - What is the problem with thanking paid software developers? You probably thanked your paid supervisor. –  sixtyfootersdude Jun 11 at 16:24
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"Do I feel personally grateful towards the company or any of the developers?" You might if you spent a bit of time debugging some code and got their help on their mailing list, though. –  Joshua Taylor Jun 12 at 0:57

Think of it not as acknowledging the site but of the community that contributes and curates the content. (From the way you asked the question, I think this is what you have in mind as well.) I'm sure a correspondingly worded acknowledgment would be appropriate (and appreciated -- in particular the TeX.SE community is by a wide margin one of the most helpful and welcoming I have ever seen on the internet, and they deserve the recognition).

Also, keep in mind that some future student might read your thesis when preparing her own; if she reads your acknowledgment and learns of the value of StackExchange, you are doing her a service.

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I should echo Peter Jansson's comment to his own answer about downvoting here, too. I would normally upvote this answer, but it largely regurgitates Peter Jansson's. I am guessing that that is why this answer was downvoted. –  Moriarty Jun 11 at 14:30
    
@Moriarty, I just wanted to make explicit the distinction between acknowledging the people on SE (which is usual) and acknowledging the website SE (which is weird -- you wouldn't thank TeX, you'd thank Knuth). But I take your point, this should be a comment to Peter Jansson's answer. –  Christian Clason Jun 11 at 16:34

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