You write a PhD thesis, in the acknowledgments you thank a series of people from collaborators, to friends, to peers, to professors. Many of these people will never read the thesis so what is the point to acknowledge them? It seems more an exercise for myself. This is different than the acknowledgments in a paper because PhD acknowledgments tend to be more personal and might include friends or people with a non-working relationship that helped in a way that it is not strictly related to the thesis.

Should I send them a copy of the thesis AND mention that I have acknowledged them, or simply let them know in some informal way that I acknowledged them, maybe next time I meet them or sending them a quick email?

It seems a pointless message if they don't know they have been thanked.

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    @NajibIdrissi the search on stack websites is really underwhelming. – Herman Toothrot Jan 25 '18 at 20:02
  • I only sent one copy, to my ex-daughter (she divorced me.) The last acknowledgement said, "Finally, to Gina, who may not remember saying, 'I will when you do!' You've got a lot of catching up to do, Child." All the others were people like committee members, who had read the wretched thing until they were sick of it, or groups like friends and colleagues, and so didn't need/want a copy. – Bob Brown Jan 25 '18 at 21:52
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    While paper acknowledgements may be different than thesis acknowledgements, the answer in both cases is the same: "Yes, why not?" – jakebeal Jan 26 '18 at 11:51

Ask yourself, which message do you want to send them?

You do not want to simply inform them about the acknowledgment, you want to THANK them! It's not about your thesis, it's about their help!

How you approach them depends on several factors; do whatever you feel is right. If it is possible to meet people in person, I prefer this, especially if they have contributed much. If they are further away, perhaps do at least a phone call. You should offer to them send your thesis via email or maybe even give them a printed copy.

In my personal experience, people are always very happy about a "thank you" and it also gives you the chance to stay in contact afterwards.

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    Can you motivate why you need to contact those being acknowledged? (I didn't do that, and I wasn't even remotely motivated to do so.) – Mad Jack Jan 25 '18 at 15:17
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    @MadJack I read this answer as "you don't have to contact them, but If you do, just say 'thank you' rather than telling them that you formally acknowledged them. After all, that's what acknowledgement means." – henning -- reinstate Monica Jan 25 '18 at 15:37
  • @henning Yes, that is exactly what I meant with my answer. Feel free to edit my answer to add this! – J-Kun Jan 25 '18 at 15:55

I’ve been acknowledged in a few dissertations, and didn’t see until I read their dissertations while looking at format for my own! I wasn’t mad they didn’t tell me, but I wish I could've been able to express my happiness to collaborate with them in person and not a text, since they already have left the institution. I vote you let them know! Maybe email them the page where they’re mentioned.


I handed over a copy of my printed thesis to every friend I mentioned in the acknowledgments. In addition, I wrote a kind of thanking latter or dedication to the recipient thanking for their support or whatever. When handing over the thesis copy, I verbally thanked them and told they were mentioned in the acknowledgments.

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