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Background: I am writing a MSc dissertation in a technology/business-related topic. I interviewed 15 people for about an hour each. Each interviewee was given a choice of anonymity (e.g. tech-sector employee), organisation only (e.g. Microsoft employee) or named (Joe Bloggs of Microsoft). Most went for named; although in the final version of the text when I referred to interviews I just used organisations (mostly for presentational reasons).

Question: Is it considered polite to include the interviewees in the acknowledgements (clearly just those happy to be named)? If I did so I would probably email first to check they were happy (and I'd got their name/title right!); although might be overthinking this...

Edit: I have written consent from each participant regarding the use of the information they have provided.

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I would think that it is probably enough to recognize them as a group: Thanks to the fifteen people whose ... enables this research. You might want to name the companies, provided that there was some cost (monetary or otherwise) to the companies.

Alternatively you might, at the end, without connecting any individual to their responses, thank them by name, maybe obfuscated: J. Doakes, M. Jones and thirteen others who prefer not to be named.

Likewise, if the positions held by the respondents is essential you might list that with or without names, even if it is just summarized: Three executive vice-presidents, one chairman of the board, and ... (That isn't the same thing as individual acknowledgement, of course, but informs your readers.)

My reasoning is that you probably don't want readers of your thesis to contact your responders, more to avoid them being bothered than for any other reason.

If the research requires that a name or other identifying information be associated with a response then you need explicit permission. You likely need to retain the written permission.

I'll also note that there are laws in various places that speak to issues like this. In the US, most universities have an office of research that will give you very detailed information about research, especially research involving human subjects. It may be the same elsewhere. In the US, see an officer of the IRB (Institutional Review Board) at the university. Your research may be covered or not. I suspect that for simple interviews it won't be covered, but you should check.

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To my point of view, an interview is also a (weak) kind of a source to be cited, so I would add each interview as a literature reference by giving the date, content ("Interview on Topic X") and the information the People allowed you to use (might be "anonymous, Person from industry X" to "Peter Parker, CEO of Spiderman agency"). I would make a subsection in the references section showing "here are the interviews" and the list them.

While I was working in acadmica, I asked all my students to do so.

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  • Thankfully for me, my university provides advice on this matter: they recommend referring to interviews within the text, as opposed to in bibliography, as they are "non-recoverable." They give less advice on the protocol of acknowledgements, so I'll go with @Buffy 's advice above! Jul 15 '18 at 11:59

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