I am graduating soon and in the last minute my advisor found an issue in one major theorem in my thesis. In an hour, my advisor sent me a write up with a fix. The result is a little bit different than what I have, but it does the job.

I was not expecting him to fix this issue. We were supposed to meet and discuss this issue. Instead, my advisor just sent an email with this fix. Since this is the major result in my thesis and my advisor's contribution is more significant than mine, what is the appropriate way to acknowledge this in my thesis?

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    If it is actually the major result in your thesis, I highly doubt that an adjustment to your theorem or proof that your advisor could throw together in an hour or even in a day is actually more significant than what you did. And I also doubt that your advisor was staring at this for an extended period of time before revealing what they were working on at the last moment. It's much more likely that the issue is more or less trivial and the main ideas of what you worked on are correct. Especially since your advisor didn't express a change of heart about you graduating.
    – Ian
    May 9, 2021 at 16:30
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    @Ian, there are a lot of other factors. My advisor came back after staying in ICU for 2 years and we have to wrap up things quickly. I did much more than my thesis, but we don't have time to put everything together since I need another year or so to finish off everything. I am trying to put together what I have and graduate before time runs out. The issue is a bit more complicated. Moreover, this last minute change nullifies a lot of work I did since we were assuming that I proved a stronger result. This change makes significant parts of my work is unrelated and we don't have time for changes.
    – Ram
    May 9, 2021 at 21:38

5 Answers 5


Clearly your advisor thinks well of you and thinks you are ready to move to the next level professionally. You both missed the issue at an earlier stage. Had he found it then he might well have pointed you to a fix rather than providing it.

He is probably as pleased as you are that a fix was possible.

So thank him for support and guidance (perhaps "particularly on Theorem X") and move on. Remember this incident when you advise your own students.

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    I know this type of comment is prohibited on this site, and if it gets removed, so be it, but wow. What a great answer. May 9, 2021 at 4:41
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    I like the last line of your answer (and the rest of it as well). May 9, 2021 at 17:39
  • Thank you, I will do this.
    – Ram
    May 9, 2021 at 21:28
  • +1, but I wouldn't mention the concrete theorem. Helping, finding errors, filling the odd gap is what advisors do. May 11, 2021 at 0:02
  • @MartinArgerami Normally nor would I. Here the OP refers specifically to on important theorem, so the special mention might be appropriate. May 11, 2021 at 0:07

Just write a short paragraph at the end thanking your advisor for all their help during the writing of the thesis. If you ever turn it to a research paper, they’ll be a coauthor obviously.

  • Yes, if I am fortunate to complete and publish this work, he will be the coauthor. Thank you for your suggestion.
    – Ram
    May 9, 2021 at 21:40

When I wrote my Master's thesis, I had several parts where other group members and my advisor contributed parts, even if those were only helpful discussions that lead to further insight. Apart from mentioning this in the usual acknowledgements at the end of my thesis, I also added references to "private communications" with the respective contributor wherever possible or added a short entry in the references section that described the exact contributions from said person.

  • Thank you thats helpful.
    – Ram
    May 9, 2021 at 21:42
  • With other group members this might be a good idea. For the advisor, I would expect major contributions to a mather's or PhD thesis.
    – usr1234567
    May 10, 2021 at 8:35

You credit your advisor's help at the front pages of your dissertation, where he or she is listed as your advisor. In a regular advising relationship, the contributions of the advisor are diffuse, at multiple levels, and impossible to quantify or pinpoint meaningfully. No need to make special mention of the very special circumstances that you relate, it will already be understood that your advisor has had a significant impact on your work.

So the advising relationship is sufficient formal recognition; the rest you can reserve for the acknowledgements section, and for your in person conversations. (For comparison, it would be a rather different situation if someone other than your advisor had contributed a fix to a problem of the magnitude that you describe.)


This is your thesis advisor's job, even though this might be a borderline case. He does represent your findings with his own name, after all. What I would suggest is to thank him in the preamble, and make a footnote in that specific place the contribution took place in the text.

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