4

For Ph.D. theses, I think nobody would disagree with adding acknowledgements. But what is the stance in different places for a bachelor’s and/or master’s thesis?

When I was doing both, I strictly followed the guidelines laid out by the university which required me to include an abstract in both English and German, introduction, results, discussion, experimental details, a table of contents, a statement that it’s my own work and an appendix (which included literature, copies of the NMR spectra and Perl scripts) — acknowledgements weren’t mentioned anywhere. (The Ph.D. student whom I was working with during the bachelor’s thesis and the subgroup leader where I did my master’s were included in the statement that it’s my own work.)

Now, during my Ph.D. work at a different university, a lab colleague is finally completing his master’s thesis and has different samples from former master students. Most of these included acknowledgements (even though they often didn’t say much).

I found one site with a non-representative poll which was in favour of not including them, the reason being the duration of the work just being too short; but that’s merely anecdotical, not representative.

So outside of universities where either version is required, should a master’s or a bachelor’s thesis include acknowledgements? Is there any kind of general practice?

  • 5
    I don't think there are any rules about acknowledgements. My Bachelors and Master thesis both had them (german university). There was no rule about adding or not adding any or about who to acknowledge. People thank their cats, the nice worker at the thai takeout, their supervisor. I actually have never seen a thesis without any acknowledgements. – skymningen May 8 '15 at 12:52
  • 3
    I agree with @skymninge, there is most probably no general practice. My own Diplom thesis didn't contain any acknowledgments (mainly for the reason that the idea didn't occur to me), and many of the students supervised during their Bachelor and Master theses in my department (at a German university) didn't include any acknowledgments. Of the very few that did, only one wrote more than a few lines. All of these were fine and, to my knowledge, the presence or absence of acknowledgments was always completely ignored for grading. – O. R. Mapper May 8 '15 at 13:04
7

Acknowledgments are almost always an optional part of a document that you can choose to include but don't have to. This is true for PhD theses as well as MSc, Diploma theses, or any other kind of document.

The guiding line is: If there are people or institutions who you feel you want to thank or acknowledge their support, then do so. If you think that everyone in your life and your university has let you down, then don't.

  • See also past questions about acknowledgements; I quoted mine as an illustration of the fact that you can thank anyone or anything, seriously or jokingly. – keshlam May 8 '15 at 17:21
  • 3
    "If you think that everyone in your life and your university has let you down" - this sounds rather harsh, in a way making acknowledgments more or less obligatory and not at all optional (unless the author wants to label themselves a social outcast). At least if the inverse is assumed (which you did not do in this answer), that a lack of acknowledgments is a safe sign that the author felt let down by everyone and everything, I would vehemently object. – O. R. Mapper May 8 '15 at 19:19
  • 4
    @O.R.Mapper: Fair enough, this may have been a misguided attempt at humor. I hope nobody every feels that let down, and I didn't mean to imply that the lack of public acknowledgments should be read as a lack of feeling grateful (which can be expressed in many other ways, of course -- e.g., a signed and dedicated copy of the publication given to someone who helped). – Wolfgang Bangerth May 8 '15 at 21:33
  • 1
    While a lack of acknowledgements shouldn't read like being ungrateful, that won't stop others from reading it as such anyway. It's safer to write one anyway, but not necessarily good practice. – Mast Oct 26 '15 at 8:35
  • @Mast: The point is that most people realize over the course of their lives that nobody goes through life without receiving large amounts of help, whether they realize and acknowledge this or not. Thus, a lack of acknowledgments to me indicates that the author has not come to realize this basic fact. – Wolfgang Bangerth Oct 27 '15 at 11:30
0

Bachelor thesis: Nobody will think a second about a missing acknowledgement. If you want to add one: Make it damn short. Your direct advisor, parents or partner, one additional person. No professor, no other coworkers, unless they really went over the top in helping with your work. You don't want to look like an ass-kisser to next year's students. ;-)

Master: Not absolutely necessary, but as you worked together with people for half a year or more, you likely have reasons to thank them, and should. Keep it under one page.

PhD: If you feel you have to go over one page, make it entertaining. It's the first (and in most cases only) thing anybody checks in a thesis, so don't be a bore.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.