Most students are under the false assumption that the acknowledgment section in a research paper is too challenging to write or simply unnecessary. However, acknowledgment is essential to a research paper, as it allows the author to show appreciation to those who helped them throughout the research process and their academic journey as a whole. It also establishes the author’s integrity and credibility, but how do you write it?
Here’s how to write an acknowledgment for a research paper:
- Use formal language.
- Write in the first person.
- Don’t exaggerate or flatter.
- List the contributors in order of their contribution.
- Meet the writing requirements given by your authorities.
- Use full names or the contributors’ preferred names.
- Be concise.
This article will take you through a detailed description of how to write an acknowledgment for a research paper. It also provides a few acknowledgment samples to help you get started. So, keep reading to learn more!
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1. Use Formal Language
A research paper is a formal document where students or academic staff present their findings or interpretations after conducting research. Since acknowledgments are also part of these academic documents, writing them using informal language is inappropriate. For instance, it would be improper to use slang when writing your acknowledgment.
However, some students find it hard to differentiate between acknowledgment and dedication. As a result, they tend to use personal language in writing the former.
However, it’s crucial to note that all sections of a research paper, including the acknowledgment and dedication, should be in formal language.
When writing your acknowledgment:
- Write complete sentences – avoid using phrases such as “I strongly believe” as sentences since they’re incomplete.
- Use a professional tone – such as “I am grateful for the invaluable support of my supervisor, Dr. X.”
- Use an active voice – for instance, “My colleagues helped in editing and proofreading my paper,” and not “My research paper was edited and proofread by my colleagues.” However, some supervisors will allow you to use a passive voice in some scenarios. For example, “This research wouldn’t have been successful without the unwavering help of Professor X.”
- Avoid short-form words – like “they’re” instead of “they are.”
- Avoid using general titles (Mr., Miss, or Mrs.) – but include honorary titles such as Dr. or Professor.
2. Write in the First Person
Most forms of academic writing require authors to write in the form of a report. As a result, you’ll likely write most sections of your research paper in the third person.
Nevertheless, in the acknowledgment section, using the first-person point of view is preferable. Therefore, your sentences will start with first-person pronouns like “I” or “We,” depending on how many people have written the research paper.
Writing in the first person adds credibility to your acknowledgment, as it shows the author’s relationship with the contributors.
3. Don’t Exaggerate or Flatter
Conducting an in-depth study and writing a research paper isn’t a walk in the park. Students need guidance and assistance from various people, including lecturers, supervisors, laboratory technicians, and their colleagues. Therefore, you may want to express gratitude to everyone who walked the journey along with you using the best choice of words.
Unfortunately, we sometimes go overboard by exaggerating our expressions or using flattering language. Furthermore, we fail to note that some words may be inappropriate in an academic setting as they’re highly emotive. Therefore, it’s crucial to show respect and gratitude to those who helped us appropriately.
So, you can use several words or phrases that portray gratitude without sounding artificial, corny, or flattering. These include:
- “I would like to thank [….] for [………..].”
- “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to [……..] for [………].”
- “We are particularly grateful to [………..] for their support in [……….].”
- “Our special thanks to [………] for his guidance and commitment in [….].”
- “I appreciate Dr. X’s immense help in […..].”
- “We wish to acknowledge the assistance of […..] in [……].”
But avoid exaggerated or flattering words or phrases such as:
- “I am forever indebted and cannot find the right words to express my gratitude for the assistance that my supervisor accorded me. I don’t know where I would have been if it weren’t for the special dedication, commitment, and unwavering support that he gave me.”
- I will never forget the immense help and support my colleagues showed me when I sought their help writing this research paper. They are simply the best, and I can’t trade them for anything in this world.”
4. List the Contributors in Order of Their Contribution
Contributors are the people who offer their advice, support, or services that ease your research. It can be daunting to decide who makes it to your acknowledgment section while writing your research paper. Therefore, it would help if you knew the guidelines for contributors you can include in your acknowledgment.
According to Charlesworth Author Services, the format of various academic documents differ. In turn, how you write the acknowledgments – and who you include in these documents will also vary.
For instance, you can include your family and friends (for their moral support) in the acknowledgment section if you’re writing a thesis. However, you can’t do the same for a journal paper since you only have to acknowledge the most prevalent or valuable assistance.
When writing a research paper (as a student), it’s best to include the contributors that are specifically related to your research. So, it would be inappropriate to mention your friends or family members who offer personal encouragement.
Here are the contributors to mention in your research paper:
- Your lecturers and supervisors
- Your institution
- Those who offer direct technical assistance, including laboratory technicians, editors, and proofreaders
- Funding organizations (or donors)
- Administrative personnel or members of departments
- Former students
Note: Some institutions may allow students to include their family members and friends in their acknowledgments. However, such mentions should be brief and in a professional tone.
When writing your acknowledgment:
- List down all the contributors.
- Note down each person (or group)’s role in your research.
- Rank your contributors based on the importance or nature of their assistance. So, those who offered more support should be at the top and vice versa.
After listing and ranking your contributors, you can write your acknowledgment, describing how each individual (or organization) contributed to your research. Remember to show respect and gratitude to all of them using formal language.
5. Meet the Writing Requirements Given by Your Authorities
Academic institutions (colleges and universities) can differ in their guidelines on how to write a research paper. For example, the exact location where you should include the acknowledgment section in the paper can vary. Furthermore, the length and formatting requirements for the acknowledgment might differ from one institution to another.
As a result, it would be helpful to consult your supervisor or Professor on how to structure or format your acknowledgment (and research paper as a whole).
In most research papers, however, the acknowledgment is about or not more than 500 words. Additionally, it shouldn’t be more than a few paragraphs long. Some institutions require students only to include the relevant contributors and exclude those whose contribution wasn’t directly related to the research.
Note: The acknowledgment page in most research papers doesn’t require numbering.
6. Use Full Names or the Contributors’ Preferred Names
Under the formatting guidelines of most institutions, the contributors’ names should be in full. However, others allow using initials, for instance, when mentioning other authors if you’ve done the research as a team. Furthermore, the names of the funding organizations (or agencies) shouldn’t be abbreviated.
Nevertheless, some contributors might have preferences on how they want their names to appear on the acknowledgment. For example, your supervisor might require you to only include their honorary title and surname.
If you’re acknowledging several people from the same organization, it’s preferable to have a collective name to represent them, such as the company’s name.
When acknowledging people who provided essential data in your research, for instance, interviewees, it’s ethical to maintain their anonymity. Therefore, in your acknowledgment, it is best only to mention the generic name ‘interviewees’ and not their real names.
7. Be Concise
Since acknowledgments in most research papers are no more than 500 words long, it would help if you were concise. Therefore, providing more information than required when acknowledging your contributors is inappropriate. For instance, you don’t have to say that you made several trips to your supervisor’s office seeking their approval of your final draft.
Being concise in your acknowledgment helps you maintain a professional tone since you don’t provide any personal details. Moreover, it helps ensure that you meet your institution’s guidelines for the acknowledgment’s length and format.
Acknowledgment Samples for a Research Paper
Now, let’s have a look at different acknowledgment samples for research papers:
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisors, Professor […] and Dr. […], for their patient guidance, invaluable encouragement, and helpful critique throughout my research.
Special thanks to [the funding organization] for their financial support that facilitated the success of my research. I also wish to acknowledge the laboratory technicians from the […] department who went out of their way to provide essential resources for my study and assisted me in handling various equipment and apparatus.
Finally, I want to acknowledge my colleagues for reviewing my draft and offering useful advice.”
“I wish to extend my deep appreciation to the following companies, [….], [….], and [….] for their financial assistance. This research wouldn’t have been possible without their generous contribution.
I would also like to sincerely thank my supervisor, Professor […], for his constructive suggestions and guidance during the development of this work. I am particularly grateful to Dr. [….] for her experimental design and statistical analysis advice.
Finally, I would also like to thank […] and […] for proofreading the draft and for their useful comments that improved my paper.”
“This work and the research behind it wouldn’t have been possible without the exceptional assistance of my supervisors, [….] and […..]. Their timely guidance, insights, and recommendations kept my work on track. I am also grateful to the staff at [….organization] for allowing me to collect data by observing their daily operations.
Special thanks go to [….] and […], my colleagues who assisted me in data collection and analysis. I also acknowledge the three reviewers for their insightful comments on my draft. Lastly, I want to thank my parents for their unending support throughout my study.”
Acknowledgments play a significant role in research papers as they allow authors to recognize the contribution of various individuals and groups that helped them along the way.
Although the formats might differ among institutions, it’s recommendable to know the writing requirements provided by your authorities beforehand.
Luckily, it’s pretty easy to write an acknowledgment when you identify those whose help was relevant to your work and rank them in the correct order.
- National Library of Medicine: Acknowledgments are Not Just Thank You Notes: A qualitative analysis of acknowledgments content in scientific articles and reviews published in 2015
- AJE Scholar: Writing Acknowledgments for Your Research Paper
- Scribbr: Ethical Considerations in Research
- Hong Kong Polytechnic University: Guidelines for Writing Acknowledgments