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Writing Acknowledgments for Your Research Paper
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In this article, we describe what types of contributions warrant mention in the acknowledgments section of a paper .
In another article, we discuss four criteria that must be met for an individual to qualify for manuscript authorship. In this article, we describe what types of contributions warrant mention in the acknowledgments section of a paper instead. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) describes several roles that merit acknowledgment, rather than authorship:
“acquisition of funding; general supervision of a research group or general administrative support; and writing assistance, technical editing, language editing, and proofreading.”
You should also acknowledge direct technical assistance, including help with animals, cells, equipment, patients, procedures, or techniques or provision of data, equipment, reagents, or samples, as well as more indirect assistance via intellectual discussions. Note that all of these contributions are typically more mechanical, indirect, and/or one-dimensional than those of authors. Additionally, some argue that individuals who provided help and could be chosen as a peer reviewer, leading to a potential conflict of interest, should be cited.
In any case, the ICMJE states that contributors may be cited individually or collectively and that their precise contributions should be specified.
e.g., “We thank Dr. X and Dr. Y for performing the surgeries” or “We thank the physicians who performed the surgeries”
Institutional affiliations may or may not be mentioned, depending on the journal’s guidelines. Finally, the ICMJE encourages written permission from acknowledged individuals “because acknowledgment may imply endorsement.”
Funding sources should also be mentioned in the acknowledgments section, unless your target journal requires a separate section for this information. Whether the funding was partial or full, relevant grant numbers, and the author(s) who received the funding, if applicable, should be detailed as well. Note that acknowledging grants and fellowships is in fact required by many funding agencies and research institutions.
In contrast, contributions that are not specifically related to your research, including personal encouragement (e.g., by your friends or parents) and very general help (e.g., from a laboratory manager who purchases all supplies for your research group), should not be cited. Additionally, anonymous editors and peer reviewers are usually not thanked in the acknowledgments section; many journals (such as American Physical Society journals) explicitly discourage this practice because it is difficult to comprehensively acknowledge all anonymous support and because this practice could potentially bias reviewers.
The writing style of acknowledgments sections may vary according to the journal, but generally, these sections are written in the first person and are as succinct as possible. A statement about conflicts of interest, citation of previous publication in poster or abstract form, and other information may also be included in this section, again depending on the journal. As you proceed through revisions for one journal or if you change your target journal, remember to reformat as necessary and to update your acknowledgments if additional help was obtained during the revision, such as with editing or new experiments.
Although an acknowledgments section may be appended to the end of your manuscript or relegated to a footnote, it is not a trivial component. By acknowledging all help received with your research, you are demonstrating your integrity as a researcher, which in turn encourages continued collaboration. You may also be bolstering your colleagues’ careers, as being credited in an acknowledgments section is emerging as one of many gauges of a researcher’s professional impact beyond citations (see ImpactStory, based on altmetrics). Furthermore, information about who provided certain data, equipment, protocols, reagents, or samples may be of help to other researchers in your field.
This editing tip has hopefully elucidated what to include in the acknowledgments section of your manuscript and why this section is significant. If you have any comments or questions, please contact us. Best wishes in your research and writing!
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GUIDELINES FOR WRITING ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
A page of acknowledgements is usually included at the beginning of a Final Year Project, immediately after the Table of Contents.
Acknowledgements enable you to thank all those who have helped in carrying out the research. Careful thought needs to be given concerning those whose help should be acknowledged and in what order. The general advice is to express your appreciation in a concise manner and to avoid strong emotive language.
Note that personal pronouns such as 'I, my, me …' are nearly always used in the acknowledgements while in the rest of the project such personal pronouns are generally avoided.
The following list includes those people who are often acknowledged.
Note however that every project is different and you need to tailor your acknowledgements to suit your particular situation.
Other academic staff in your department
Technical or support staff in your department
Academic staff from other departments
Other institutions, organizations or companies
* If you wish to acknowledge the help of family members or friends make sure you restrict the wording of your thanks to a relatively formal register.
Study the two examples below. In each one, the acknowledgement of a friend and a family member has been expressed in an inappropriate manner. Read the acknowledgement and then answer the questions that follow.
I wish to thank my boyfriend Jack for his assistance with the statistics used in this report.
This sounds too personal. Why? Type your suggestions here.
How could it be improved? Type your revised version here
I would like to thank my mother for providing me with delicious dinners when I came home late from the university.
This sounds too personal. Why? Type your suggestions here.
How could it be improved? Type your revised version here.
Common expressions used to acknowledge assistance
The following vocabulary/phrases are often used when expressing acknowledgements and they may be of help when writing your own acknowledgements.
|I would like to express my very great appreciation to ***|
I would like to offer my special thanks to ***
Advice given by *** has been a great help in ***
I am particularly grateful for the assistance given by ***
Assistance provided by *** was greatly appreciated.
I wish to acknowledge the help provided by ***
Dr *** provided me with very valuable ***
I would like to thank the following companies for their assistance with the collection of my data:
My special thanks are extended to the staff of *** company for ***
Read through the following examples of acknowledgements taken (with permission) from past students' final year projects.
I would like to express my very great appreciation to Dr *** for his valuable and constructive suggestions during the planning and development of this research work. His willingness to give his time so generously has been very much appreciated.
I would also like to thank the staff of the following organizations for enabling me to visit their offices to observe their daily operations:
I would like to express my deep gratitude to Professor *** and Professor ***, my research supervisors, for their patient guidance, enthusiastic encouragement and useful critiques of this research work. I would also like to thank Dr. ***, for her advice and assistance in keeping my progress on schedule. My grateful thanks are also extended to Mr. *** for his help in doing the meteorological data analysis, to Ms ***, who helped me calculate the wind pressure coefficient and to Ms *** and Mr. *** for their support in the site measurement.
I would also like to extend my thanks to the technicians of the laboratory of the *** department for their help in offering me the resources in running the program.
Finally, I wish to thank my parents for their support and encouragement throughout my study.
I wish to thank various people for their contribution to this project; Mr. *** and Ms ***, for their valuable technical support on this project; Mr. *** and Ms ***, staff of *** Government Office, for their help in collecting the plant data and all the technicians who helped me in handling the instruments.