Writing the acknowledgements section of a research paper

The general belief is that the acknowledgements section of a typical research paper is the easiest part to write. This is why most books on writing research papers often skip this section. Nonetheless, acknowledgements can be quite tricky.

Forgetting to acknowledge people whom you should have acknowledged, runs the risk of offending them. However, even those you have acknowledged may take offence at the manner you have done that. On some occasions, when the help received is substantial, it would be difficult to make a decision whether to acknowledge the support or rather offer authorship.

This article aims to discuss the aim of the acknowledgements section in an article and offers tips on who should be mentioned in it and how, who should be excluded, and how the section should be formatted.

Why do we acknowledge this?

In the academic realm, citing someone’s work has been the routine method of acknowledging his/her work, though that does not apply here. And yet, it is only proper that you refer to the helps you received in conducting your research by appropriate mention in the acknowledgements section.

This way you make your work more credible. For example, by acknowledging the help you received from a statistician in designing your work and in analysing the obtained results, you reassure journal editors and other reviewers about the experimental design and analysis of results. In the same way, by acknowledging the help received from a copy editor you indirectly ensure the reviewers about the language, style, and formatting of your research paper.

Whom we should acknowledge?

Generally speaking, you should acknowledge people who assisted you by going beyond their call of duty, particularly those whose help proved crucial to your work or provided the expertise that you needed. These people may be among your students, your peers, or even your mentors (e.g., research supervisors).

It should be noted that the funds you received should be acknowledged as well. Some funding agencies may have specific instructions about the way their funding should be mentioned. If this is the case, make sure your style of acknowledgement conformity with such instructions. Moreover, any material or resources that have been provided to you free of charge should be acknowledged as well. However, in case such help is mentioned as part of a conflict-of-interest statement, it should not be repeated in the acknowledgements section again.

You should consider acknowledging reviewers, even if they are anonymous if their suggestions have improved your manuscript significantly.

It is recommended to have your phrasing approved by those you have mentioned in the acknowledgements section since such a mention can imply that they have approved the contents of the research paper.

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