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Supervisors will know the sad truth if the cat gets more lines than they do. I really like thanks to supervisors that carry a sense of who they were in the drama, like “My supervisor, who kept a sense of humour when I had lost mine”; “my supervisor, whose maddening attention to detail drove me to finally learn to punctuate prose”; or “my supervisor, whose selfless time and care were sometimes all that kept me going.” A precisely-worded acknowledgement like a perfectly chosen gift. Do others feel, though, that the end result is happier all round if supervisors offer to critically read the acknowledgements too?Or would it be more appropriately a place where academic advisors could give objective advice?
So it is good to start a draft within six months of submission, and revise it for the full satisfaction of a job well done on graduation, with all dues paid.
The usual structuring principles apply: those who gave most should be given the most thanks. Some supervisors tend not to give advice on acknowledgments, because they expecting to be thanked, so it feels preemptive.
They should also acknowledge proofreaders and editors—that is a requirement at the University of Auckland where I work, and a good one in terms of honesty in authorship.
Such formal thanks are usually in the first paragraph or two.
Close family members are often the people who gave the most (although some supervisors are likely to feel this is not true).
It is important that a student acknowledges the formal carefully, though: any person or institution that has contributed funding to the project, other researchers who have been involved in the research, institutions that have aided the research in some way.
Typically the structure moves from thanking the most formal support to the least formal thanks as detailed above–funders, supervisors, other academics, colleagues, and finally family.
This makes sense according to the logic of incremental progression because the informal thanks to family are often the most heartfelt.
If you look through a dozen or so at a time, you will hear the screams, the manic laughter, catching the sombre tragedy and the sense of awe and agony that underpins the doctoral life span.
Acknowledgements are non-consequential in that a student is not evaluated on them, unlike the rest of the prose they have laboured over.