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Writing the Acknowledgements Section of a Research Article

Who should you acknowledge in a research article in the social sciences?

Many things went right (and, perhaps wrong) in your writing of a research article in the social sciences. You should acknowledge the help that you received.

But, who should you acknowledge?

The ethical core of an acknowledgment section in a research article in the social sciences is honesty: you are to publicly recognize and declare that you had help with your article. That help can come from people and organizations.

This post discusses who to acknowledge in a research article in the social sciences.

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Acknowledge People

If this is a peer reviewed article, at minimum, the people who helped you are the editor and the reviewer(s). They can be thanked, here. Most likely, there are those who you discussed or shared the article with prior to publication. It would be good to publicly acknowledge them, as they gave their time and effort to help this paper get to the publishing stage.

It does not have to be everyone you ever discussed it with: you can be judicious and fair at the same time.

Acknowledge Organizations

There are three main types or organizations to acknowledge.

1. The place in which you conducted the research.

Even if they did not pay you directly for the publication, the place in which you conducted the research (e.g. your affiliation) had provided the infrastructure that you needed to conduct and write the research. If this is the place where you work, that acknowledgement comes in the form of the institutional affiliation that you put after your name in the article. If it is somewhere other than your place of work (research visits or former employer, etc.), publicly declare it in the acknowledgements section.

2. The conference, seminar, or workshop where you presented the research.

If you presented a version of that paper in a conference, seminar, or workshop, taxpayers or dues paying members or any combination of these funded that event. It would be good to publicly acknowledge it.

3. The direct funding — funding organization — for the research.

The funding likely came from the government, which means that it came from the taxpayers. Sometimes it comes from private sources. This funding acknowledgement is so important that most journals require you to disclose it when submitting your article for publication. If you received a fellowship, scholarship, or employment whose task it was to do research on the topic of your article, and in the course of that you worked on the article, the ethical decision is to publicly acknowledge it.

The acknowledgment should come with the grant number. If you require even light mental gymnastics to not put the grant number on it, then the best thing to do is to simply acknowledge the grant. Remember: the journals require this disclosure. If you are in doubt, ask the principle investigator of the grant or, if feasible, the administrator of the funding source.

Joshua K. Dubrow is a PhD from The Ohio State University and a Professor of Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences.

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