thesis vs dissertation

Posted: October 8th, 2020

Difference between a Thesis and a Dissertation

Before graduating from the university, a student is required to submit a final project before completing school. The final project differs for different levels of learning. Needless to emphasize, your final school project requires you to give it your best shot. It demands in-depth research, impressive writing skills, and a lot of work.

Three common final project papers will be required of you, depending on your level of tertiary education: a research paper, a thesis, and a dissertation. A research paper is quite common, and we have our guideline for anyone looking to write a research paper. Things get tough when it gets to writing a thesis or a dissertation. Most students think the two terms refer to the same thing, but they are two different projects with different writing styles.

Our guide will explain the difference between these two documents. We have also included useful tips for writing both documents and uploaded samples illustrating the difference further.

At the undergraduate level, you will be required to submit a research paper for your

Is a thesis a dissertation?

Though the two terms are frequently used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. The only common thing the two share is a structure.

Both have an introduction section, literature review, body section, conclusion, bibliography, and an appendix section. That is the only similarity the two share. Let us look at their definitions and differences.

Thesis writing

What is a thesis?

In the U.S., a thesis is an academic paper that a student looking to graduate with a master’s degree must undertake as his or her final project. Contrary to that, in the U.K., a thesis is a scholarly paper that a student looking to obtain a Ph.D. needs to work on as his or her final project.

The aim of writing a thesis is for the student to showcase their expertise and knowledge relating to a subject they have been studying.

What is a dissertation?

In the U.S., a dissertation is a document that a student submits when looking to graduate from a Ph.D. program. On the other hand, in the U.K., a dissertation is a paper that a student submits as the final project to graduate from a Masters’ program.

A dissertation is a lengthy piece of work and tends to be longer than a thesis. It includes either expanded or original research on an existing or a new topic. The student gets to choose their title, which should be in the scope of your study field.

 What is the difference between a thesis and a dissertation U.S.?

In the United States, a thesis refers to the final project required to obtain a master’s degree. On the other hand, a dissertation is a final project required to get a doctoral degree.

Therefore, a master’s student takes on a thesis as their final project, while a Ph.D. student takes a dissertation as their final project before graduation.

A master’s student must pick a topic and perform research to demonstrate the skills acquired during their master’s program. On the other hand, a Ph. D. student must write a dissertation in which it should include new knowledge relevant to your field.

What is the difference between a thesis and a dissertation U.K.?

A thesis refers to a final project; a doctoral student does before graduation. A dissertation then refers to a research project that a master’s student works on to graduate.

difference between thesis and dissertation

Thesis Vs. Dissertation

There are two reasons why we conduct research; to discover knowledge that existed but unknown, or use existing knowledge and build on it to introduce something new. We have previously discussed the difference between the two based on geographical locations. Here is an in-depth discussion of the differences between the two;

  • Content

Both are research papers that seek to testify the knowledge of the student to the examining board. However, there is a difference in their levels of complexity.

A thesis done at the master’s level should be written more like a report. Iy should include what the student has learned about a subject, their understanding, and a critical analysis of the topic. Towards the end, it includes any related idea the student may have come up with during the research.

Contrariwise, when writing the results of the data obtained and findings of your research in a dissertation, it should include new knowledge. Therefore, a dissertation should investigate something unique, which no one else has studied deeply enough. Therefore, a dissertation must include new knowledge.

  • Volume

A thesis has an average of around 60 pages for a bachelor’s level, and an average of 80 pages for the masters level. Conversely, a dissertation is longer and comprises of hundreds of pages, between 200 and 300.

Aside from the document requirements, the field of study also plays a crucial role in the volume of the paper. Disciplines such as science and economics tend to study the world empirically. They include less text and significantly lower word counts than other disciplines such as literature, psychology, and arts.

The amount of work dedicated to each paper is dependent on your degree. For instance, a master thesis has a narrow set of declines compared to a doctoral thesis.

  • Defense

Both the thesis and dissertation will need to be presented before a board. The board mostly constitutes university professors who listen and evaluate the value of your proposal.

After your presentation, the board lead can pose questions regarding the topic presented in the dissertation or thesis. The duration allocated to each defense depends on how broad the research was.

Therefore, a thesis is presented for between 10 and 30 minutes, while a dissertation presentation takes about 30 minutes to several hours at the most. If the board doesn’t approve the paper for one reason or the other, you, as the student, can make adjustments or conduct another research.

  • Supervision

When writing both a thesis and a dissertation, you need guidance from a professor or instructor from the institution. When writing a thesis at the masters level, you are allocated, one supervisor. On the other hand, doctoral students tend to work independently since they have more authority to undergo the process on their own.

Similarities between a Thesis and Dissertation

  • Both share a similar structure. They start with the introduction section, followed by the literature review, the main body, and the conclusion. After the conclusion, there is a bibliography and appendix
  • Both should be created before submitting the final paper. The thesis and dissertation is a piece of introduction to the content of the final document.
  • Both are required by an institution of higher education to obtain a certain degree.
  • Like other academic papers, both are sensitive to plagiarism.
  • They need the student to demonstrate a complete understanding of the topic or unit and possess analytical skills.
  • Both scholarly articles are used by the student to defend their argument.
  • The two papers’ objective is to explain theories and concepts and the practical implications that the student acquired during their time in school.


Differences between a Thesis and Dissertation

  • In the U.S., a thesis is required for a student looking to obtain a master’s degree, while a dissertation is required for a student looking to get a Ph.D. degree.
  • A thesis must have 100 pages or more. On the other hand, a dissertation is longer than a thesis. It should be between 200 and 300 words.
  • A thesis builds on existing research, while a dissertation forces the student to find a topic and conduct research on it. Therefore content written in a dissertation attributed the author to be the student.
  • The two have a difference when it comes to the purpose of the study. A thesis relies on secondary sources to prove to your instructor that you have gained enough information relating to your field of interest over the years. On the other hand, a dissertation is written to add your contribution to your study field, based on your research.
  • The two have different meanings depending on geographical location. In the U.S., a thesis is written by a master’s student, while a Ph.D. candidate writes a dissertation. A Ph.D. student does a thesis in the U.K., while a master’s student does a dissertation.
  • The mode of data collection also varies. A dissertation uses primary data such as interviews, focus groups, while a thesis relies majorly on secondary data such as books, existing studies, survey reports, and articles.


Thesis and Dissertation Sample

It would help to see the difference between a thesis and a dissertation in a written form. Here is a sample of a thesis and dissertation.

While it may be easy to assume your thesis or dissertation is complete and in the right format, it is wise to hire an editor. Some editors will check for general language while our professional editors check for the format, flow, use of language, and so much more. Contact us today and let us handle your editing needs.


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Tips to Remember When Writing Your Thesis

There is an extensive in-depth copy on how to write a thesis statement. However, here are some main tips to remember when writing your thesis;

  • You should never use the first person
  • It should be written in precise language
  • Make it contestable to engage the reader.
  • It should be written in a way that either assumes or disapproves other arguments
  • Ensure it is specific, focused, and complete


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Bottom Line

Irrespective of where you are studying, you will have to write either thesis or dissertation to graduate with a Masters’ or Ph.D. degree. The main difference between the two is the University level, which you finish them. While the papers are crucial, don’t let the prospect of having to conduct research and write the papers worry you, Order your perfect paper today and spend more time studying for your other units.

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