Dissertation vs Thesis – What’s the Difference?

Categories: dissertation, thesis

“Thesis” and “dissertation” – these terms have made people scratch their hands not once. To make things even more obscure, they are quite often used interchangeably. What’s obvious, though, is that when you’re facing the need to write one of these, you’ve come to an important milestone in your education and scientific career. But what exactly do you have to do to pass this landmark successfully? We’ll do our best to disambiguate the terms and shed light onto the issue.

The Degree and the Original Purpose

The most important feature that should help distinguish between the two papers is the degree one pursues. Most of the time, you’ll be required to write a thesis in the end of Master’s program. A dissertation, in its turn, is necessary to obtain a doctorate in the field of studies you’ve chosen. It is also possible to say that a thesis is more practically inclined, while a dissertation is aimed at bringing a completely new contribution to the sphere. However, the definitions might vary, depending on the college or university you’re in.

Research Content

Other features, that help differentiate between the notions are depth and nature of research. A Master’s thesis is intended to test student’s awareness of the fundamentals and peculiarities related to their field of studies. The work will usually be based on an original thesis statement, proven by the results of other’s work.

A dissertation has to be concentrated on an absolutely unique idea, examined by one’s own experiments and analysis. Its main goal is to confirm one’s being a competent member of an academic community. Thus, facing the need to write a dissertation you’ve got to realize that your project will require lots of your own, independent work.

Scope and Time

The number of pages may differ, regarding requirements of your thesis and dissertation committee. General truth is, though, that a thesis will frequently be shorter than a presentation. The data about the scope of a thesis differs, nevertheless, on average it’s going to occupy around 100 pages. A dissertation will generally be 2 or 3 times longer. All in all, these “measurements” differ in each individual case, concerning the standards, established by your college and the depth of your work.

To write a thesis, a student may be given from a semester to a whole year. A dissertation may take up much longer: from a year to as long as you can drag on with it: in some cases, people manage to spend 10 years, conducting research and writing the whole thing. Remember, though, that starting early is very likely to save kilometers of your nerves.


That’s the feature, uniting both types of papers. No matter what you write: either a thesis or a dissertation, you don’t have to do all the work alone. Usually your instructor will be ready to provide you with advice and recommendations to make your work truly professional and comprehensive.

Otherwise, you may always turn to your peers for help. Community of those, struggling to write really good papers, is usually very supportive and understanding. Most probably, you’re not the only one to deal with the issues, concerning the paper. Thus, don’t start with reinventing the wheel. Someone might have found the most effective solution to the problem already.

So… What Do I Do Now?

Now, the difference is, hopefully, less or more clear. Don’t get too relaxed though. The conclusions, expressed above, are based on the requirements of major universities. The best thing you could do to yourself here is not to wait too long to consult your instructor to get more precise guidelines. Things may turn out to be completely opposite.

Once you fully understand the direction of your efforts, take action. You may encounter a lot of difficulties, writing either a thesis or a dissertation. Nonetheless, the most serious obstacle students face is procrastination. So pull yourself together and get moving as early as possible.

Last, but not least: don’t panic. Both a thesis and a dissertation are challenging and time-consuming. Don’t feel bad about all the work you’ll have to do. Think of that great feeling, that’s going to come once you finish the project. You’re going to cope just great!

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