Key differences between Thesis and Dissertation

Key differences between Thesis and Dissertation
Key differences between Thesis and Dissertation

Key differences between Thesis and Dissertation


A thesis is a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree or professional qualification presenting the author’s research and findings. In some contexts, the word “thesis” or a cognate is used for part of a bachelor’s or master’s course, while “dissertation” is normally applied to a doctorate.

A thesis is an academic paper completed near the end of a student’s course of study for a master’s degree program. Note that most master’s degrees require the completion of a thesis for graduation. Some bachelor’s degree programs even require students to write an undergraduate thesis, which is typically shorter and less in-depth than a master’s degree thesis.

To write a master’s thesis, students select a reasonably narrow topic of interest in their field. For example, if you’re earning a degree in nutrition science, you might examine the effects of varying compositions of pregame meals on athletic performance.

The next step is to conduct an in-depth review of existing research on your topic. You would then formulate an academic argument (for example, that high-carb pre-game meals are advantageous for endurance athletes) and use the existing research to prove your assertion.

A thesis is typically structured in a relatively rigid format, depending on the policies of the university and the individual department. The following components are often required: 

  1. Title page
  2. Abstract (summary)
  3. Table of contents
  4. Table of figures/maps
  5. Body, typically divided into chapters
  6. Conclusion/results

What Is a Dissertation?

In contrast to a thesis, students working on a doctoral dissertation conduct their own original research after reviewing the established research. The goal of a dissertation is not only to prove the student’s own knowledge and skills but also to add to the existing body of knowledge in their field.

Students may present a new theory or hypothesis in their field or present research disproving a previously presented theory. Alternatively, they may tackle a new angle, taking the established research in a new direction.

The traditional order is to take doctoral courses, complete the qualifying exams and then write the dissertation. However, there are exceptions to this. At some universities, the dissertation process is integrated into the coursework. This allows students to get a jumpstart on their research while working toward the completion of their course requirements. As a result, they may graduate more quickly.

The process of writing a dissertation begins in a way similar to the process for a master’s thesis. Students select their topic and then conduct a literature review, which is a thorough analysis of the existing research on that topic. From there, students can work on developing a new theory, debunking a previously established theory or finding a new angle on an existing theory.

The dissertation defense is often one of the most intimidating aspects of the doctoral degree program. However, students work closely with their selected committees throughout the dissertation process. This means you can rest assured that if your committee has allowed your work to proceed to the point of the dissertation defense point, then your dissertation will almost certainly be accepted, and you will be granted your degree after your successful defense.

Like that of a thesis, the specific makeup of a dissertation depends on the policies and requirements of the university and the doctoral candidate’s department. In general, however, dissertations include the following:

  1. Title page
  2. Acknowledgements
  3. Abstract
  4. Table of contents
  5. Introduction
  6. Literature review and theoretical framework
  7. Methodology
  8. Findings
  9. Discussion of findings (interpretation, analysis and applications)
  10. Conclusion
  11. Reference list
  12. Appendices

Key differences between Thesis and Dissertation

The primary difference between a thesis and a dissertation is the degree programs that require these projects. Students in a master’s degree program will write a thesis, whereas students in a doctoral degree program will complete a dissertation.

Another difference between the two projects is that a dissertation usually requires an oral defense, whereas a thesis generally does not. After submitting the completed dissertation to their dissertation committees, students will schedule dates for the oral presentation of their work. The committee members will ask questions and sometimes pose challenges. Students must be able to justify their methodology and interpretation of their findings.

Additionally, as you might expect, a typical master’s thesis is far shorter than a typical doctoral degree dissertation. A thesis might be between 40 and 80 pages, although it can vary from one degree program to the next. In contrast, the average dissertation is between 100 and 300 pages.

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Peter Hezekiah Lawson (Sir Pee). The CEO of A reputable researcher, Web Developer, ICT Instructor and a publisher of many research works in Education.