Thesis Vs Dissertation

Thesis Vs Dissertation:

Thesis and dissertation are two such terms which are very much familiar with the graduate students. Although these two terms are different but a vast majority of people use these terms interchangeably. The definitions provided in the dictionary for these two terms do not distinguish much between these  subjects.

Dissertation has been defined as:

“An extended usually written treatment of a subject; specifically: one submitted for a doctorate.” by Merriam- Webster

While it defines thesis as:

“A dissertation embodying results of original research and especially substantiating a specific view; especially: one written by the candidate for academic degree (Merriam-Webster, n.d.-c).

Correspondingly, dissertation has been defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as:

“A long essay on a particular subject, especially one written for a university degree or diploma” (, n.d.-a)

And thesis is defined as:

“A long essay or dissertation involving personal research, written as part of a university degree” and provides the example of “a doctoral thesis” (, n.d.-b).

Similarities between Thesis & Dissertation:

In line with the dictionary definitions there does not seem much difference between both the terms. However, in reality, in the field of academics these terms have a fine and clear line of demarcation. Before actually getting into the differences between both we should try to know what is so similar about them which has made these two subjects similar to students.

  • Thesis and dissertation are extensive papers assigned to students at graduate level.
  • Both have similar structure and divided into sections viz. Introduction, Review of literature, Material and methods, Results and Discussion, Summary, References and Appendix.
  • As the length of the papers is large, students are given a great deal of time to complete these projects.
  •  The due date is the final year of the degree programme.
  • In both the thesis and dissertation students are allotted to specific supervisors who guide them for the project and provide necessary facilities for conducting the experiments and the research.

Difference between Thesis & Dissertation: 

Apart from so many similarities, there are certain dissimilarities between Thesis and Dissertation which create a clear line of distinction between both the subjects. A thesis is assigned to the student pursuing a master’s degree whereas a dissertation is assigned to a doctorate student. However, this is not a really big difference between both as there are master’s programmes which do not demand from students the submission of thesis.

  • The major difference between the thesis and dissertation is the intent or purpose. Where a thesis checks how much knowledge you have about your subject, the dissertation is more about what new practices, theories and information you can offer to your field. A thesis which is to be submitted at master’s level tests the understanding of the student in their subject field or discipline. It is more about how critically a student can think about their subject and in turn provide a detailed information from what they have understood from that.
  • The basis of the hypothesis or proposition put forward by the student for master’s thesis are the previous research works already published in his discipline. On the contrary, the foundation of a dissertation is original and novel research. When a student is given dissertation at the doctorate level, he is expected to propose a novel hypothesis that has not been tested earlier in his field of study. Thus, the student should perform research and experiments and analyse the results to further prove or disprove the proposed hypothesis. In master’s program the purpose of the research is to provide lab expertise and help the students to gain expertise and skills for analysing data and carrying out different types of statistical analyses rather than coming up with an original piece of research. A thesis in a way can be considered as a door to dissertation.  The content of the dissertation is attributed to the student who acts as the main author of the research. Master’s thesis works on the already established and proven hypothesis.
  • In addition, there is a difference in the length of the thesis and dissertation. The length of the master’s thesis can be near about 100 pages or a little beyond that. On the contrary, a dissertation is two to three times wider and lengthy than the master’s thesis. This is bit obvious as dissertations are complex tasks which involve huge amount of background information, analyses of research information, detailed proposal and how we came at a particular hypothesis from the analysed research works. The complexity of the dissertations is not something to be fearful about as each graduate student has a major dissertation advisor and committee members who help the student to find appropriate resources and take their research in the right direction.

End note: 

There could be various reasons for undertaking a dissertation or a thesis project. The first and foremost reason is because our graduate degree demands us to do so. Apart from that there are better reasons for doing so as well. The most practical reason could be our future career plans. Theses and dissertation projects are the excellent examples to showcase our intelligence, conceptual, analytical, communication and writing skills which would be helpful for getting into the job a research assistant, teaching positions or it could be placement in various industries. In addition, the publications that emerge from our master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation can prove a milestone in our professional career. The publications help the researcher to gain name and fame in the world of science. There could also be intellectual reasons behind pursuing a thesis or dissertation. Some people feel immense satisfaction by putting them into challenging conceptual tasks and eventually coming up with a solution. A student becomes far more confident and self-reliant after the completion of the thesis or the dissertation. Though thesis, as well as dissertation writing involve a lot of energy, critical thinking and a tremendous amount of time, we should never be overwhelmed by the idea of getting enrolled in a thesis or dissertation project as our educational journey so far has prepared us enough to carry out these projects efficiently and effectively.

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