Thesis vs. Dissertation – Learn and Understand the Similarities and Differences

Home » Thesis vs. Dissertation – Learn and Understand the Similarities and Differences

If you are a student who is pursuing a graduate degree, then frequently you would have heard the terms thesis and dissertation. Basically, in order to obtain graduation, you must submit either thesis or dissertation as a part of your final year academic project during your course duration. Some people think that the terms thesis and dissertation are the same. But actually, they both are different except for a few similarities. Each country uses the terms differently, i.e. in certain countries, both the terms are used interchangeably while in a few countries the term ‘thesis’ is linked to a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and the term ‘dissertation’ is linked to a doctorate degree.

Do you know the real definition of thesis or dissertation? Are you aware of the similarities and differences between thesis and dissertation? Don’t worry, if you have no idea about it.

Especially to help you in getting a better understanding, here, in this blog post we have presented a comparison of thesis vs. dissertation. Also, we have explained how the terms thesis and dissertation are used in the countries like the USA and Europe.

Continue reading this blog post to know more about thesis vs. dissertation.

What is a Thesis?

A thesis is an academic paper that is written at the end of the course of study for a master’s degree program. Mainly, in order to receive graduation, the students who are pursuing their master’s degree must complete and submit their thesis on a specific thesis topics relevant to their course. Even some bachelor’s degree courses also require the students to write an undergraduate thesis. But typically, the undergraduate thesis will be shorter and less in-depth than a master’s degree thesis.


What is a Thesis


If you want to craft a master’s thesis, then firstly, you should select a reasonable narrow topic of interest in your field of study. Next, you should conduct a deep review of the existing research on the topic you have selected. Then, you should formulate an academic argument and prove your assertion by using the existing research.

When it comes to writing a thesis, you should organize your ideas and structure your paper in a format depending on the guidelines of your university or department. The following are some common key components that should be included in your thesis.

  • Title page
  • Abstract (summary)
  • Table of contents
  • Figures/maps Table
  • Introduction
  • Body, typically divided into chapters
  • Conclusion/results

What is a Dissertation?

A dissertation is contrasting to a thesis. When it comes to writing a doctoral dissertation, you should conduct your own original research after reviewing the established research. The main aim of a dissertation is to prove your own knowledge and skills along with adding more knowledge to the field.

Here, you may present a new theory or hypothesis in your field, or present a study disapproving an already presented theory. Alternatively, you can also think from a new perspective and take the established research in a new direction.

The dissertation writing process is almost similar to the process of writing a master’s thesis. Firstly, you should select your dissertation topic and then perform a literature review. Basically, a literature review is an in-depth analysis of the existing research on the dissertation topics you have selected. Next, after conducting a literature review, you should develop a new theory, debunk an already established theory or find a new angle on the existing theory.

In general, a dissertation is one of the most intimidating aspects of the Ph.D. program. However, you can work closely with your selection committee through the dissertation writing process. This means, that if your selection committee allows you to work until the dissertation defense point, then your dissertation will be mostly accepted and you will be granted graduation after your successful defense.

Like a thesis, the Ph.D. dissertation should also be crafted as per the policies and requirements of your university or the department. The following are the essential components, a typical dissertation contains.

  • Title page
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Literature review and theoretical framework
  • Methodology
  • Findings
  • Discussion of findings (interpretation, analysis, and applications)
  • Conclusion
  • Reference list
  • Appendices

Thesis vs. Dissertation: Differences

The basic difference between a thesis and a dissertation purely depends on the degree program you complete. In general, a thesis is a research project that marks the end of a master’s program whereas the dissertation is submitted during the Ph.D. or doctoral study.

Another major difference between the two is that a thesis will not require any oral defense whereas a dissertation requires an oral defense. Once you submit the dissertation to the committee, you will have to schedule a date for the oral presentation of your research work. The committee will ask questions regarding your work and sometimes pose challenges. At that time, you should be able to justify your methodology and interpret your findings.

Basically, for writing a thesis you should conduct original research on the selected topic. But on the other hand, for a dissertation, you should use existing research in the field. Additionally, both the terms also share some differences in the literature review. While preparing a thesis, you should include a thesis analysis of the existing literature. In contrast, a dissertation is part of a study of already published literature.

A thesis ensures that a researcher is well-informed and has a good knowledge of the research topic. But on the other hand, a dissertation gives the opportunity for the researchers to find new theories or contribute more to the existing literature in the research field.

In simple terms, a thesis is a presentation of learned and existing information. But the purpose of a dissertation is to generate a unique concept and defend it with practical and theoretical results.

The preparation of a thesis does not require a comprehensive work process. But on the other hand, for a dissertation, you should do more extensive work to develop research and prepare hypotheses in a specific area.

Thesis vs. Dissertation: Length Differences

The length of both thesis and dissertation also has a significant difference. In general, a master’s thesis is shorter than a doctoral dissertation. Mostly, a thesis length range between 40 and 80 pages whereas an average dissertation length ranges between 100 and 300 pages. But remember there is no fixed length for thesis and dissertation, it typically varies from one course to other, and from one topic to another topic.

In a thesis, you should mainly include background and research information. But on the other hand, a dissertation should contain a research proposal, grant proposal, literature review, and every tiny detail about the research. As a dissertation includes a wide range of details, its length will be three times larger than the length of a thesis.

Thesis vs. Dissertation: Similarities

Despite the differences, both thesis and dissertation also have a set of similarities. Generally, the preparation of these two academic papers requires in-depth research and original writing. In addition to that, they both also require the following.

  • Ability to defend an academic argument.
  • Critical thinking and analytical reasoning.
  • In-depth expertise in a subject area.
  • Investment of time and effort.
  • An accurate understanding of the research problem.
  • No plagiarism.
  • Ability to rewrite and edit based on feedback from committee members or professors.
  • Intense editing and critical proofreading.

Another similarity is the presence of the committee. Usually, doctoral degree students will work with a committee that comprises faculty members, advisors, and professional who guides the research and writing. But for a master’s thesis, it is customary to have a committee.

In both thesis and dissertation, the primary point of contact for the students is the committee chair. The main role of the committee chair is to shape the direction of the students’ research and writing.

Mainly, for all the degree programs, either a thesis or dissertation is a mandatory requirement to obtain a graduate degree. It is typically treated as a capstone project.

Thesis vs. Dissertation: Europe

As said earlier, based on the location, the context of the thesis and dissertation also differs. Here, let us have a look at what thesis and dissertation refer to in Europe.

Basically, in Europe, the original distinction between a thesis and dissertation has been retained largely. A doctoral thesis is a piece of research paper that is prepared to obtain a Ph.D. degree. On the other hand, a dissertation is written as a part of a postgraduate research project.

As the thesis, is prepared based on original research, it requires extensive background research. Hence, it includes citations and references to the sources that have been used in the paper.

Thesis vs. Dissertation in the UK: Comparison Table

    Large in size, typically extends beyond 200 pages.Small in size, mainly it ranges around 40-80 typed pages.
    It is written to get a doctorate degree.A dissertation is prepared mainly to obtain a master’s degree.
    For the preparation of a thesis, the data you use should be original and collected on your own.In order to explain the major arguments of the topic, pre-existing data should be used.
    It is a contribution to society because research is used to implement and improve different policies.Its main purpose is to develop basic research caliber in a person.
    In order to know the ground reality, you must visit the outdoor.For data collection, it doesn’t need an outdoor visit.
    A thesis requires surveys and questionnaires.It does not require surveys and questionnaires.
    It needs in-depth information about the topic.A dissertation doesn’t need detailed information for preparing a dissertation.


    Thesis vs. Dissertation: USA

    In the United States, the definition of thesis and dissertation is exactly the opposite of that used in Europe. Generally, academic institutes in the USA use the terms as it is explained in this blog post. A thesis should be shorter than a dissertation and it involves preliminary research. But a dissertation constitutes an original research project. Mainly, a thesis is written to earn a master’s degree whereas a dissertation is crafted to obtain a doctoral degree.

    Get Professional Dissertation Writing Help Online

    We hope you have now understood everything about the thesis and dissertation. Hereafter, use the terms in the proper context according to the place where you live in. For a successful thesis and dissertation, along with the content, the formatting style also matters the most. Especially, while you write a thesis or dissertation, make sure to structure and organize your ideas as per the guidelines specified by your school or college. Note that you can score an A+ grade only if you prepare your academic paper according to the instructions of your institute.

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