What Is The Difference Between A Dissertation And A Thesis?

There is often much confusion over what distinguishes a dissertation and theses from start to finish. See below for thesis vs dissertation eight basic differences:

Definition and scope:

A dissertation is a testament to the learnings attained by the student during the course of the program, and an opportunity to highlight original ideas and contribute to the body of literature in the field. By contrast, a thesis is a written piece of work that is comparatively shorter and focuses on a specific subject – it does not necessarily be original but can also be a replication of a previous study.

Length of writing:

The length of the dissertation or thesis can be different based on the kind of study undertaken and the chosen topic. However, at the master’s level, the word count is typically 50-60000 words, which is inclusive of appendices and tables. On the other hand, a PhD must be more nuanced and is expected to be at least 80000 words. This length is justified considering you must make a unique and original argument supported by thorough critical analysis.

Scrutiny of an advisory committee:

Once your dissertation is complete, it is expected to withstand detailed questioning from your advisory committee who specialise in the field of study. Typically, this committee has 4-5 members. If you are completing a thesis, your department may or may not assign you an advisory committee. In some departments, the committee is usually comprised of 3 members and the thesis defense involves responding to technical questions on the specifics of your paper.

Choice of research topic:

While you can always refer to resources such as dissertations and theses database free, a dissertation is a reflection of a student’s specialisation and is most likely to focus on a topic chosen by the student. A master’s thesis is not so rigorous and can be selected based on a combination of factors – the advisor’s inputs, a recommendation by a business contact, or one’s own interests.

Structure of the writing:

In dissertation and thesis writing, the structure is markedly different – the dissertation has to be very clear about the innovation that is added to an existing field, whereas a thesis can be broader in scope.

Suggestions for further research:

A dissertation is incomplete without a well-researched section on how your original observations can be taken forward by the academic community. For a master’s thesis, you may or may not choose to elaborate on the future implications of your research paper, as it can often be a replication of an older study.

Degree requirements:

A dissertation is a written academic research paper that is completed by a prospective doctoral degree student, prior to being awarded the degree whereas a master’s degree requires the completion of a thesis.

Duration of study:

A dissertation vs master's thesis requires a different time commitment. Masters’ programs range from 1.5 to 2 years before you are required to submit a capstone project or thesis. Dissertations are relatively uncertain because doctoral programs are dependent on a high quality of written output and the potential to further expand your research in the near future.

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