Dissertation vs. Thesis - What are the Differences and Similarities

dissertation vs thesis

Are you planning to enroll yourself in grad school? Are you confused between a thesis and a dissertation? Then you must know the differences and similarities between the two.

Both of these academic projects are parts of degrees’ final year, and they are used to assess the capability and knowledge of the student. Sometimes, both Ph.D. and Master’s in educational institutes require a thesis; this confuses everyone.

To help you know and understand the differences, we have explained everything here in detail.

Dissertation vs. thesis - Are they the same?

They do have some similarities, but there are some major differences to consider!

Read this blog to know the key differences and similarities between the two so that you can work on your project in a better way.

Read the blog to know more.

Let us get started!

What is a Dissertation?

A dissertation is the final research of Ph.D. programs. It turns a student into a scholar as the student has to develop an original research topic and conduct the complete research independently.

It is different from what you do in any other academic project, and this is what makes a doctorate program different from other degrees.

It is a compilation of a student’s academic and practical knowledge, and for many students, it is their first official publication. Moreover, a dissertation is very detailed and requires original research and analysis.

You must know the key differences and similarities between a dissertation and a thesis to clear your concept on the question of what is a dissertation.

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What is a Thesis?

A thesis is a part of a Master’s degree and relies upon previous research work. Therefore, the work includes the work of other authors as evidence, and it has less originality than a dissertation. However, you must know how to write a thesis properly before you start working on it.

Unlike a dissertation, it does not involve original research or a unique topic. For many students, writing a Master’s thesis is their first experience. They are still learning to research, and writing their thesis prepares them for PhD dissertation.

It is used to check a graduate student’s knowledge about his field of study. The structure of a thesis is quite similar to a dissertation, but the content is different in both of these works.

Characteristics of Master’s Thesis vs. PhD Dissertation
Master’s Thesis
  • Original research
  • Independent work or experiment
  • Proven understanding of the industry techniques and its limitations
  • In-depth literature knowledge
  • Know how to use, assemble, and critique the literature for research purpose
  • Ability to display the work in conference, seminar, or defense capacity
PhD Dissertation

Has all the above given qualities

A new and contemporary contribution to the literature

Original research produced by the student or author

The hypothesis answered in a clear manner

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Dissertation vs. Thesis - Key Differences

Below are the main differences between these two kinds of research works.

Difference between Dissertation & Thesis - In Tabular Form
Type of Degree
A dissertation is required to earn a Ph.D. or doctorate degree. Therefore, the students preparing for Ph.D. take a Master’s with a thesis. A student completes a thesis to acquire a Master’s degree. It is a student’s first research work, and he can also opt for coursework.
A dissertation is based on a student’s original research. The student finds a research area that requires research, forms a hypothesis, and does original research to prove it. A thesis is based on other people’s research. It is used to test a student’s knowledge about his field. He analyzes previous studies and formulates his thesis question on them.
Structural Differences
A doctoral dissertation is longer than a thesis. It is usually 400 pages, and even more, in length and is based on original research. A thesis is shorter in length and comprises 100 pages. It focuses on the literature review and research of other authors.
Content & Presentation
The Ph.D. requires students to defend their dissertation, which could take several hours. A thesis usually takes up to an hour to present and answer any questions of the faculty members.
Difference in Context
In the United States, a dissertation is written by a PhD student, and a Master’s student does a thesis. In Europe, a doctoral thesis is a part of a Ph.D., and a dissertation is a part of a broader post-graduate research project.

Dissertation vs. Thesis - Europe

The distinction between a thesis and a dissertation is still present in Europe. A doctoral thesis is an intensive piece of original research carried out to obtain a PhD. A dissertation is one part of a larger postgraduate research study.

However, since contemporary research now necessitates a significant amount of background study, the thesis has evolved. As a result, while the focus is on the pioneering work that arises from it, a thesis will include numerous citations and references to prior work.

Dissertation vs. Thesis: USA

In the United States, a thesis is often interpreted as a preliminary degree on the way to a doctorate, whereas in Europe it refers to a dissertation.

A Master's degree is now earned after completing a thesis. A master's candidate in a scientific discipline studies more advanced material and gets hands-on experience working on a research project, but he or she does not have the same level of responsibility as a doctoral student.

In a master's project, the student's thoughts are appreciated and anticipated, but the emphasis is on gaining technical expertise rather than conducting original research. Engineering students usually get Master's degrees before moving on to PhDs.

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Dissertation vs. Thesis - Similarities

Besides differences, the dissertation and thesis also share some common features.

  • Both the academic papers have the same purpose; research. In many graduate schools, the terms thesis and dissertation are used interchangeably.
  • They both have a defined timeframe and terms, and the students must adhere to them. Moreover, the student should know how to defend their work.
  • Both of these works are used to test students’ knowledge about their field of study and demonstrate their research and analysis skills.
  • They have similar formats and structures.
  • Before writing any of them, the student must prepare a proposal to acquaint the professor with the research topic or question.
  • The student would defend both of these projects before getting the final degree.
  • Copyright infringement must be avoided by all means in both of the works. In addition, the cited work should be properly referenced and credited.

Both the research works have these common elements, and because of them, they are used interchangeably.

‘How do they differ from a research paper?’

A research paper is a classroom assignment students get in their high-school and college classes. Where theses and dissertations focus on research and analysis, a research paper only focuses on proving a single point.

Usually, its thesis statement is based on a narrow focus, and the entire paper is based on it. Therefore, it is not as detailed as the earlier mentioned works.

Writing both a thesis and a dissertation is a complex and lengthy work. If you need a helping hand, you can work with professional dissertation writing services like GradSchoolGenius. We have a dedicated team of dissertation writers who work tirelessly to provide high-quality and zero plagiarism work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do all PhDs require a dissertation?

Most but not all doctoral degrees have the requirement of a dissertation. Few degree programs such as DPTs (Doctor of Physical Therapy) and law degrees do not require dissertations.

What if I fail my dissertation?

You will be given a chance to re-submit your dissertation if you fail it. However, you will be granted barely passing marks according to the module failure.