Thesis and Dissertation

Thesis and Dissertation

No matter your specialty field, having a graduate degree is among the best ways to promote your career. In reality, having a doctoral degree or a master’s degree is a requirement for some professions. A graduate degree program develops critical thinking skills and hones field-specific knowledge, enabling individuals to prove their competence and expertise.

When finishing a graduate degree program, the student must create significant research and writing project, such as a thesis in a master’s program or a dissertation in a doctoral program. These two projects are often confused, so is there a difference between a thesis and a dissertation? There are a few main similarities and differences between the two that a graduate student should know.

Thesis – What is it?

A thesis is an academic paper done towards the end of a student’s course of study in a master’s degree program. Please note that most Master’s programs require the student to complete a thesis to graduate. Some bachelor’s degree programs sometimes require an undergraduate thesis from students, which is usually less detailed and shorter than a master’s degree thesis. To craft a master’s thesis, the student chooses a narrow topic of interest. Then they conduct a detailed literature review on the topic. You are then expected to formulate an academic argument and use existing research to verify your assertion. A thesis is usually structured in a rigid format, which depends on the university’s guidelines and individual departments. The following are included in the thesis:

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

Dissertation – What is it?

Divergent to a thesis, students doing doctoral dissertation conduct original research after assessing the established study. The objective of a dissertation is to prove the student’s skills and knowledge and to add to the current body of knowledge in their academic field. The student may present a new hypothesis or theory in their area or show research refuting a previously given theory. On the other hand, the student may attempt a new angle to steer existing research in a new direction.

The custom is to take a doctoral course, finish the qualifying exams and write a dissertation. But, there are exceptions to this. In some universities, the dissertation writing process is incorporated into the coursework. This gives students a jumpstart on their research while working on finishing their course requirements. This may lead to early graduation. Writing a dissertation starts in the same way as a master’s thesis.

The student selects a topic and then conducts a literature review, a thorough analysis of current research on the subject. Then, they work on creating a new theory, demystifying a previously established theory, or taking a new approach to an existing view.

Students have to defend their dissertations, which is among the most intimidating elements of the doctoral degree program. But, students work collaboratively with their chosen committees during the entire dissertation process. This means that if you have reached the dissertation defense stage, it’s highly likely that your dissertation will be accepted, and you will get your doctoral degree after a successful defense.

Like the thesis, a dissertation’s particular structure depends on the university’s requirements and policies and the individual candidate’s department. Generally, dissertations entail the following:

  1. Title page
  2. Acknowledgments
  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

Thesis vs. Dissertation – What are the Differences?

The significant difference between a thesis and a dissertation is the degree programs requiring them. Students undertaking a master’s program write a thesis, while students launching a doctoral program write a dissertation.

The other difference is that a dissertation requires an oral defense, which is not the case with a thesis. After the student submits the finished dissertation to the dissertation committee, they then schedule a date for an oral presentation of the dissertation. The student will be asked questions by the committee members and sometimes pose challenges. Students should justify their methodology and interpretation of findings.

Furthermore, as expected, a standard thesis is shorter than a standard doctoral degree dissertation. The thesis may be 40-80 pages, although this varies across degree programs. On the other hand, an average dissertation is 100-300 pages long.

Thesis vs. Dissertation – What are the Similarities?

Despite their differences, a dissertation is similar to a thesis in several ways. First, they both require comprehensive research and writing of a lengthy paper in an original essay. Additionally, both tasks require the following:

  • The expert defense of an academic argument (the paper’s viewpoint or main argument)
  • Critical thinking and analytical reasoning
  • Detailed expertise in the subject area
  • A considerable time investment (months for theses and years for dissertations)
  • Willingness to write, rewrite, and edit in consideration of the feedback from committee members, professors, or peers.

The other similarity is the committee. Doctoral degree candidates work with a committee comprising advisors, faculty members, and similar professionals for guidance on writing and research. It’s also routine for Master’s students to have a committee while writing a thesis. In both dissertation and thesis committees, the chair is the primary point of contact for students; that is, the chair is most closely involved with guiding the student’s research, writing, and academic arguments. For both degree programs, the dissertation or thesis is a necessity to get the degree. It is usually seen as a capstone project.

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