The Difference Between Thesis And Dissertation

How is a dissertation different from a thesis? If you plan to attend graduate school at the master’s or doctoral level, then you may have come across the terms thesis and dissertation on various school websites that outline the program requirements. Nearly all graduate-level programs in the United States require completion of a final thesis or dissertation, but some schools differ in their interpretation of this final project. Used to gauge comprehension and the ability to argue effectively, a thesis or dissertation represents a student’s understanding within her field of study. The following article will help you identify the differences between these two research documents.

Length and Structure

The length and structure of a thesis and dissertation vary according to program; however, most theses are significantly shorter than dissertations. Students seeking a master’s degree usually complete a thesis project in one full semester during which this is the only course they take. Doctoral candidates spend years completing their research so that they can write, edit and cite a research document that may comprise 400 pages. In some schools, a doctoral candidate’s entire course of study may be referred to as his dissertation. Length and structure also depend on the field of study. Science majors write less because they conduct more hands-on experiments; students in humanities and liberal arts programs write longer papers with more in-depth analysis.

Research Content

Regardless of how schools use the terms thesis and dissertation, the purpose remains the same for both projects: Master’s level theses and doctoral dissertations require extensive research in order to prove that students have retained sufficient knowledge about their field. Theses typically require less external research because the project reflects a student’s own ideas and conclusions. Dissertations take several years to complete and may require hundreds of external sources.

The secondary focus is to see how well students can defend their own work. Both of these research projects typically conclude with an oral defense in which faculty members ask questions about the research and final paper. A dissertation defense can last several hours whereas a thesis defense may last only an hour.

Understanding Context

You should also note a major cultural difference when it comes to final research projects. In the United States, the word “thesis” represents a paper that reflects a student’s ideas supported by thorough research. According to Enago, Europe understands this term in a different way: “A doctoral thesis is a focused piece of original research which is performed in order to obtain a Ph.D. A dissertation is part of a broader post graduate research project.” If you plan to attend a school in Europe or other parts of the world, you should contact your individual school to verify how they define these terms.

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Some master’s level programs in the United States do not require a research project as significant as a thesis, but almost all doctoral programs require a dissertation. Extensive research projects such as these force students to develop better analytical thinking skills and to put those skills into action by creating a tangible work. In addition, theses and dissertations are published in a limited academic capacity as part of the final requirement for most schools. When choosing a graduate program, make an appointment with your school’s research faculty so that you can ask, “How is your program’s dissertation different from a thesis?”

If you’re in a graduate program or are thinking about continuing your education after you obtain your bachelor’s degree, you might be wondering what the difference between a thesis and dissertation is. While they are similar in some ways, there are a few¬†differences that set them apart from one another.

Similarities

Before researching the difference between a thesis and dissertation, you should understand that they are very similar. In fact, the two terms are often used interchangeably. Both theses and dissertations are papers that are assigned to graduate students. Since they are fairly extensive papers, you’ll be given a large window of time to do whichever type of paper you are assigned. It will be due at the end of your last year of study. In order to get your degree, you’ll have to get a passing grade on your project. The good news is that while it won’t be a group project, you’ll still be able to get some help from advisers and peers. With many people to help you along the way, passing your thesis or dissertation should be very attainable. If you do end up failing the first time around, many schools will let you resubmit it after you do more work to meet the requirements.

Type of Degree

According to the United State Census Bureau, over one in ten individuals in the United States have a master’s degree or have obtained even higher education, but less than two percent of individuals have obtained a doctorate degree. One difference between a thesis and dissertation is that theses are usually required for a master’s degree and dissertations are usually required for doctorate degrees; however, this isn’t always true. Some master’s degree programs don’t require a thesis or dissertation at all. These programs usually have two separate paths that students can take: a thesis option and a non-thesis option. A student who eventually wants to get a doctorate degree is usually encouraged to take the thesis option to prepare himself or herself for the dissertation that he or she will have to write as a doctorate student.

Purpose

Perhaps the biggest difference between a thesis and dissertation is the intended purpose. A thesis, commonly required to obtain a master’s degree, is supposed to test a student’s understanding of his or her field of study. The student formulates a proposition, or thesis, based on previous work done by others in the field. This previous work is analyzed by the student in his or her paper as he or she makes a case for a certain point of view. A dissertation is usually done by a doctorate student and focuses on original research. A student who is assigned a dissertation is required to come up with a subject in his or her field that hasn’t already been researched. The student then must come up with a hypothesis and do original research to prove or disprove the hypothesis.

Whether you’re already a graduate student or are just trying to prepare as much as possible, it’s always good to do research whenever you have questions about your education. The difference between a thesis and dissertation might not seem very big, but you’ll need to know how they differ before you start working on either of them.

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