If you’re contemplating graduate school, you may have heard that a comprehensive paper is required to graduate, and you likely wonder what exactly is the difference between a thesis and a dissertation. It’s good that you’re thinking ahead. There are definite differences between the two terms, though they are sometimes used interchangeably and often confused. Both papers are similar in their structure, as they contain an introduction, literary review, body, conclusion, bibliography and appendix. Beyond that, the similarities basically end. Let’s delve further into the definition of each and the differences between them.
Basic Thesis and Dissertation Differences
The main difference between a thesis and a dissertation is when they are completed. The thesis is a project that marks the end of a master’s program, while the dissertation occurs during doctoral study. The two are actually quite different in their purpose, as well. A thesis is a compilation of research that proves you are knowledgeable about the information learn throughout your graduate program. A dissertation is your opportunity during a doctorate program to contribute new knowledge, theories or practices to your field. The point is to come up with an entirely new concept, develop it and defend its worth.
Structural Differences Between a Thesis and a Dissertation
A master’s thesis is kind of like the sorts of research papers you are familiar with from undergrad. You research a topic, then analyze and comment upon the information you gleaned and how it relates to the particular subject matter at hand. The point of the thesis is to show your ability to think critically about a topic and to knowledgeably discuss the information in-depth. Also, with a thesis, you usually take this opportunity to expand upon a subject that is most relevant to a specialty area you wish to pursue professionally. In a dissertation, you utilize others’ research merely as guidance in coming up with and proving your own unique hypothesis, theory or concept. The bulk of the information in a dissertation is attributed to you.
Finally, there is a difference in length between these two major works. A master’s thesis should be at least 100 pages in length, likely a bit beyond that. However, a doctoral dissertation should be much longer, because they involve a great deal of background and research information, along with every detail of your proposal and how you arrived at the information, according to Purdue University. A dissertation is an extremely complex work. It will likely be two, possibly even three, times the length of a thesis. You will receive guidance from a faculty member who will serve as your dissertation adviser. This adviser will be there to point you in the right direction if you are stuck, can assist in locating resources and ensure that your proposal is on the right track.
Related Resource: Capstone Project
Each school and program has its own guidelines for what a thesis and dissertation should contain, as well as its structure. However, you now have an overview of the difference between a thesis and a dissertation.
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.
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.
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.