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Dissertation or Thesis – What is the Difference?

If you’re a candidate in a university planning to write a comprehensive paper and stumbled upon under which category to post the paper – A Dissertation or A Thesis, then you’re not alone. Both dissertation writing and thesis writing are more often than not used interchangeably in various countries. According to Brian Allison, the terms dissertation and thesis are used synonymously; however, the differentiating elements are the guidelines by respective universities providing the course.

The Subtle Similarities

In order to understand the differences, you must comprehend the similarities first. Both forms are structured in a similar manner including an introduction, literature review, body text, conclusions and recommendations, limitations, bibliography and appendix. Despite the similarities, there are various subtle differences between a dissertation writing and thesis writing.

Identifying the Grey Areas

The key difference is the prefixes for thesis writing and dissertation writing.  For instance, usually dissertation is prefix with Masters or a respective post graduate degree. On the other hand, a thesis is usually prefixed with PhD/MPhil/DPhil. It is vital to understand that a dissertation and thesis have differentiated statements. A PhD thesis requires a candidate to build a hypothesis, define anticipated results, delineate expectations, conduct a primary research, and utilize an existing theory whereas a Master’s/Post Graduate dissertation requires a candidate to explain an argument or statement based on existing research. Another major difference is in the structure of research incorporated in the writings. For a thesis, a candidate has to conduct an original research whereas for a dissertation, she/he can use an existing research dataset. Moreover, a thesis research is conducted under the guidance of a University guide or supervisor, who helps with PhD thesis. The degree of engagement of a supervisor in case of a thesis is relatively more than that of a dissertation.

According to the Royal Literary Fund, any research writing comprising of around 20,000 words is called a dissertation whereas around 80,000 is called a thesis. Similarly, some universities also considered number of pages to differentiate between a dissertation and thesis writing.

Locational Differences

The locational difference also matters in defining the terms. For instance, in European nations, a thesis writing is considered for an authentic research work in order to attain a PhD whereas a dissertation writing is considered for a research work to complete a Post graduate degree or a Master’s degree. On the contrary, in the United States, the definitions are completely opposite. For instance, a thesis in US is considered to be achieved as preliminary degree on the path to generate a PhD degree by writing a dissertation.

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