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Published by at January 17th, 2024 , Revised On January 23, 2024

Dissertation Vs Thesis: How Are They Different

Dissertation vs thesis! What are you writing? 

Many graduate students from universities in Canada often get confused and mix both terms. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they carry distinct meanings and purposes in academia. Read this blog to fully understand the difference between a thesis and a dissertation. 

What Is A Dissertation

A dissertation is a substantial piece of academic writing typically required to complete a doctoral degree (such as a Ph.D.). It represents an original and significant contribution to the field of study and is usually the culmination of several years of research and study.

What Is A Thesis

A thesis is a scholarly piece of writing, usually at the master’s or undergraduate level, that presents an original research question, methodology, and findings. It represents the culmination of a student’s academic work and demonstrates their ability to contribute to the field of study.

The Evolution Of Dissertation Vs Thesis

The history of the thesis and dissertation dates back several centuries, and the evolution of these academic documents reflects changes in scholarly practices, educational systems, and the expectations of advanced degree programs. 

Medieval Origins

The concept of a scholarly thesis has roots in medieval universities. In the 12th and 13th centuries, institutions like the University of Paris introduced the practice of disputations, where students defended their theses in a public forum. These early theses were often theological or philosophical in nature.

Renaissance And Early Modern Period

During the Renaissance, the practice of defending theses continued to evolve. The 16th and 17th centuries saw an increasing emphasis on empirical observation and scientific inquiry. The thesis became more diverse, covering topics in natural philosophy, mathematics, and other emerging disciplines.

18th And 19th Centuries

The 18th century marked the formalization of the thesis as a requirement for academic degrees. Universities started to mandate the submission of a written document along with the oral defence. This practice became more standardized in the 19th century as universities across Europe and North America adopted similar academic norms.

Evolution Of The Dissertation

The term “dissertation” has its roots in the Latin word “dissertatio,” meaning “discussion.” Dissertations, as we understand them today, emerged in the 19th century, primarily in German universities. Doctoral candidates were required to produce substantial research demonstrating their ability to contribute original knowledge to their field.

20th Century

The 20th century saw a global expansion of higher education and an increase in the number of doctoral programs. The thesis and dissertation became integral components of graduate education worldwide. The structure, format (eg, APA or MLA), and expectations for these documents varied among disciplines and institutions.

Electronic Theses And Dissertations (ETDs)

With the advent of digital technology in the late 20th century, there was a shift toward electronic submission of theses and dissertations. This made research papers more accessible and facilitated the dissemination of knowledge. Many universities now require the submission of ETDs.

Contemporary Trends In Dissertation Vs Thesis

In the 21st century, the thesis and dissertation continue to evolve. Educational institutions are adapting to new forms of scholarship, interdisciplinary research, and varied modes of dissemination. The focus is often on producing high-quality, original research that contributes significantly to the academic community.

What Is The Difference Between A Dissertation And A Thesis 


Feature

Thesis

Dissertation

Academic Level

Master's Program

Doctoral Program

Length

Typically 50-100 pages

Often exceeds 100 pages, can be much longer

Scope

More focused on a specific aspect of a broader topic

Broader in scope, aims for a significant and original contribution to the field

Purpose

Demonstrates mastery of subject matter and ability to conduct independent research within a defined scope

Makes an original and substantial contribution to the field, addressing gaps in existing literature

Degree Requirement

Often required for completion of a master's degree

Essential for the completion of a doctoral degree

Research Depth

In-depth research, but may not be as exhaustive as a dissertation

Extensive and exhaustive research, involving a comprehensive exploration of the chosen topic

Common in

Master's programs in various disciplines

Doctoral programs, especially in research-focused disciplines


Thesis Vs Dissertation: Length And Depth

One of the key differences between a thesis vs dissertation lies in their length and depth of research:

Thesis

Theses are typically shorter in length, ranging from 50 to 100 pages, depending on the institution and program requirements. The research conducted for a thesis is expected to contribute to the existing literature but may not need to be as exhaustive as that of a dissertation.

Dissertation

Dissertations, being the pinnacle of doctoral research, are substantially longer, often exceeding 100 pages and sometimes reaching several hundred pages. Doctoral candidates are expected to delve deeply into their chosen topic, conducting extensive research and offering a unique contribution to the academic community.

Dissertation Vs Thesis: Scope And Purpose

Another significant distinction between a dissertation vs thesis is the scope and purpose of the research:

Thesis

The primary goal of a thesis is to demonstrate a student’s understanding of the subject and their ability to conduct independent research within a defined scope. A thesis is often more focused and may be an exploration or analysis of a specific aspect of a broader topic. For example, a finance thesis could be about any topic within the subject. 

Dissertation

Dissertations, being doctoral-level projects, have a broader scope. Doctoral candidates are expected to make an original and substantial contribution to the field, advancing existing knowledge and addressing gaps in the current literature. Dissertations often involve more extensive data collection, analysis, and synthesis of information.

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Dissertation Vs Thesis: The Similarities

While there are distinct differences between a thesis vs dissertation, they also share several similarities, reflecting their common purpose within academic research papers. Here are some key similarities between a dissertation and a thesis.

Research Component

Both dissertations and theses involve original research and scholarly inquiry. Students are expected to engage in a systematic investigation of a chosen topic, demonstrate a deep understanding of existing literature, and contribute new knowledge or insights to their field.

Academic Rigour

Both documents adhere to high standards of academic rigour and integrity. They require meticulous attention to detail, adherence to citation and referencing styles, and a commitment to intellectual honesty.

Formal Structure

Dissertations and theses typically follow a formal structure, including elements such as a thesis statement, an introduction, a literature review, methodology, results, a discussion, and a conclusion. This structured format ensures a comprehensive presentation of the research.

Faculty Guidance

In both cases, students work closely with faculty advisors or mentors throughout the research process. Advisors guide research design, literature review, data analysis, and other aspects of the project.

Oral Defense

A commonality between dissertations and theses is the requirement for an oral defence. In many academic institutions, students must defend their research findings before a committee of faculty members. This defence allows students to articulate their research methods, results, and conclusions, while also responding to questions and critiques.

Degree Requirement

Both a thesis and a dissertation serve as a crucial component for the completion of an academic degree. Thesis is typically associated with master’s programs, while dissertations are a requirement for doctoral degrees. In both cases, successfully completing the research project is essential for obtaining the respective degrees.

Contribution To Knowledge

Whether a thesis or a dissertation, the primary goal is to contribute to the existing body of knowledge in a particular field. Both documents aim to advance understanding, address gaps in the literature, and offer meaningful insights that can inform future research.

Literature Review

A comprehensive literature review is a common element in both dissertations and theses. This section provides context for the research by summarizing and critiquing relevant scholarly works, helping establish the rationale and significance of the study.

Frequently Asked Questions

A thesis is a shorter, master’s-level research document demonstrating mastery of a subject. A dissertation, typically for a doctoral degree, is longer and requires a more extensive, original contribution to the field.

A master’s thesis is a shorter research document showcasing mastery of a specific subject. A dissertation, associated with a doctoral degree, is more extensive, requiring a substantial, original contribution to the field.

No, a thesis and a dissertation are not the same. A thesis is a research document associated with a master’s degree, demonstrating mastery of a subject. A dissertation is a more extensive research document required for a doctoral degree, emphasizing original contribution to the field.

There are several online sources that can help you in finding the perfect thesis and dissertation for your research. ResearchProspect Canada is one of the leading and trustworthy brands, helping students achieve academic excellence.

An Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) is a digital version of a student’s thesis or dissertation. It is submitted and stored electronically, allowing easy access, distribution, and archiving, reflecting the shift towards digital formats in academia.

To cite theses and dissertations, follow the citation style specified by your academic institution or the preferred style guide (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago). Include author, title, publication year, institution, and retrieval information for online sources, ensuring consistency and accuracy.

To cite a ProQuest dissertation or thesis in APA format, use the following template: Author, A. A. (Year). Title of dissertation/thesis (Publication No.). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. Include the ProQuest publication number for online sources.

About Nicolas

Avatar for NicolasNicolas holds a master's degree in literature and has earned a PhD in statistics. He has a keen interest in writing, culinary arts, and running. Nicolas is dedicated to assisting students at various academic levels.

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