Thesis vs Dissertation: 4 Basic Differences

Thesis vs Dissertation: 4 Basic Differences

Being a student who is working on their first Master or PhD degree is hard on its own. Putting aside all the hard work they have to do, there is also always confusion about the terminology of the assignments they need to complete. Students in various countries have to submit their final body of work. Some are doing it to defend their degrees once others do it to receive a higher degree. Overall, both forms of the final paper are easy to confuse due to their similarities. Hence, you need to learn about the differences. Let’s see four basic differences in these papers that every MA and PhD student must know. 

What Is a Master's Thesis?

It’s a scholarly piece of writing that students need to submit to receive their MA degree. In this case, students need to complete such work to demonstrate their skills and expertise in their chosen field.

In truth, there is also a thing called a Doctor’s thesis. However, such assignments are not very common and they are not much different from dissertations. Hence, we will not focus on the differences between PhD thesis vs dissertation as they are relatively the same thing. 

What Is a Thesis Dissertation?

It is a necessary piece of writing for any doctoral program. All PhD students have to submit this body of work at some point of their studies. Here students need to complete unique research in the area of the field that they are interested in. They don’t have to do it though. In order to obtain a Doctoral degree, a student can submit easier work, such as a doctoral thesis. This type of work will be rather similar to what students have completed during their MA degree.  

Thesis vs. Dissertation: Basic Differences

Now, as we know the common definition of both of these academic works, it’s time to see their main differences. It is easy to see why so many students get confused over this. However, once you learn about these four criteria, you will be able to differentiate both bodies of work pretty fast. So here are four main differences between dissertation vs thesis. 

  • Nature

    • The sole nature of these two bodies of writing is completely different. First of all, MA students write their works to demonstrate their writing and research abilities. They have to prove that they have become experts in their field of study. Hence, they deserve to receive a higher academic status. Overall, these students are trying to demonstrate their abilities and knowledge.
    • On the other hand, PhD students do not have to prove their erudition in their field of studies. At this stage, they are trying to create something new and valuable for academia by choosing an original idea and writing about it. Their dissertations have to have an original stance and unique hypothesis that hasn’t been tested before. 
  • Length

    • As always, each type of paper comes with certain expectations about its length. In the given case, a dissertation will be the longest piece of work between these two. Overall, it should be about two if not three times longer. Hence, if a thesis is usually about a hundred pages long, a dissertation will be around 300 pages long. 
  • Purpose

    • As we have already mentioned, these two works have to fulfill two different purposes. Students who are pursuing MA and PhD are going to work on different types of papers. 
    • PhD students have the duration of their entire program to come up with the theme of their work and submit it by the end of their course. However, this work is not mandatory. PhD students can obtain their Doctoral degree without it. 
    • MA students, on the other hand, can’t finish their studies without submitting a thesis. It’s a requirement.
  • Research Content 

    • A big difference here is that PhD students have the luxury to use two types of data in their works. They can use both pre-existing data, hence the existing academic sources, and the personally collected data such as surveys and questionnaires. Thus, PhD students have some options on how they can base their research and make their statement. 
    • MA students, on the other hand, can use pre-existing data to make their case. However, they have to develop surveys and questionnaires on their own to support their claims. They can’t rely on the pre-existing data. These students have to show that they fully understand the subject of their writing. 

The Bottom Line

As you can see, both these bodies of work are not similar after all. Of course, some elements can look alike. However, after giving them a critical look, they can easily differentiate one work from another. Judging by the length alone, a person can immediately tell what type of work is in front of them. Judging by the writing requirements, a student makes their mind based on the nature and purpose of the work. Hence, these four main differences should be enough to tell what kind of assignment a person has in front of them.