The Difference Between a Thesis and Dissertation

The Difference Between a Thesis and Dissertation
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If you pursue a graduate degree, you will need to write either a thesis or dissertation, and these two things are quite different from each other. Learn more about dissertations and theses with

Back in Shakespeare’s era, candidates for a Master’s degree should prepare a thesis with a certain proposition and read it in front of the committee. After this, they listened to two faculty members who refuted every point from the thesis, focusing on the student’s ideas and the way they are arranged. If a student wanted to keep building a career in the academic world, he could write a dissertation. A dissertation was somewhat similar to a literature review, focusing on a certain area of knowledge, providing findings and opinions, and discussing different authorities. The main purpose of a dissertation was to demonstrate that the student knows the literature about the field.

Dissertation and Thesis in Europe

There is still a distinction between a dissertation and a thesis in Europe. For example, a dissertation is a part of a larger post-graduate project, while a doctoral thesis focuses on original research conducted to obtain a Ph.D. Nevertheless, theses have evolved and now require a lot of background research. Therefore, theses usually contain extensive references to earlier research and citations while being focused on the original work.

Dissertation and Thesis in the US

In the US, the definition of a thesis is almost completely opposite to the one described above. A thesis is shorter than a dissertation and is usually written to get a Master’s degree. In science, Master’s candidates prepare coursework but their projects are not as extensive as those required for a doctoral program. A student is expected to provide some original ideas but the main point is to gain technical expertise instead of doing original research. Engineering students usually get a Master’s degree and sometimes pursue a Ph.D. However, there is an opposite situation in Chemistry, where a Master’s degree is not required for a doctorate. Usually, students who study Chemistry get a Master’s degree only because they dropped out of graduate school.


No matter whether you’re working on a thesis or dissertation, you should approach this task seriously. Prepare for your thesis defense in advance and make sure that your materials are well-organized. There will be no use of your technical abilities if you don’t demonstrate them properly and don’t create the right impression. A dissertation or thesis takes years of your life so make sure to treat it seriously.

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