Cathy A.
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Dissertation vs. Thesis - Differences & Similarities

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Dissertation vs. Thesis

As graduation inches ever closer, Master’s, Ph.D., and even Bachelor’s students are required to produce a research and writing project.

A dissertation or thesis paper is what students need to pass their academic degree. For critical evaluation and testing the research knowledge of a student, dissertation, or thesis documents is a must.

However, the two projects are often confused by a wide range of students. So, every student needs to know what is the difference between the two. 

Well, if you’ve stumbled upon this blog, chances are you are also confused between dissertation and thesis! 

Worry not, as this blog will clear all your doubts about thesis and dissertation writing. We will highlight the key differences and share their similarities as well.

So, without, further ado, let’s dive right in! 

On This PageArrow Down

  • 1. Understanding Dissertation 
  • 2. What is a Thesis? 
  • 3. Must Know Dissertation and Thesis Differences 
  • 4. Basic Dissertation and Thesis Similarities
  • 5. Dissertation and Thesis Examples

Understanding Dissertation 

A dissertation paper is an extensive piece of research. Typically required at the end of one’s doctoral degree, the student is required to do in-depth levels of research to secure their degree.

Apart from that, a dissertation demands the individual to present original findings, to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the chosen field of study.

Now that we know what a dissertation is, let’s see what is our understanding about a thesis paper. 

What is a Thesis? 

Being a formal academic document, a thesis paper is typically submitted at the end of a master's graduate degree. For a thesis, students are required to select a topic aligning with their degree program and interest. 

Your graduate school will demand a thesis paper to demonstrate your ability to think critically and to contribute to the existing body of knowledge.

Now that you’re well aware of the basic attributes of a dissertation and thesis, let’s see how these academic papers differ from each other!

Must Know Dissertation and Thesis Differences 

Now coming to what differentiates a dissertation and a thesis paper, there is a lot to point out. The biggest difference hides in the fact that a dissertation requires the doctoral student to conduct their own research.

On the other hand, thesis work is done on existing research to prove your knowledge and grip on the degree you’re pursuing. 

But the differences don’t end here! 

Here is a detailed overview of the differences between a dissertation and a thesis. 


Master's Thesis

Doctoral Dissertation


Typically, up to 100 pages

Often 2–3 times the length of a thesis


Relies on existing knowledge

Requires primary research, original work

Europe (Thesis/Dissertation)

“Thesis” for both masters and doctoral theses, emphasizing original research

Dissertations for master's degrees (1-2 years), extensive research, references, and original work

USA (Thesis/Dissertation)

Thesis for master's degrees involves research but not necessarily innovation

Dissertations for doctoral programs, longer and more work

Degree Requirement

Required for a master's degree

Required for the highest degree in a field

Research and Data Collection Methods

Extensive research is required for both

Dissertations require primary research, interviews, surveys, etc.

Oral Presentation

Thesis defense is typically shorter

Dissertation presentation is extensive due to original research

Difference in Length

Up to 100 pages, more flexibility

Often around 400 pages, more complex and detailed

Structural Differences Between a Thesis and a Dissertation 

The two academic papers have the following structural differences.





Up to 100 pages typically 

Generally 2–3 times the length of a thesis

Research Approach

Relies on existing research and knowledge 

Requires conducting primary research 

Document Authorship

The researcher doesn’t become the author of the thesis paper

Primary research for a dissertation allows the student to become the author

It is crucial to note that some regions, like the USA and Europe, take a differentiating approach to both dissertation and thesis papers.

But don’t worry, read on to get rid of all your doubts!

How Does a Dissertation Differ from a Thesis in Europe? 

In Europe, the term “thesis” is frequently used for both master's and doctoral theses. However, in most European institutes, students are required to submit a doctoral thesis that results from their original research.

Whereas, a dissertation is a project that you can do to earn a master's degree. It takes one or two years of education and hard work on the subject matter.

The meaning of the thesis in Europe has evolved with time. Now the graduate student is required to do more research. With extensive references and citations, its emphasis lies on the original work produced. 

How Does a Dissertation Differ from a Thesis in the United States?

In America, the thesis is performed to end one's master's degree. The master’s candidates take advanced coursework to gain first-hand experience in the research projects. But they aren’t expected to bring forth an innovation through original research.

However, in the US, a dissertation is required for someone pursuing a PhD degree. They have to write a long doctoral dissertation because their degrees require more work, not only terminal exams alone.

Differences in Degree Requirement 

As mentioned earlier, a thesis and dissertation are both required for different types of degrees.

A dissertation earns you the highest degree in a particular field, whereas students are required to write a thesis for their master’s.

There are some cases where neither of these is a requirement to earn a degree. It, however, is subject to the type of degree and institute. For some institutes, the only requirement is passing the final exams.

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What is the Difference between their Research and Data Collection Methods? 

Irrespective of what you are studying, the main purpose of both is to ask students to defend their research.

These projects require students to conduct exhaustive research and prove that they have gained adequate knowledge and understanding of their field of study.

The only difference is the extent of the research that is necessary for both projects. Since writing a dissertation is based on a student’s ideas and coming up with something new, it requires primary research.

The primary data is collected in the following ways:

  • Interviews
  • Self-administered surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Field observations
  • Experiments

Primary research takes up a lot of time and is more expensive than secondary research for writing a thesis defense. 

Secondary data can be obtained using the following methods:

  • Journals
  • Scholarly articles
  • Survey reports
  • Online studies
  • Existing studies
  • Books

Differences in the Oral Presentation

Following are some dissimilarities between the oral presentation of both thesis and dissertation papers. 


Thesis Presentation

Dissertation Defense


Smaller (advisor and committee)

Larger (committee, faculty, sometimes broader community)


Demonstrating understanding of existing research

Showcasing original contributions to the field


Typically, shorter (30 min to 1 hour)

Longer (1-2 hours or more)

Questioning Depth

Questions may focus on the research and existing knowledge

Questions may be comprehensive and challenge methodology, contribution, and implications


Rigorous preparation for presentation, but may not require the same level of examination

Intensive preparation and a higher level of examination

Having discussed the differences between dissertation and thesis papers, let’s see what common attributes these documents share. 

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Basic Dissertation and Thesis Similarities

A thesis and a dissertation both are academic writing forms. For that very reason, there are several similarities between the two. These similarities can be classified into different sections, such as structural and completion.

Structural Similarities Between Dissertation and Thesis

The basic structure of writing a thesis and dissertation is similar. According to this structure, both the dissertation and thesis require the following components to be written:

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Literary Review
  • Main body
  • Research methods/material
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Recommendation
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix

Although these basic components are a part of both the thesis and dissertation writing process, the two assignments’ content differs.

Similarities in Their Completion 

Another similarity between a thesis and a dissertation is that students need guidance for their completion. There are specific supervisors or advisors assigned to every student to help and guide them throughout the process. 

Your supervisor will assist you from selecting the dissertation topic, and data collection up to the write-up itself.

Here is an overview of the similarities between a thesis and a dissertation. 




Academic Writing Forms

Both are academic writing forms

Both are forms of academic writing

Structural Components

Includes Title, Abstract, Introduction, Literary Review, Main body, Research methods/material, Results, Discussion, Conclusion, Recommendation, Bibliography, Appendix

Also includes Title, Abstract, Introduction, Literary Review, Main body, Research methods/material, Results, Discussion, Conclusion, Recommendation, Bibliography, Appendix

Content Differences

While the structure is similar, the content differs

Similar structure but different content

Guidance and Supervision

Students receive guidance and supervision from specific advisors or supervisors throughout the process

Students have advisors or supervisors who assist in topic selection, data collection, and the writing process

Dissertation and Thesis Examples

All the significant differences and similarities that a student should know before starting to work on a dissertation or thesis are given. To give you an even clearer understanding of the two concepts, examples are provided below.

To conclude, knowing the basic differences between the two prospects is essential for writing an effective and impressive workpiece. Moreover, you must understand that both the thesis and dissertation, are challenging papers requiring a great deal of patience and skills.

Having said that, working on a paper can undoubtedly present its fair share of challenges. But you can always opt for our professional support! is a professional essay writer service that covers a range of writing needs.

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Cathy A.


Cathy A.

Cathy has been been working as an author on our platform for over five years now. She has a Masters degree in mass communication and is well-versed in the art of writing. Cathy is a professional who takes her work seriously and is widely appreciated by clients for her excellent writing skills.

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