Decoding the Differences: Thesis Vs. Dissertation

As a grad student, you know all about hard coursework and assignments. But the final project of your master’s or doctoral studies, like a thesis or dissertation, can be really intimidating. Even though they may seem similar, these two assignments have major differences regarding deadline, length, and expectations.

In this article, we’ll dissect the nuances of a thesis vs. dissertation using clear examples and a table to clarify the differences.

Defining the Dissertation and Thesis

Before we delve into the differences, let’s establish a foundation for what a dissertation and a thesis entail:


A dissertation is the final step of a Ph.D. program, which requires coming up with new research or adding to existing research in your field.

Example: Imagine you’re pursuing a Ph.D. in Environmental Science; your dissertation topic could be about looking into the long-term effects of climate change on Arctic ecosystems. You’d be doing a lot of research, gathering new info, and maybe even coming up with a unique way of looking at ecology.


Completing a thesis is the ultimate accomplishment of a master’s program. It’s a great way to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in the subject you’ve been learning about.

Example: If you’re getting a Master’s degree in Marketing, your thesis could be something like “Exploring Customer Loyalty in the Retail Business: A Comprehensive Investigation”. Here, you’d review existing studies and give a new point of view on the matter.

Key Differences Between a Thesis and a Dissertation

The main differences between a thesis and a dissertation are basically:

The Length

Thesis: Usually, it’s about 30 to 100 pages long.

Dissertation: It can be lengthy, usually between 100 to 300 pages or even longer.

Research Focus

Thesis: Looks into and examines what has already been done.

Dissertation: Calls for coming up with fresh research, often resulting in the invention of fresh theories or ideas.

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Degree Level

Thesis: Completes a master’s degree.

Dissertation: Concludes a doctoral (Ph.D.) program.

Oral Presentation

Thesis: It usually takes around an hour.

Dissertation: Needs a longer explanation, usually taking a few hours.

Thesis vs. Dissertation (Differences at a Glance)

Let’s put these differences into a handy table for a quick reference:





Original research contribution, often PH.D. 

Research project, often Master’s or Ph.D.


Typically longer (100+ pages)

Generally shorter (50-100 pages)


Academic Committee

Academic advisor and committee


Depth In-depth research and analysis

Focused research question and analysis


Longer (1-5 years)

Shorter (6 months to 2 years)

Similarities between Thesis and Dissertation

While these two academic tasks are different, they also have some similarities. Let’s explore them all below.


These two big research projects are meant to show that a student can do their own research, give something back to their field of study, and put together what already exists.

Research Process

Both types of documents require a thorough research process, including looking at existing literature, gathering data, examining it and making sense of it. Additionally, students need to follow ethical research standards.


Both theses and dissertations involve carrying out original research to come up with fresh ideas, perspectives, or solutions in the field of study. Students are expected to put in the work for something new.


Both types of documents follow a similar structure, including:

Introduction: This outlines the research question, aims, and the importance of the study.

Literature Review: Examines prior research and reveals any areas that still need to be explored.

Methodology: outlines the techniques and procedures used to collect data for the research.

Results: Presents the findings of the research.

Discussion: Examine the outcomes and consider the implications of the findings and how they answer the research questions.

Conclusion: outlines the main discoveries and their significance.

References: a list of all the references used in the document.


A committee of faculty members typically supervises and evaluates both theses and dissertations. This committee guides the student during the research process, gives feedback, and evaluates the final document.

Formatting and Citation Styles

All theses and dissertations must be formatted and cited in accordance with particular styles, such as APA, MLA, Chicago, or one required by the educational institution.

Submission and Defense

In some situations, students may be asked to present and defend their research findings in front of a committee or academic panel. This is typically done in the form of an oral defense of their thesis or dissertation.

Contribution to Knowledge

Both of these strive to add to the existing knowledge in their respective areas by tackling research queries or issues that still need to be completely examined.

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Thesis and dissertation are huge accomplishments since they’re the highest level of education and demonstrate your expertise. Although there are some similarities between the two, key differences exist, like the scope, depth, and when they are typically done.

A thesis is usually a requirement for completing a master’s degree, and it is shorter and not as in-depth as a dissertation. Dissertations are normally completed when getting a doctorate and involve more research and originality. Hopefully, this comprehensive thesis vs. dissertation was able to clear all your doubts about these two academic concepts. If you need further assistance, consider using a thesis statement generator to refine your thesis.

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