What Is the Difference Between a Thesis and a Dissertation

As it is, most people even students cannot clearly state the difference between a Ph.D. dissertation and a thesis. This is not necessarily because they do not understand the terms, but rather because they are normally used interchangeably.

It is difficult to point out distinctive differences between the two terms unless we use a specific context like an individual university. The reason being, while one college may use them interchangeably, another one will define them apart.

Difference Between Thesis and Dissertation

That said, the following are some of the differences between a thesis and a dissertation.


Generally, the length of an academic paper will mostly depend on the course being taken or the specifications of the instructor. However, even with all these discrepancies, most theses are usually shorter than dissertations.

To complete a thesis, a master’s student will only need one semester and this is the only project they undertake. On the other hand, the doctoral candidate takes several years to research and put together a dissertation. Some dissertations my even go up to four hundred pages depending on the specific program of study.


Even though the structures of theses and dissertations do not vary by a major margin, there are a few differences that can be observed. For instance, a thesis statement will only give a brief explanation of how an argument will be proven.

In contrast, a dissertation statement should have a clearly stated hypothesis that should be justified by the end of the project.

thesis or dissertation

Nature of Research

A student doing their dissertation will be required to research extensively and get materials from many external sources. They are expected to be original even in the ideas they present and the matters they research about.

This explains why they also take longer periods of time to complete compared to theses. In contrast, thesis research does not have to be that involving.

Students use existing materials and refer to previous research projects to build on theirs. This helps in exhausting previous research projects with regard to the given suggestions.


For both a thesis and a dissertation, the student is required to master the content and make an oral presentation to defend their project. However, the difference comes in the time required to defend each. A thesis defense can be done in just an hour while a dissertation defense may take several hours

Follow Up

In the case of a thesis, most students do not care what becomes of their project as long as they get a good grade out of it.

On the other hand, a doctoral student will research even more to develop and become an expert in the area they handled during their dissertation. A dissertation is done with the future in mind so that one can build on the findings.

Bottom Line

Even though the terms dissertation and thesis are often used interchangeably, the factors discussed here can be used to distinguish them. If you seek thesis writing help then you have an idea of how long it should take to have it done.

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