Primary Differences between Dissertation and Thesis
The terms “dissertation” and “thesis” are often interchangeably applied from one institution or country to another, as well as among different schools of thought. The distinction tend to be subtle even in the English Dictionaries, for instance, the Oxford English Dictionary refers to dissertation as an elongated essay on a specific matter, particularly undertaken for a university degree or diploma. On the other hand, the Oxford English Dictionary defines thesis as a long essay or dissertation entailing personal or original research, written by candidates for a university degree. Hence, in some institutions and countries, dissertations are undertaken by the undergraduate students and master’s students for partial fulfillment of bachelor degree and master’s degree by coursework and dissertation respectively, as well as diploma students. In this system, theses are therefore written by master’s students by thesis, and by the doctorate students. However, in other institutions and countries, it is agreed that a thesis is undertaken while pursuing the master’s degree, while dissertation is undertaken while studying for a doctorate degree. with both the systems in mind, the latter is considered in this context given its support by majority scholars.
Nonetheless, it is important to emphasize that the primary aim of both the thesis and dissertation is to provide for a student an opportunity to master the skills required for research on issues or phenomena related to their fields of study, by deploying theories, concepts, principles, and methodologies developed within their respective disciplines to debunk or build on existing knowledge or discover evidence-based solutions for issues being researched. Hence, the skills mastered by the students may be summarized to include:
- Developing research proposal entailing the dissertation/thesis title, background information, hypotheses/ general and specific research objectives and questions, literature review to establish research gap, theoretical and conceptual frameworks, methodology, and referencing/citation skills.
- Indentifying reputable resources both primary and secondary, applying the research methodology (qualitative, quantitative or mixed) as proposed to procedurally collect the “best fit” data.
- Undertaking the analysis of data collected, and reporting the project as per the proposed report format, and being able to defend the thesis/dissertation before the panel of experts.
Although, as outlined above, the distinction between the thesis and dissertation is subtle and disputable among the countries, institutions, and scholars, most concur that a thesis is primarily a requisite for master’s degree while dissertation is the basic requisite to obtain the doctorate degree. Hence, the primary differences between the two extensive research projects include:
- In case of dissertation, the student is required to undertake an original/personal research or investigation majorly centering on raw data. While in case of thesis, the research or investigation is mainly based on secondary data/information already available, for instance, from reports, statutory documents, text books, journals ‘articles, documentaries, websites/internet, newspapers, dissertations and theses, among others.
- In terms of the length of reports (number of pages), dissertation is longer than thesis consuming more time to finalize than the latter. This is often prescribed by respective institutions so respective number of pages might vary from one institution to the other.
- Thesis is substantively anchored on hypotheses (quantitative research) or specific research questions (qualitative research). While dissertation is centered on the new/original discoveries regarding the topic of which a scholar has to utilize for effective inference of the conclusions.
- Thesis undertaking often assists the students to access scholarships for higher ladders of studies. The case is contrary in case of dissertation writing.
- Thesis tend to major on concrete primary arguments or analytics to corroborate scholar’s reasoning to readers, while the dissertation is centered on the scholar’s background work regarding the topic.
- Data or information gathered in case of thesis bases on the content analysis emanating from hypotheses or research questions. On the other hand, dissertation is postulated by theory(s) and arguments emanating from the original research.
In a nutshell, the distinction between the thesis and dissertation continue to be a debatable issue across the academia paradigm. However, amidst all these context of subtleness and nuance, the significance of both the thesis and dissertation cannot be overstated. The duo are imperative in instilling both theoretical and empirical skills instrumental not only in building or debunking existing knowledge, but also accentuating evidence-based remedies for a myriad of issues or phenomena encountering the world today. Hence, indispensable in redefining human progress.