A graduate degree generally requires completing either a thesis or a dissertation, and there is a difference between thesis and dissertation. In Shakespeare’s day, a candidate for a master’s degree would write a thesis, an original paper in which he maintained a certain proposition. He would read his thesis to his committee, after which he sat in silence while two faculty members gave point by point refutations of everything he said. The focus here was on the student’s ideas and his ability to arrange and express them clearly. If a student wished to advance further in academia he could pursue a dissertation. This was more of a literature review. He would read widely in a particular area and write up his findings, discussing the various authorities and their opinions. The point was to demonstrate that he was well versed in the literature of the field.
Thesis vs. Dissertation: Europe
In Europe the original distinction between a thesis and a dissertation has been largely retained. A doctoral thesis is a focused piece of original research which is performed in order to obtain a PhD. A dissertation is part of a broader post-graduate research project.
Related: Hi there! Finished writing your thesis? Grab a cup of coffee and visit our PhD Café now!
However, the thesis has evolved since original research nowadays requires plenty of background research. So, a thesis will contain extensive citations and references to earlier work, although the focus remains on the original work that comes out of it.
Thesis vs. Dissertation: USA
In the United States, the definition of a thesis is almost the opposite of that in Europe. Because a thesis is shorter than a dissertation it gradually came to mean a preliminary degree on the way to a doctorate. A thesis is now performed to earn a Master’s degree. In scientific fields, a master’s candidate takes advanced coursework and gains hands-on experience in a research project but does not direct the project to the same extent that he would in a doctoral program. In a master’s project the student’s ideas are welcomed and expected but the focus is on obtaining technical expertise, not doing original research. Engineering students commonly obtain Master’s degrees and seldom go on to get PhDs. In other fields such as Chemistry, the opposite is true, with a Master’s degree no longer being required as the first step for a doctorate. Almost everyone I know who received a Master’s degree in Chemistry got one because they dropped out of graduate school and wrote their truncated research as a Master’s project.
What They Have in Common
Both a thesis and a dissertation require a lot of work and should be treated seriously. I attended a thesis defense recently in which the student was not well prepared. The visuals were poor and disorganized and the student did not handle questions well. I knew that he had achieved a good level of technical ability, but you would never know it from his presentation. An effort that takes years of your life surely deserves better treatment than this.
Comments are closed for this post.
If you’re in a graduate program or are thinking about continuing your education after you obtain your bachelor’s degree, you might be wondering what the difference between a thesis and dissertation is. While they are similar in some ways, there are a few differences that set them apart from one another.
Before researching the difference between a thesis and dissertation, you should understand that they are very similar. In fact, the two terms are often used interchangeably. Both theses and dissertations are papers that are assigned to graduate students. Since they are fairly extensive papers, you’ll be given a large window of time to do whichever type of paper you are assigned. It will be due at the end of your last year of study. In order to get your degree, you’ll have to get a passing grade on your project. The good news is that while it won’t be a group project, you’ll still be able to get some help from advisers and peers. With many people to help you along the way, passing your thesis or dissertation should be very attainable. If you do end up failing the first time around, many schools will let you resubmit it after you do more work to meet the requirements.
Type of Degree
According to the United State Census Bureau, over one in ten individuals in the United States have a master’s degree or have obtained even higher education, but less than two percent of individuals have obtained a doctorate degree. One difference between a thesis and dissertation is that theses are usually required for a master’s degree and dissertations are usually required for doctorate degrees; however, this isn’t always true. Some master’s degree programs don’t require a thesis or dissertation at all. These programs usually have two separate paths that students can take: a thesis option and a non-thesis option. A student who eventually wants to get a doctorate degree is usually encouraged to take the thesis option to prepare himself or herself for the dissertation that he or she will have to write as a doctorate student.
Perhaps the biggest difference between a thesis and dissertation is the intended purpose. A thesis, commonly required to obtain a master’s degree, is supposed to test a student’s understanding of his or her field of study. The student formulates a proposition, or thesis, based on previous work done by others in the field. This previous work is analyzed by the student in his or her paper as he or she makes a case for a certain point of view. A dissertation is usually done by a doctorate student and focuses on original research. A student who is assigned a dissertation is required to come up with a subject in his or her field that hasn’t already been researched. The student then must come up with a hypothesis and do original research to prove or disprove the hypothesis.
Whether you’re already a graduate student or are just trying to prepare as much as possible, it’s always good to do research whenever you have questions about your education. The difference between a thesis and dissertation might not seem very big, but you’ll need to know how they differ before you start working on either of them.