What is the Difference Between a Thesis and a Dissertation?

Postgraduate studies involve immersing oneself in profound research and scholarly discourse. Often, students find themselves at a crossroads where they must produce comprehensive and substantive pieces of writing, known as a thesis or a dissertation. While these terms are used interchangeably in some regions, they possess distinct characteristics and requirements. Understanding the thesis vs. dissertation distinctions between these two academic endeavors is crucial for aspiring scholars. 

This article aims to explore the differences and similarities between a thesis and a dissertation.

Dissertation vs. Thesis Definitions

A clear understanding of the definitions of a dissertation and a thesis is fundamental for students involved in higher education and research. These terms describe two different types of scholarly papers that serve a crucial role in the academic progression of a student.

What Is a Thesis?

A thesis is a research paper that is often a requirement for obtaining a master’s degree. It involves conducting research on a particular thesis topic and presenting an argument or hypothesis. The student must explore existing literature, undertake a study, and use the findings to support or refute the stated hypothesis.

Join Our 10k Happy Nursing Students

  • Get original papers written according to your instructions.
  • Save time for what matters most.

A thesis is essentially an extensive research paper that demonstrates a student’s proficiency in their subject and their ability to conduct independent research.

What Is a Dissertation?

A dissertation, on the other hand, is a more in-depth and extensive piece of research writing typically required for acquiring a doctoral degree (Ph.D.). It goes beyond analyzing existing literature and requires the student to make an original contribution to their field of study.

Writing a dissertation involves identifying a unique research question, conducting thorough and often empirical research, and presenting new knowledge or findings. It is an exhaustive exploration of a dissertation topic, showcasing the author’s expertise and research capabilities.

Dissertation vs. Thesis: The Differences

While a dissertation and a thesis require extensive research and appear quite similar, they have distinctive characteristics that set them apart. Let’s delve into the primary attributes that differentiate these two scholarly works.

PurposeA thesis aims to synthesize the information gathered from existing research to prove the student’s understanding and mastery of a particular subject. The purpose is often to test an existing theory or hypothesis.Conversely, a dissertation topic seeks to contribute new knowledge to the field. The purpose is to explore an original research question and provide novel insights or findings.
StructureThe structure of a thesis typically includes an introduction, literature review, methodology, presentation, discussion, conclusion, and bibliography. The focus is more on analyzing existing work.While a dissertation follows a similar structure, it demands a more detailed and exhaustive exploration of each section, with an emphasis on original research.
LengthA thesis is usually shorter, ranging from around 100 to 150 pages, depending on the subject and university guidelines.A dissertation is substantially longer, often exceeding 200 pages, as it delves into more comprehensive research and discussion.
DegreeTheses are typically associated with master’s degrees.Dissertations are required for the completion of doctoral degrees.
Research DepthThe research in a thesis primarily involves a detailed review and analysis of existing literature and theories.A dissertation necessitates original research, often involving data collection, experimentation, and extensive analysis leading to new findings.
Hypothesis vs. Research QuestionA thesis starts with a hypothesis or a clear statement that is tested through the research.A dissertation begins with a research question, aiming to explore and contribute fresh insights.
Oral DefenseSome master’s programs require students to defend their thesis through an oral presentation, although the process is usually less rigorous than for a dissertation.A dissertation usually requires an oral defense where the doctoral candidate presents their findings and responds to questions from a panel of experts.
Data SourcesTheses often rely on secondary data sources, utilizing existing research and literature.Dissertations may require primary data collection and the creation of new datasets.

Difference Between Thesis vs Dissertation Depending on Location

The terminology and requirements for a thesis and a dissertation can vary significantly based on geographic location, adding an extra layer of complexity for students navigating the world of academia.

Dissertation Versus Thesis: UK

In the United Kingdom, the academic terminology and expectations concerning a thesis and a dissertation diverge notably from practices in other parts of the world. Let’s delve deeper into these distinctions:


In the UK, the term “thesis” is predominantly used to describe the comprehensive research project that is a prerequisite for obtaining a Ph.D. or other doctoral degrees.

  • Nature of Work: A thesis in the UK mandates that students embark on original research that adds new insights to their field of study. This involves identifying a unique research question, undertaking a detailed study, and presenting findings that haven’t been explored previously.
  • Length and Depth: A thesis in the UK is often a substantial document that can range from 80,000 to 100,000 words. The scope of the work demands a significant level of depth and originality in the research.
  • Assessment: The assessment of a thesis involves a rigorous viva voce (oral examination), where the candidate must defend their research findings and methodologies before a panel of experts.


Contrarily, the term “dissertation” in the UK is commonly used to describe the research project undertaken towards the completion of an undergraduate or master’s degree.

  • Nature of Work: A dissertation can take on two forms: it can be an extended piece of research on a subject, based largely on existing literature with some original analysis, or it can involve primary research guided by a supervisor.
  • Length and Scope: The length of dissertations is usually shorter than theses, with undergraduate projects often ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 words, and master’s dissertations being slightly longer, ranging from 15,000 to 50,000 words. The scope is also usually narrower than that of a thesis.
  • Assessment: The assessment of a dissertation is usually based on the written document and does not always involve an oral defense. However, some master’s programs may require an oral presentation or defense.

Dissertation vs Thesis: USA

In the United States, the terms “thesis” and “dissertation” are used to denote distinct types of research papers that are necessary for completing postgraduate studies. Here, we delve into the factors that differentiate these scholarly works:


In the U.S., a thesis is typically associated with a master’s degree. It is a requisite research paper that showcases a student’s ability to contribute to their field by exploring a specific topic in detail.

  • Nature of Work: A thesis usually involves a careful analysis of existing literature on a chosen subject. Students are expected to critically assess and synthesize information from previous research, demonstrating their understanding and analytical skills.
  • Length and Scope: A master’s thesis in the U.S. tends to be shorter than a dissertation, generally ranging from 50 to 100 pages. The focus remains on presenting a well-reasoned argument backed by evidence drawn from existing works.
  • Assessment: The evaluation of a thesis often involves an oral defense before a committee of faculty members. The candidate is required to defend their arguments, methodologies, and findings.


On the other hand, a dissertation in the U.S. is a substantial scholarly document that is a prerequisite for earning a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D.

  • Nature of Work: A dissertation necessitates a deeper level of inquiry and mandates that students undertake original research. The aim is to contribute new knowledge or theories to the field. This could involve formulating new hypotheses, conducting experiments, gathering data, and deriving conclusions that haven’t been presented before.
  • Length and Depth: Given its extensive nature, a dissertation is considerably longer than a thesis, often exceeding 200 pages. It must provide a comprehensive exploration of the research question and demonstrate a high level of academic rigor.
  • Assessment: The assessment of a dissertation involves a rigorous oral defense, known as a viva, where the doctoral candidate is required to present their research and respond to inquiries from a panel of experts.

Dissertation vs. Thesis: The Similarities

While dissertations and theses are distinct in several aspects, they also share a number of similarities as they are both integral components of the postgraduate experience. Here are some of the commonalities that can be observed between the two:

  • Research Focus: Both dissertations and theses require students to delve into a specific topic in their field of study, engage with relevant literature, and present their findings or analyses.
  • Scholarly Writing: Both documents demand a high level of academic writing and must adhere to strict formatting and structural guidelines. They should present clear arguments, have a logical flow, and be free of grammatical errors.
  • Components and Structure: Dissertations and theses generally follow a similar structural outline, comprising sections such as the introduction, literature review, methodology, findings, discussion, conclusion, and bibliography or references.
  • Supervision: Both dissertations and theses are usually conducted under the guidance of a faculty advisor or supervisor, who provides support and feedback throughout the research and writing process.
  • Critical Analysis: Both require students to critically analyze existing literature, theories, and concepts pertinent to their chosen topic. This involves not just summarizing information but evaluating and synthesizing it to build a coherent argument.
  • Academic Rigor: Both dissertations and theses are expected to maintain a high standard of academic rigor and integrity. This includes proper citation of sources, adherence to ethical considerations, and the thorough presentation of data and analysis.
  • Defense or Viva: Both may require students to defend their work orally before a panel of experts, although this practice is more common and rigorous for dissertations, especially in the case of doctoral degrees.
  • Contribution to Degree: Both are significant components of their respective degrees, and successful completion is crucial for obtaining the degree in question, be it a master’s or a doctoral degree.
  • Evaluation and Feedback: Both theses and dissertations are subject to evaluation by a committee or panel, and students may be required to make revisions based on feedback received.

Is a Dissertation Harder Than a Thesis?

The distinction in difficulty between a dissertation and a thesis can be subjective. Generally, a dissertation, required for a doctoral degree, is seen as more challenging due to its demand for original research and longer length.

In contrast, a thesis, usually required for a master’s degree, involves analyzing existing literature and may be shorter and less complex. However, individual experiences and academic requirements can influence the perceived difficulty of each.

Conclusion: Dissertation vs. Thesis

Understanding the distinctions between a thesis and a dissertation is crucial for students embarking on postgraduate studies. While both are rigorous and demanding, they serve different academic purposes and have different expectations in terms of depth, length, and originality. Being aware of these differences allows students to approach their work with a clear mindset and better preparation, ultimately aiming for excellence in their scholarly pursuits.

Navigate the complexities of dissertations and theses with ease. Our nursing dissertation writing service will ensure that your academic journey is smooth and successful. Don’t get caught in the dilemma. Place your order now and receive expert guidance to achieve your academic aspirations.

Get a high-quality paper in under 3 hours!

  • Get original papers written according to your instructions.
  • Save time for what matters most.