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How to Write a Thesis and Dissertation: Differences

How to Write a Thesis and Dissertation: Differences

writing thesis or dissertation

Differences Between a Thesis Paper, Dissertation and Research Paper

When finishing school or doing a doctoral degree, you are required to write a thesis, a research paper or a dissertation.

These three papers are not identical and the differences between them are presented below:

  • A dissertation is designed for gaining a degree or diploma.
  • A thesis is a paper written by students of higher educational institutions to get an academic degree or qualification.
  • A research paper is usually assigned as a paper for a class. In this paper, you must conduct your own research and describe the findings.

It is essential to remember that the internal structure of these three papers is identical.  Thus, it is necessary to write an introduction, literature review, research methodology, results, discussions, and conclusion in any of these papers.

 Top differences between a dissertation and thesis

When writing a thesis paper, you must gather information unlike to a dissertation where you research everything on your own.

A thesis is not as extensive and time-consuming as a dissertation.

When writing a dissertation, you must possess a deep knowledge of novel discoveries in order to be able to draw conclusions. A thesis contains a hypothesis on the grounds of your own research work.

A dissertation is comprised of arguments and the theory of an original research unlike to a thesis where the information consists of a hypothetical analysis of contents.

In a thesis, your focus of interest is on the primary argument, which proves your stance. However, in dissertation you need to center on your background work.

Accordingly, in a thesis you research a subject, conduct an in-depth analysis, and then comment on the collected information. It is essential to find relevant and accurate information on the topic you are working on and enlighten on it as clearly as possible. To assure a top-notch fulfillment of the task, choose a subject that is close to your specialty area.

Mind that in a thesis you conduct a research on your own and may not obtain guidelines from a faculty member. However, in a dissertation, you refer to others’ research as guidance because your aim is to confirm your own hypothesis, theory or concept.

Traditionally, a dissertation is three times the length of a thesis because here you must include each detail of your proposal and describe how you collected it. In practice, it means that you must cite the sources you derived your information from. In the case of dissertation, you can consult a faculty member if you need advice or assistance with locating resources.

Keep in mind that all educational establishments have their own principles of writing a thesis, dissertation, and research paper and you must consider them when writing your paper.

Technical difference between a dissertation and thesis

A thesis is a research paper in a certain area of studying. After submitting a thesis, you get a doctorate or Ph.D. degree.  But after writing a dissertation, you get a postgraduate degree or MPhil. A dissertation is a gateway if you intend to do a master’s program. Also, mind that that a thesis is written to get a higher degree whereas a dissertation is a process to obtain a degree.

One more essential difference is that a thesis is written during the last two years of your studies. It is not obligatory to write a thesis if you are doing a master’s degree. But if you intend to get a doctor’s degree, a dissertation is a must.

Also, in a thesis, you must present original research material that you have gathered whereas in a dissertation the findings function as the final and original document.

Steps in thesis writing

  • Step 1:

Choose an area of research you are interested in most of all

  • Step 2:

Pick a unique topic. You must choose the topic that you are excellent at as you will have to contribute something to it.

  • Step 3:

Ask well-defined open-ended questions for your thesis

A common mistake when writing a thesis is asking “High-risk” questions such as “Yes/No” questions. It means that you should assure cognitive and interesting outcomes from your paper.

  • Step 4:

Find educational projects and apply marketable skills

Pick a thesis that will enlarge your skills and will help choose the best possible career for you.

  • Step 5:

Imagine your completed publication(s)

Visualizing your finished paper will motivate you to work. Nothing can give a sense of fulfillment better than seeing the first published paper.

How to write a dissertation

  • Step 1:

Write an eye-catching dissertation proposal

You must draft a proposal for your final dissertation version. To convince committee members of the university, your proposal must consist of:

  1. Title of the dissertation proposal

  2. Objectives

Include your objectives at the beginning and present at least three of them.

  1. Writings

Remember that your dissertation should contain all fields of study, schools of thought, and other sources of information.

  1. Research

Here you must present the ideas of your research question and the area of your research.

  1. Methods

Here you outline the methods of gathering information for the dissertation.

  1. Potential results

You present your expectations of the research and if you have done everything correctly, you will get the desirable results.

  1. Timeframe

You must draw a schedule elucidating how you are going to manage your timings in each research paper.

  1. List of References

It is imperative to provide the list of references at the end of the dissertation if the guidelines require it.

  • Step 2:

Conduct an in-depth research

It is a significant part where the general development of the project is determined. The dissertation must be systematic and efficient. The following tips will help you to achieve it:

  1. Manage your time

Writing a dissertation is a time-consuming task. Thus, you should manage your time effectively by writing to-do lists and planning every minute of your writing process.

  1. Finding the right sources

It is essential, as you must derive your information only from reliable sources.

  1. Organize

You must organize your resources from the beginning. Make sure you have a plan or strategy before working on your dissertation. Keeping notes will help you to stay organized and not to forget crucial points.

  • Step 4:

Editing and Proofreading

These two methods of revision are not identical. While editing, you make alterations to the content of your dissertation. Proofreading involves correcting mistakes in grammar, style, spelling, and punctuation. Besides, it involves checking layouts, headlines, and paragraphs.

  • Step 5:


You must obtain the feedback from the committee members after the final dissertation. It is also essential to discuss the whole dissertation with your mentor who will correct some mistakes and will give you the right direction.

The difference between a research paper, thesis and dissertation:

  • The main task of a research paper is to prove a principal argument.
  • In a research paper, you discuss the central thesis statement and collect evidence and information to prove the same.
  • In a research paper, you extend and develop a thesis.
  • The research paper presents original ideas and must not contain plagiarism.

7 Steps of research writing:

  • Step 1: Formulate your research question

Your research question must highlight the main topic and be clear and comprehensible.

  • Step 2: Ask for assistance

If you have difficulties with something, ask for help from your guides or sources.

  • Step 3: Draw a research plan and place resources

You should plan your research from the very beginning. A draft will help you to locate points in a subsequent process.

  • Step 4: Apply effective search techniques

This will enable the audience to understand your work. Besides, it will make an impression that they are refereeing a good source.

  • Step 5: Check your paper

It is essential whatever content you have written.

  • Step 6: Be aware of the academic communication procedure and cite sources

Your research paper is a significant part of academic writing. Thus, you must avoid informal language. Also, for an academic paper, citing the sources from where you derived information is imperative.

  • Step 7: Critically assess sources

When citing the sources you should take only the useful ones.

To assure a top-notch performance of the task, bear in mind these two tips:

Do not worry!

Definitely, everyone gets worried when writing papers of such importance. At first you may have some difficulties, but then it will gradually become a plain sailing.

Do not postpone!

Keep in mind that you must submit your paper in time. Thus, organize your time and impose self-discipline on yourself.


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