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Library Dissertation Definition

So you are beginning your graduate program, reading over all the material and trying to prepare yourself as best as possible for the next two to three years. You’re already looking forward to graduation and figuring out exactly what will be required in order to receive your degree on time. What you've probably discovered is that whether you are pursuing a masters degree or a doctoral degree, the main goal in graduate school is to complete original research or projects, depending on your degree program.

The words “thesis” and “dissertation” are often used interchangeably, leading to some confusion in academia about what each individual word actually means. The main similarity between the dissertation and the thesis is the structure. Both have an introduction, literary review, main body, conclusion, bibliography and appendix. But that is the extent in which they are similar.

Differences Between a Masters Thesis and Doctoral Dissertation

Generally in the US, a thesis is the final project for the masters degree and a dissertation leads to a doctoral degree. Those pursuing a masters degree must perform research on a specific subject that demonstrates their knowledge acquired through their program. Seeking a PhD is different in that your dissertation must contribute something completely new and undiscovered to your field. In other words, you have to contribute original knowledge to the subject. So the main difference between a thesis and a dissertation is the depth of knowledge you must attain in order to write the paper.

A masters degree thesis is more closely related to a research paper that you would have completed during college. You are expected only to use the research of others and provide your own analysis on your discoveries. It demonstrates your level of critical and analytical thinking and defines the subject that you are most interested in pursuing within your field. With a dissertation, you are expected to use the research of others only to guide you in your own research to come up with a completely new hypothesis.

Another way in which the thesis and dissertation differ are in length. A masters degree thesis is typically over 100 pages. However, the dissertation is usually at least double and sometimes triple the length of a thesis. To determine the length of your thesis or dissertation, remember you should always first consult your grad school.

Tips For Writing a Thesis or Dissertation

The first step in writing your thesis or dissertation (or any other academic paper) is setting a deadline. You don’t want your deadline to be the due date of the paper because you need to leave enough time to get it proofread and to make any additional changes. You should keep a journal of your ideas to help with the writing process. The next step is to create a detailed outline of your paper.

When beginning to write your thesis or dissertation, keep in mind that you are writing an academic paper. Not many people besides your professors and academic advisors will read your thesis, so make sure to keep your writing style formal.

Consult a scholarly text to see how your thesis or dissertation should be structured. Once you have written and edited your thesis or dissertation, you should find an editor. Some editors will only check spelling and grammar issues, while others will check for overall continuity and flow. Determine what you need before searching for an editor.

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If you’re contemplating graduate school, you may have heard that a comprehensive paper is required to graduate, and you likely wonder what exactly is the difference between a thesis and a dissertation. It’s good that you’re thinking ahead. There are definite differences between the two terms, though they are sometimes used interchangeably and often confused. Both papers are similar in their structure, as they contain an introduction, literary review, body, conclusion, bibliography and appendix. Beyond that, the similarities basically end. Let’s delve further into the definition of each and the differences between them.

Basic Thesis and Dissertation Differences

The main difference between a thesis and a dissertation is when they are completed. The thesis is a project that marks the end of a master’s program, while the dissertation occurs during doctoral study. The two are actually quite different in their purpose, as well. A thesis is a compilation of research that proves you are knowledgeable about the information learn throughout your graduate program. A dissertation is your opportunity during a doctorate program to contribute new knowledge, theories or practices to your field. The point is to come up with an entirely new concept, develop it and defend its worth.

Structural Differences Between a Thesis and a Dissertation

A master’s thesis is kind of like the sorts of research papers you are familiar with from undergrad. You research a topic, then analyze and comment upon the information you gleaned and how it relates to the particular subject matter at hand. The point of the thesis is to show your ability to think critically about a topic and to knowledgeably discuss the information in-depth. Also, with a thesis, you usually take this opportunity to expand upon a subject that is most relevant to a specialty area you wish to pursue professionally. In a dissertation, you utilize others’ research merely as guidance in coming up with and proving your own unique hypothesis, theory or concept. The bulk of the information in a dissertation is attributed to you.

Finally, there is a difference in length between these two major works. A master’s thesis should be at least 100 pages in length, likely a bit beyond that. However, a doctoral dissertation should be much longer, because they involve a great deal of background and research information, along with every detail of your proposal and how you arrived at the information, according to Purdue University. A dissertation is an extremely complex work. It will likely be two, possibly even three, times the length of a thesis. You will receive guidance from a faculty member who will serve as your dissertation adviser. This adviser will be there to point you in the right direction if you are stuck, can assist in locating resources and ensure that your proposal is on the right track.

Related Resource: Capstone Project

Each school and program has its own guidelines for what a thesis and dissertation should contain, as well as its structure. However, you now have an overview of the difference between a thesis and a dissertation.

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