Some grad schools use terms “thesis” and “dissertation” interchangeably, while others maintain a clear distinction. The main difference is that in most American universities a dissertation is required to obtain a PhD or other doctorate degree, while thesis is written for a master’s degree. However, in British universities it is other way round: master’s dissertations and PhD theses. Here are few more differences you should keep in mind while writing your paper:
A dissertation is assigned to test your ability for independent research. On the other hand, a thesis requires you to demonstrate a profound theoretical knowledge in your field and honed analytical skills.
To write a dissertation, you need to formulate a hypothesis first and get it approved by your faculty. A hypothesis is your assumption about your topic that can be tested with scientific methods. In the course of your dissertation work, you should either support or reject your hypothesis with the evidence you discover. Your hypothesis should be original; it can’t repeat word-by-word any hypothesis from previous research (although it can be close to it).
Meanwhile, for a master’s thesis you do not need a hypothesis – only a thesis statement that explains the purpose and main focus on your paper. Writing a statement for your thesis follows the same rules as writing it for any research paper.
Your dissertation should report the results of your original research. Be prepare to conduct an experiment or a survey that is relevant to test your hypothesis. Describe your research methodology, sample design, and data analysis methods in separate sections, and justify your choice. Your conclusion should focus on the knowledge you have added to the existing research in this field, and point out the questions for following researchers. Incorporate a literature review in the beginning of your paper, but use the research by others only as a guide for planning your own study.
On the contrary, your master’s thesis will be entirely based on previous research, providing its analysis and discussion. You may not need any primary sources at all – an abundance of secondary ones would do the job. Take a stance to defend, and support it with arguments from academic books and articles. For most theses, you should use sources that are no older than ten years (preferably – under five).
If you have to write a thesis, aim at keeping it within 100 pages. Meanwhile, a dissertation can be up to 200-300 pages long. For exact length requirements, consult the guidelines of your grade school.