Doctoral Dissertation vs Thesis – Which Path Should You Choose

During your academic journey, you get different writing tasks, each with its own rules. But when you’re going for your master’s or doctorate, the big task is your thesis or dissertation. People often mix up these two, so what’s the real difference between a doctoral dissertation vs thesis?

Whether you’re a student just starting your graduation, a doctoral program, or a teacher helping your student, knowing this difference is crucial. The problem is, that the words thesis and dissertation get used interchangeably, confusing students, researchers, and even the writers. But don’t worry; we are here to clarify your point of view with our unambiguous guide.

According to the Future Fit Report 2024, every year, around 900,000 students get their undergraduate, and 390,000 proudly earn their Master’s degrees in the UK. In contrast, about 2% of the whole population between 25-64 years old in the UK holds a doctorate degree.

Image Source: Find A Phd

So, if you’re still not sure about which path you should choose to complete your master’s or PhD, don’t worry. Here, we will help you figure out the basic definitions, major similarities and doctoral dissertation vs thesis differences, to guide you whether you’re writing a thesis or a dissertation.

What is a Thesis?

A thesis is a serious piece of research writing. It’s like a big project where you show off what you’ve learned in your master’s program. This is your chance to prove you’re an expert in the subject areas you’ve been studying. Students mostly proceed with their master’s thesis research in the doctoral programmes as well.

What is a Dissertation?

Now, if you’re aiming for a PhD degree, get ready for a momentous learning. According to the University of People, in your doctoral program, you dive deep into research. And when it’s time to finish, you create something big called a dissertation. This isn’t just any piece of writing – it’s a long document where you share your own research on a topic. Once you submit and defend your dissertation, you can proudly call yourself a PhD holder.

In simple terms, a thesis is for master’s students to show what they know, while a dissertation is the big research project that earns you a PhD. Both these kinds of writing are tough and students have to seek help from dissertation writing services to proceed with these tough tasks. Their experts provide adequate assistance to the students and support them to earn desired degrees with colours.

What is the difference between a Doctoral Dissertation vs Thesis?

Both theses and dissertations might sound similar, but they’re not quite the same. Both of these terms are used for different academic levels. They represent the research work of graduate and doctoral students and have many differences. The major difference between a doctoral dissertation vs thesis is given below:


Key Differences Thesis Dissertation
Education Level For students earning a master’s degree. For students earning a PhD or doctorate degree.


Nature of Research Build arguments based on existing research. It involves original research and analysis by the PhD candidate.
Timeline Presented at the end of a master’s program. Presented mostly at the end to earn a PhD
Purpose Shows competence in a subject through a literature review. Contributes new theories or information to a specific field of study.
Content Presents existing information learned during the study program. Develop a unique concept and defend it. It also provides a chance to introduce new theories and contribute to existing literature.
Length Around 60-100 pages for a master’s degree. Around 100-500 pages for a doctoral degree, approximately three times the length of a thesis.

Doctoral Dissertation vs Thesis – Finding Common Similarities

When it comes to writing a dissertation or a thesis, we often think about the same thing. This shows that they have many similarities that’s why students often mix them with one another. After discussing their differences, now, let’s explore the similarities between the two:

Final Projects

Both a thesis and a dissertation are the final and lengthy projects in high-level education that are compulsory to get a degree. Students have to finish these tasks perfectly to complete their master’s or PhD.

Understanding the Research

Whether we talk about a thesis or a dissertation, in both cases, students have to focus strictly on the research process. It means they should have a command of their topic of study. A thesis or dissertation is meant to show the student’s knowledge and grip over the subject and the chosen topic. So, here, deep research is the key behind both a doctoral dissertation vs thesis.

Dealing with Questions

Whether it’s a thesis or a dissertation, you’ve got to answer specific research questions. They’re like the puzzles you need to solve. You should try to keep these questions clear and straightforward.

Writing Skills Matter

You’ve got to be good at writing for both thesis and dissertation. It’s not just about what you say; it’s about how you say it. That’s the reason, students rush towards professional dissertation writers to get an expert touch-up in their writing.

Being Ethical

You have to play fair during both the dissertation and thesis writing process. When you collect and write about your research, you’ve got to do it in an honest and ethical way.

No Copying Allowed

Copying someone else’s work is a big no in academic writing as it leads towards plagiarism, which is not accepted in a doctoral dissertation vs thesis. Copy-pasting is a crime, so you should avoid it and use references to all the sources used.

Using Your Brain

Both need you to think hard to work on your projects. You’ve got to analyse things and support your ideas with good thinking and reasoning.

Getting it Right

Before you’re all done, you’ve got to check and fix things. Editing and proofreading are super important for both a thesis and a dissertation before you hand them in.

So, even though a thesis and a dissertation might seem like two different things, they actually have a lot of similarities. They’re both big, important projects that show you really know your stuff!

Doctoral Dissertation vs Thesis – Difference Between Two Continents

In Europe and the UK

The difference between a thesis and a dissertation still holds its original meaning in these parts of the world. A doctoral thesis is like a special project where you do your very own research to earn a PhD. It’s a deep dive into a specific topic. On the other hand, a dissertation is part of a bigger research project as you proceed with your graduate studies.

But wait, the thesis has changed a bit over time. Nowadays, you need to do a bunch of background research, so your thesis will have lots of references to earlier work. Still, the main focus is on the new stuff you discover. So, this was the key concept of doctoral dissertation vs thesis in British academics.

In the USA

Now, things are a bit different in the United States. Students write a thesis during their master’s degree and work on a longer project called a dissertation to get a doctoral degree. Writing a thesis or dissertation is more like a practice round on your way to getting a master’s and doctorate degree respectively.

So, whether you’re in Europe or the USA, the thesis and dissertation journey has its own twists and turns. Different continents, different stories!

Is a Doctoral Thesis the Same as a Dissertation?

No, when we look at the doctoral dissertation vs thesis, both are different. According to the University of People, in the United States, a thesis is for a master’s degree, while a dissertation is for a doctoral degree. But in the UK, it’s the opposite – they use “dissertation” for a master’s degree and “doctoral thesis” for a PhD. The big difference between them is the academic level you’re at when you do them.

At What Stage of a PhD Does One Write a Thesis?

You usually write a thesis or dissertation towards the end of your degree. For some, it makes sense to write about their findings as they go along. Others wait until a specific ‘writing-up’ period, often in the third year of the PhD, depending on the type of research.

Which Is Better Thesis or Dissertation?

What is preferable between a thesis and a dissertation is a question that cannot be easily answered. It depends on your academic level and the specific requirements of your degree.

Both a doctoral dissertation vs thesis has distinct functions and fulfil the requirements of their separate degrees; therefore, neither is superior to the other. Whether you are writing a thesis or dissertation, it is important to follow the guidelines of your institute for sure success.

How Long Is a Doctoral Thesis?

A doctoral thesis, or PhD dissertation, can be anywhere from 100 to 500 pages. But remember, it’s not about being longer; what really matters is having good quality. The number of word limits usually falls between 30,000 and 60,000 for a PhD thesis. According to the University of Cambridge, the word limit for a doctoral thesis should not exceed 80,000 and for a Master’s level, it should not be more than 60,000 words.

What Makes a Good Doctoral Thesis?

To finish a PhD degree, students must submit a unique research project called a thesis. A top-notch PhD thesis includes lots of references to original work and shows a deep, critical understanding of the subject. It explains the research done during the doctoral program, highlighting the results and conclusions. To make their doctoral thesis winning, students mostly acquire thesis writing help from a credible source like The Academic Papers UK. They have expert subject specialists, always ready to serve students with their top writing services.

Is a PhD Thesis or Dissertation in the UK?

In the UK, you create a dissertation for a bachelor’s or master’s degree and a thesis for a PhD. Meanwhile, in the US, it’s flipped: you might do a thesis for a bachelor’s or master’s degree and a dissertation for a PhD. So, hope you got a clear idea about doctoral dissertation vs thesis from here.

How Many Chapters Are in a PhD Thesis?

There’s no strict rule, but usually, a PhD thesis has somewhere between five to eight chapters. Furthermore, you can discuss it with your supervisor when planning your research. The exact number depends on the type of study, the word count needed, and the degree requirements. Commonly these are the main chapters of a thesis or dissertation:

  1. Introduction
  2. Literature Review
  3. Methodology
  4. Results
  5. Discussion
  6. Conclusion


The decision you make regarding a doctoral dissertation vs thesis is crucial in your academic career. Look at all the factors like your degree program, its criteria, objectives and institute’s guidelines before proceeding with it.

Remember that both of these routes whether it is a thesis or a dissertation are very demanding and necessary to earn the respective degrees. In the end, all that is left behind is your hard work on the research and writing process to get fruitful results.

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