There has constantly been a battle (of sorts) between what a write up that you present at the end of your degree is called. Some universities use the term rather freely, but there are some where one cannot be referred by the other. And there are those instances where your snooty PhD friend who gets offended when you called his dissertation a thesis (or vice versa), there are very few times that someone will actually sit you down and explain the difference between the two (except probably a dissertation service), but don’t you worry, we are here to do exactly that.
One of the key points that really distinguish the two is ‘when’ you write a dissertation or a thesis. Both thesis and dissertations are mandatory for completion of a degree. While a dissertation is written during a PhD course, a thesis is submitted at the end of a master’s degree.
Another discerning factor about the two is the length of the two. While the length also depends on the course and its requirements, but dissertations are much more lengthier than thesis. While students pursuing a master’s degree spend up to a semester with their thesis writing, PhD students write their dissertation on the go, editing, writing, rewriting as and when they go. The subject also plays a role in the length of the paper being submitted.
Apart from the length, time is another factor that really sets the two apart. While one just needs you to choose a project which is to your liking and dedicate a few months, mainly one semester, the other requires preparations from the minute you think of getting into a doctoral program. Right from the proposal that you present to your academic head to the necessary academic proof in terms of external sources to back it up, a dissertation requires a lot of commitment and time.
Whether you are writing a thesis or a dissertation, the hours that you have to put in are long. While dissertation requires a lengthier list of paper and citations (because it is bigger) and external sources to back the study, a thesis also requires a fair bit of citations.
The research a student does for the two however differs tremendously, ranging from a semester put in for a thesis to about four years for a dissertation. Added to this is the defence that has to be done at the end of it all. While a thesis defence takes no more than an hour, a dissertation can go for a couple of hours, before the ordeal is over.