Dissertation vs. Thesis: Similarities and Insights
May 31, 2023


Embarking on a graduate degree journey, whether it's a master's or a doctoral program, brings exciting challenges and opportunities for academic growth. As you strive to become an expert in your field, coursework, research, and projects take center stage. Among the important milestones in many graduate programs is the completion of a thesis or dissertation. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they have unique similarities and differences.

In this article, we'll explore the similarities of thesis and dissertation to offer clarity to PhD students and those aspiring to pursue advanced degrees.

What is Thesis?

A thesis is the pinnacle of PhD journey, representing the culmination of your research and intellectual growth. It is a scholarly document that demonstrates your expertise in a specific field by addressing a well-defined research question and contributes new knowledge as well as insights to the academic community. It requires thorough literature review, meticulous data collection, and robust methodology.

Read more here for helpful tips on writing your PhD thesis.

What is a dissertation?

A dissertation, unlike a thesis, is a more extensive and comprehensive research project that is typically required for a doctoral degree. It serves as the final requirement for earning a Ph.D., requiring submission and defense. This document encompasses all the details of your original or expanded research on a new or existing topic. As a Ph.D. candidate, your dissertation showcases your expertise and contributions to the field, demonstrating your ability to conduct independent research.

Dissertation vs thesis: Key Similarities 

  • Final Projects: Both a thesis and a dissertation serve as final projects that are required for graduation from their respective programs. They represent a student's academic journey.
  • Understanding: Both require a deep and accurate understanding of the research problem, showing the candidate's ability to engage critically with the subject matter.
  • Specific Research Questions: Both forms of scholarly written pieces must address specific research questions. They require a clear focus and aim to contribute new insights or expand on existing knowledge.
  • Academic Writing Skills: Academic writing skills are imperative for a thesis as well as a dissertation. Both require adherence to proper citation styles, formatting guidelines, and academic conventions.
  • Ethical Practices: Ethical practices must be followed while collecting and documenting research data. Both demand integrity in handling and reporting research findings.
  • Plagiarism Avoidance: Plagiarism is not accepted in either thesis or dissertation. Originality and proper citation of sources are essential to maintain academic integrity.
  • Analytical Skills: Both use analytical skills to support the findings and arguments presented. Students must demonstrate their ability to critically analyze data and draw valid conclusions.
  • Defense and Completion: A student has to defend both the completed thesis and the dissertation to obtain their degree. Successful defense is necessary to demonstrate the mastery of the subject matter.
  • Topic Selection: Both require students to choose a topic for research and create a comprehensive work that demonstrates their skills and knowledge acquired during their studies.
  • Structure and Format: Both have a similar structure and format, typically including an introduction, literature review, methodology, findings, and conclusion.
  • Proposal Requirement: Students writing a dissertation or thesis often need to create a proposal before starting the final paper. The proposal introduces the main aim and objectives of the forthcoming document.


Delving into the nuances of a thesis and dissertation is essential for PhD students. As you embark on your academic journey, remember to stay informed and seek clarity on the requirements of your program. And for those seeking a unique opportunity, consider participating in the prestigious EDAMBA Doctoral Thesis Competition. Take your research to new heights and showcase your expertise on a global platform.

EDAMBA aims to achieve its mission through three pillars of activity:
1. The Annual Meeting
2. The Summer Research Academy
3. The EDAMBA-EIASM Consortium of Doctoral Supervision

EDAMBA engages in global collaboration across networks
1. European Code of Practice