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Thesis and Dissertation


Thesis and dissertation projects share many similarities, so the student who has completed a thesis and is working on a dissertation may anticipate a writing process that closely resembles what he or she has already experienced.

The major difference between theses and dissertations is the depth of research that each project requires. While a good thesis makes a significant, unique contribution to its field, the task of creating a dissertation demands that the student strike out into an area that the discipline has not yet fully explored. Therefore, while a thesis may require some primary research, a dissertation will probably require a great deal of it. Primary research will vary from field to field; in science disciplines, such research may take the form of running experiments, whereas in the humanities it may consist of an extensive amount of interpretive thought so that one may make and defend new conclusions about the chosen subject. In both theses and dissertations, the student should thoroughly document any primary research, offering the data in an appendix to the thesis or dissertation if necessary.

This difference in the depth of research is the aspect that allows students who have written theses on a particular subject to write dissertations on that same subject. In fact, students whose dissertation projects delve into questions that their theses raised often write excellent dissertations, because their theses have provided a strong foundation of research on the subject.

On the other hand, thesis and dissertation projects appear very similar in the mechanics of writing. Students should expect to write their theses and dissertations in an academic tone, buttressing their persuasive arguments not with rhetoric alone but chiefly with evidence and with the opinions of other authorities in the field. Students who are writing both thesis and dissertation projects should carefully follow their style manuals and the formatting requirements of their departments; while those details can at times seem mundane and difficult to manage, they give theses and dissertations a professional finish.


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