thesis, Ph-D, dissertation

Discussion in 'English Only' started by tuaillon, Feb 17, 2006.

  1. tuaillon Senior Member

    La Rochelle
    I thought that "dissertation" was the long paper a grad sor post student was writing. But then what is "thesis"? Isn't it just the theme of your dissertation?? Somehow I m starting to get confused.
  2. Gaverz

    Gaverz Senior Member

    Chippenham, Wiltshire
    England, English
    A dissertation is an essay or paper in French (like right now I'm righting one!). A thesis is usually associated with an extrodinarily long paper written by University students of P.h.D graduates. One could say that a thesis is just a posh word for essay, same with dissertation.

    I don't know whether this helps or not!

  3. tuaillon Senior Member

    La Rochelle
    i m getting more and more confused. When I went to the States as a Ph-D student (doctorant in French), I was told to say that I was writing my dissertation (thèse in French).
  4. tuaillon Senior Member

    La Rochelle
    oh, my dictionary says "dissertation" in the US, "thesis" in UK...:confused:
  5. TrentinaNE

    TrentinaNE Senior Member

    English (American)
    I think it's a geographic distinction. Doctoral (PhD) programs in the U.S. require a dissertation based on original research. One of my colleagues from New Zealand always refers to his doctoral thesis, even though he received his PhD from a U.S. university.
  6. tuaillon Senior Member

    La Rochelle
    well, thanks. The good old difference between British and American words seems to be waning... Alright then, seems clear enough now.
  7. Gaverz

    Gaverz Senior Member

    Chippenham, Wiltshire
    England, English
    A thesis is just another word for dissertation. A thesis and dissertation are different words for a paper, usually written by a candidate for a degree. Both terms are used in the UK although a thesis is more commenly used here (UK) and a dissertation in the US. It's more geographical on usage.

    I think either one you'll say would be widely recognised. Although essay is more widley known, it has the idea of being short in prose and not at the same intellectual level as a thesis or dissertation.

    Hope this is better :)
  8. boonognog Senior Member

    Charlotte, NC
    English (U.S.)
    'Essay' also doesn't have the graduate degree associated with it. The terms 'thesis' and 'dissertation' both clearly indicate the final stages of graduate degree work.
  9. TrentinaNE

    TrentinaNE Senior Member

    English (American)
    Exactly. In my experience, in the U.S., it's common to speak of a master's thesis and a doctoral dissertation, which could be why tuaillon received the advice cited in message #3. :) While I've heard people speak of a doctoral thesis, I don't believe I've ever heard anyone refer to a master's dissertation.

  10. boonognog Senior Member

    Charlotte, NC
    English (U.S.)
    I've always heard thesis and dissertation used interchangeably for either master or doctoral level work.
  11. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Another, perhaps rather more dated, UK view.

    A PhD will always require a thesis.
    A MA or MSc may be by examination or by dissertation. Those doing masters by dissertation may refer to their work as a thesis - for effect.

    The common parlance would have a thesis being a much more substantial piece of work than a dissertation.

    As for an essay? This post is an essay:)
  12. jpdeweerdt Member

    French - Belgium
    Now here is another one:

    can we speak about a thesis and/or dissertaion at Bachelor's level?
    Here in Belgium we have to write a 'project' which I would roughly translate as 'End-of-studies' work. In my case, the students have to realize a short 3D-animation movie (or similar) and join a little handout.

    Would this fit into the 'dissertation' category, being more technical than written in this case?
    Or is there a better word? If yes, I would be very happy to have all the regional differences (US/UK/OZ/...) as my students travel quite a lot after their studies.

    Now a sub-question : they also have to make a one-year project at the end of their second year which we call 'end-of-year work'. Would this be correct in your countries??

    Thanks for your help

    Jean Paul
  13. nebt Senior Member

    Czech, CZ
    We use dissertation only in connection with a PhD title.
    Are these expressions acceptable too?:
    Bachelor Paper - for BA
    Diploma Paper - for MA
    as prescribed English version at our Department of Religions and Philosophy.
    Diploma Thesis - for MA - possible?
  14. TrentinaNE

    TrentinaNE Senior Member

    English (American)
    jpdeweerdt, as nebt noted, in the U.S. the term dissertation really only applies to the document that is written as part of one's research for a PhD (doctoral) degree. I have heard of undergraduate students working on a thesis for their Bachelor's degree, usually as part of an "honors" program. But "final project" also works fine in your context and sounds more natural to my ear than "end-of-year work."

  15. Jumble Member

    I agree with the las post. Final project would be the term to use for an "end-of-year work". I would add that this is especially appropriate when the "end-of-year work" refers to art/design-related work to be handed in at the end of the term.
  16. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    (In American English,) I would use "thesis" with a Bachelor's or a Master's degree, and "dissertation" with a Ph.D. degree.

    Also (I don't believe this question was answered), "thesis" can refer to the argument that one presents in a paper, whereas "dissertation" cannot.
  17. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
  18. Sextus Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    I usually use "PhD thesis" and it's acceptable, even in the US. But I'm not a native speaker, so...
  19. dathrilla Senior Member

    American English, New York
    a PhD "thesis" for me...I guess they use "dissertation" sometimes just because it sounds more posh and exotic lool...
  20. asm Senior Member

    New England, USA
    Mexico, Spanish
    I think dissertation comes from dissertate and thesis is what Elroy says. Both ideas are similar; part of the difference is language preference and tradition.
    If I say I am writing my thesis in education my advisor would correct me right away (in an American University).

  21. ascoltate

    ascoltate Senior Member

    Montréal, QC
    U.S.A. & Canada, English
    I would guess (although I don't know) that "dissertate" comes from "dissertation" rather than the reverse - but anyway:

    In the U.S.:
    an undergraduate thesis
    a master's thesis OR a master's essay (usually a master's essay is turned in when the master's degree doesn't require a separate defense and can be completed as part of a course -- some master's programs have the choice between a "thesis" option and an "essay" option)
    a Ph.D. dissertation (! - certainly "thesis" will be understood but that's because foreigners call it that - people in Ph.D. programs call it a "dissertation")

    A thesis takes less than a year to write; a dissertation takes several years.

    These are only for the U.S. though, as has been said before.
  22. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    In UK style, this could be labelled as an honours dissertation. As noted by others there's a flipover of usage in the UK and US on thesis and dissertation.

    The shorter thing is a dissertation; and the longer thing is a thesis in the UK - hence an honours dissertation, a BA or BSc dissertation (tagged on at the end of coursework), but an MPhil or MLitt thesis and a PhD or DPhil thesis.
  23. Alliga Senior Member

    <Moderator note: Alliga's thread has been merged with an earlier one.>

    Good evening.

    For a the substantial essay coming at the end of a (university) master, will you rather say :

    - A Master thesis


    - A Master dissertation

    Thanks a lot in advance !
    Last edited by a moderator: May 14, 2014
  24. Miss Julie

    Miss Julie Senior Member

    Chicago metro area
    In the U.S., one writes a master's thesis or a doctoral dissertation.
  25. Susan Y Senior Member

    British English
    In the UK, it is usually the other way round: you write a dissertation for a master's (or bachelor's with honours) degree, and a thesis for a doctorate. But usage does vary a bit between institutions.
  26. Alliga Senior Member

    Thanks for the reply.


    Knowing that I am writing my thesis/dissertation in English BUT outside of the English-speaking world, which one might be the most relevant (or neutral, or understandable, or, or, or) ? '

    Second question : why the 's after "master" or "bachelor" ?

    Edit : Play with google. I entered both expressions between brackets "", and :
    - "master thesis" provides me with 2 550 000 relies
    - "master dissertation" with… "only" 261 000
    Last edited: May 14, 2014
  27. Susan Y Senior Member

    British English
    Sorry, it was a typo - should be masters dissertation. You could try entering that term in google perhaps.

    In general, I think that for a thesis you need some sort of hypothesis which you are testing. A dissertation is more like an essay. You could also compromise and call it a "research paper". But I think either thesis or dissertation would be understood.

    PS I have just googled the masters paper I wrote (under "[keywords]+ thesis" or "[keywords] + dissertation") and it comes up under either.
  28. Alliga Senior Member

    Thanks for the reply.

    Well, considering that you write it both and it also appears on google, I am not sure that's a typo… ;-)

    But in any cases, why a "s":

    - I have written my master thesis
    - I have written my masters thesis
    - My last course in bachelor was boring
    - My last course in bachelors was boring

    Since you seem to put an "s", could you tell me why ? (since in my native language, one write "master", or "bachelor", even if "bachelor" is quite recent in Fr.)

    Many thanks again !
  29. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    The Ngrams show that "master's thesis" is far more widely used than "masters thesis", whether AmE or BrE. The degree is a Master's Degree, like a Bachelor's degree. In English, we use the 's (e.g., the degree for qualification as "Bachelor of Arts"?)
  30. Susan Y Senior Member

    British English
    It seems both "master's" and "masters" are acceptable. I found a previous WR thread on master 's v masters, but I don't know how to link to it. I checked the University of Oxford ( as mentioned in that thread) and they use "masters" degree/ level.

    In either case, you can't use master degree without the s or 's as you would in French.

    Just to illustrate the confusion,the official government Australian Qualifications Framework uses "masters", whereas the New Zealand equivalent uses "master's". No rhyme or reason, it seems!

    PS It turns out that there are several WR threads on this. The one I found first was on the French-English forum, but there are several more in the English only forum. Obviously an issue that comes up fairly often...
    Last edited: May 14, 2014
  31. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese

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