What Is The Difference Between Writing Doctoral And Master's Dissertations?


Some people could give what they think is a funny answer to this question and simply say ‘time’. They would say that the time taken to write a Master’s dissertation is not nearly as great as writing something for your PhD. This may well be true. But the most significant difference between the two essays, if we can call them that, is that while both involve a great deal of research and writing, a student producing a Masters dissertation is seeking to impress the examiner that they know a great deal about a certain subject -- the subject chosen for their dissertation.

But on the other hand a student writing a doctoral dissertation, while they too must also impress the examiner with their knowledge about a particular subject, however they are required to produce something which is new. The person creating a doctoral dissertation is making a contribution to the world of knowledge about that particular subject.

As mentioned in the introduction, the length of the two dissertations is usually quite different. Generally speaking you would expect a Master’s degree dissertation to be at least 100 pages in length. The dissertation from a PhD student would generally speaking be at least twice that length.

A Masters is a step up from your research paper


Every student creating a Master’s dissertation will have produced a research paper several times throughout their academic career. A research paper is challenging in that you need to read widely and effectively before coming up with your opinion on a particular thesis. The Master’s dissertation is a step up from the research paper. Again you need to show evidence of the wide and relevant reading list you have used to develop the material within your Master’s dissertation.

You will certainly do that and more in creating your doctoral dissertation. The main difference being that you are looking to produce something which is original and which has not been discussed or presented in that way before.

The style of both dissertations does not have any differences. In both cases you are primarily writing for an academic to read and assess your work. This is not for public consumption and consequently the writing style should be formal. You will get no extra points for inventing a style or format in which you present your dissertation. Know the rules of layout and citation and follow them to the letter.

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