Difference between a research paper, dissertation & thesis

When it comes to writing academic papers, students should have the right skills if they must succeed. Whether it is doing a weekly essay assignment, crafting a term paper, or doing research, the best learners are those who have mastered the art of literary composition. You should also note that understanding how each school paper differs from the other puts you ahead of the pack. Most of the schools, universities and institutions require you to undertake research at some point or another in form of coursework.

Often, students mistake research for term papers or thesis for dissertations. The worst-case scenario is when instead of writing a thesis; you end up with a dissertation paper. Such is an occurrence that often denies students marks. And so, the big question we want to answer in this post is what the differences between research, dissertation, and thesis are? Keep reading to learn more.

Writing Research

First things first note that variations between different types of academic papers could be in the form of writing style, definition, presentation of arguments, not to mention the purpose of writing and level of academia.  You should not expect high school students, for example, to partake in thesis writing. But when it comes to writing research papers, it can happen at any level of academia right from high school through college and university.

Note: There are differences in how these terminology are used. In few countries they are used interchangeably, while in other countries thesis is related to bachelor’s or master’s degree course and dissertation is used in the context of a doctorate degree, whereas in some countries the reverse is true. For example in Indian context, PhD students are required to submit a “thesis” whereas M.Phil students are required to submit a dissertation. Thesis is considered to be much longer form of research which is opposite in case of USA.

Differences based on the definition

Definitive differences between academic papers simplify things for a college newbie yet to write his or her academic paper. Now, on defining the thesis, research and dissertation, the following are worth noting:

  • A research paper refers to a piece of literary composition, often a class requirement. The most notable aspect of research papers is that before you craft them, you must gather knowledge independently. After collecting data and information, students then put together findings in a descriptive format. Learners must also present their arguments based on their evaluation of a subject under study. A good research paper opens the gates to advanced academic writing which will involve the implementation of findings.
  • A dissertation is a paper that students write as a requirement for the conferment of a diploma or degree. In some countries, Ph.D. students also write dissertations.
  • A thesis is a paper students craft as a requirement for a degree at college or university level. You do realize that all the three types of academic papers lead to something, often an academic qualification that would see one earn a degree or get admitted to the next level of academia.

Length of paper and methodology

While the methodology of writing these papers is similar, often constituting sections such as introduction, abstract, literature review, research method, presentation/finings, discussions, conclusion and recommendations, the length of each paper does vary. Research papers and dissertations are generally long. However, thesis papers tend to be short hence requiring less time to write. Dissertations and research require a comprehensive study of a study and gathering information/data. You, therefore, spend more time on them before and during writing.

Differences based on knowledge inference and hypothesis

A hypothesis is an educated guess. Before you conduct a study, assumptions have to be made that something will turn out in some way. Most importantly, how the outcome will impact a population informs the construction of a hypothesis/thesis statement. In research and dissertation writing, students must exhibit a rigorous understanding of a subject based on a study. It is on this premise that they must come up with/infer a meaningful conclusion. However, when writing thesis papers, the formulation of a hypothesis comes after researching and writing on a subject.

Differences based on the approach

How students go about crafting research, dissertation and thesis is another way of differentiating the three papers. In writing research and dissertation papers, students must use existing pieces of literature to back their findings. However, thesis papers more often rely on existing research work to prove a point. You can, for example, sample different research papers on climate change to prove your study on the same. Ostensibly, you are using existing and published academic papers to ascertain that phenomena or a problem exist.

Mode of publication and utilization

You should also note that academic papers exhibit differences based on the reason for which they get published and also how people use them. Dissertation papers are like complete and newly published books given their voluminous nature. You could refer to yours as an academic book. It makes you a published author. However, thesis and research work are like articles that shed light on a subject but not as comprehensively as dissertations.

Differences based on the level of academia

While students can write research papers at any level, they are most common at the undergraduate level. Completion of a research paper often leads to the conferment of an undergraduate degree. And when it comes to writing dissertation papers, the bargain is qualifying for a master’s degree, thusly; postgraduate, Mphil or MBA.  It means if you are not writing a dissertation to obtain a postgraduate degree, you do so as a means of enrolling in a postgraduate program. Thesis papers lead to the conferment of a Ph.D. degree or a doctorate as some scholars call it. Students who write thesis papers do so within the last two years of their academic life.

Final Thoughts

Many factors distinguish academic papers. But regardless of the methodology or purpose of these papers, the most important thing is that students showcase their literary skills. Moreover, academic paper tests the knowledge of students on different issues and subjects. Whether it is writing about how past events led to present-day situations or how human activities will lead to something happening in the future, knowledge dispensation helps societies grow.

In the interest of time, research work involved in crafting academic papers is meant to unearth critical findings on a subject and provide solutions to an existing problem. As a rule of the thumb, students who write research, dissertation or thesis papers must demonstrate their understanding of the society and problems that bedevil it. It is through doing so that recommendations for solving a problem become trustworthy, dependable, acceptable and applicable. Most importantly, learners must meet a set academic threshold before writing the above papers.