Dissertations. It’s what final-year students look forward to. I mean, who doesn’t want to spend an entire year writing a long essay? But, dissertations allow you to write about something within the confines of your degree that you’re interested in, so that can be fun! Just a lot of writing. Anyway, here is your one-stop-shop with everything that you need to know to answer the question: what is a dissertation? Whether you’re a stressed final year or a curious first year, this is your guide for everything there is to know about dissertations. 

What is a dissertation?

So, what is a dissertation? Well, a dissertation is a long piece of academic writing based on original research that is submitted as part of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. It’s typically done in your final year of undergrad (although there can be some exceptions) or forms the main part of a postgrad degree. You can choose to do your dissertation on any topic related to your degree that interests you. Just choosing what you want to do your dissertation on can take some time before you even get started. 

What’s the difference between a dissertation and a thesis?

There isn’t really, that’s the simple answer. The terms “dissertation” and “thesis” appear to be pretty interchangeable if you have a look at what Google has to say. Both are long pieces of academic writing that students write at university level. One result on Google suggests that the primary difference between the two is that you do a thesis during a master’s and a dissertation during a PhD. But, as someone who will be doing a dissertation as part of my BA, that’s not possible. It seems like the dissertation vs thesis debate can easily lead you down a rabbit hole, so I’m just going to stop there. Essentially, the two are practically identical with only very minute differences, if any. Just make sure when it comes to writing them you listen to what your professors tell you to do. 

Does every degree have a dissertation?

The simple answer is: most of them do, but not all. The type of dissertation can vary depending on your degree too. For instance, dissertations for humanities and other essay-based subjects tend to be research-driven. That means a lot of time in the library, but it’s not like we basically don’t live in the library anyway. Meanwhile, science-based subjects are more likely to be data-driven, so that also means a lot of time in the library, but with maths! If your degree doesn’t have a dissertation, you will probably be doing some kind of big final project at the end of your undergrad degree. 

How long should a dissertation be?:

Again, this depends on your uni and your course. It can range anywhere from 3,000 words to 15,000 words. Just look at Google, virtually every result differs from one another. The most important thing that you can do when you start your dissertation is to listen to your professors! Your course will state the requirements, so make sure to follow them accurately. Most importantly, make sure you know how much you should be writing before you start. You don’t want to be planning for a 5,000-word dissertation when it turns out you should be doing 10,000 words or vice versa. That would just be a stress that I wouldn’t want. Also make sure you’re aware of how much wiggle room there is with word count, as some unis allow for an extra 10% and some don’t! Read more on our article on how long is a dissertation?

So, to sum up, a dissertation is an extended piece of academic writing that you do at the end of your degree. It can feel like forever, but once it’s done you’ll be at the end of your degree so try to enjoy it. In the meantime, here’s our tips on finishing your dissertation.

Last Updated on March 17, 2024