The Difference Between An Essay And A Masters Thesis


There is often confusion about the difference in meaning between the essay and the master’s dissertation or thesis (these terms are used dependent upon from which continent you are originating). The word thesis is a term used for a master’s degree program in the United States; whereas the word thesis in the United Kingdom usually denotes that it is for fulfillment of a PhD. Dissertation in the United States usually denotes required research to fulfill a  PhD; whereas the word dissertation is used in the United Kingdom to name the master’s thesis. The dissertation or master’s thesis is written in partial fulfillment of the master’s degree and is a formal research paper from the point of view of research material and information.

            An essay is usually a shorter piece of writing that denotes research from the writer’s point of view. An essay is usually written in the academic world to teach the student to create a thesis statement and then research information about that thesis statement. Essays can be anywhere from one page to twenty or even thirty pages long. The essay will contain an introduction, body and conclusion, in which the thesis statement is stated and then proven or argued.

            A master’s thesis or dissertation can be much longer than the essay and is usually written in a more formal format. It is designed to fulfill academic requirements for the acquisition of a master’s or doctorate degree. The research within the master’s thesis or dissertation is usually more intricate and is a paper that is written so it may be published.

            The master’s thesis does not have to be an academic endeavor to be “feared”, but embraced. Once the writer has his/her main idea for the thesis, the writer must then proceed with an outline with definite headings and subheadings to prove the research. The master’s thesis differs in other ways to the essay in that the master’s thesis is made up of very stringent components. There is usually an abstract before the introduction. That is the idea of the entire thesis is presented in a 150 word abstract of ideas. The introduction should be at least one page in length and recap the abstract, plus stating the thesis, including the points that the thesis will be making. The body of the master’s thesis should have a literature review, methodology, and a firm and binding conclusion.

            The essay will not need any of these specific points but should have an introduction with a thesis statement, a body of information proving the thesis statement or argument and a binding conclusion which wraps up the entire thesis statement.

            The main difference between these two pieces of academic writing is the length and the formality of the papers.