Writing A Postgraduate Dissertation: The Difference From A Master's Thesis

Upon completing their undergraduate programs, many students go directly into the workforce. Other decide to further their studies by way of a Master's or Doctoral degree. Depending on your field of study, a Master's degree may be expected from prospective employers. In many areas of business, for example, it is expected that managers and financial specialists will have taken their studies beyond the undergraduate level.

In other disciplines, advanced degrees may not be of as great importance. Your decision to pursue your studies should be based on careful consideration of your future goals, and in consultation with your program advisers. The cost of postgraduate programs is considerable, and many students finish their programs deep in debt!

PhD and Master's degree programs vary in many ways. So too does the task of writing a PhD dissertation, when compared to composing a Master's thesis. These are some of the main differences you would expect.

A Master's Program

  • Usually takes between two and three years to complete.
  • Involves course work, independent and self-guided study, and exams.
  • Some programs include an internship period and practical experience.
  • A few Master's Programs do not require the submission of a written thesis. Instead, one or more comprehensive exams may be involved.
  • Can be difficult to obtain grants, but student loans and other financial aid may be available

A Doctoral/PhD Program

  • Takes between four and eight years to complete.
  • Depending on the school and the program, up to three years may be spent doing course work.
  • Some fields (psychology etc.) include a mandatory practicum or internship component during the program.
  • Easier to obtain financial aid when compared to undergraduate or Master's level degrees.

A Master's Thesis

A Master's thesis is expected to be an extremely well-researched work, but does not necessarily involve drawing original conclusions. It is not as long a work as a PhD dissertation, and is rarely published in book or journal form.

A PhD Dissertation

A PhD dissertation is generally expected to make a far greater contribution to it's field of study when compared to a Master's thesis. It is expected to draw original or unexpected conclusions that make a significant contribution to it's subject. It is a much longer work than a Master's thesis (often in the range of 100,000 words), and more independent study and research usually goes into a PhD dissertation. The best PhD dissertations often go on to be published in respected journals, and may become the basis for books as well.

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