These three assignment types; essays, dissertations and theses are all important to students because at some point in the life of a student, there will be the request to complete at least one of the assignment types listed above!
Essays, dissertations and theses are all types of academic documents, produced by scholars and students and based on a specific question, subject matter or dilemma. They are used by colleges, schools, sixth forms and Universities as a means of determining how well a student is performing in a certain subject area and how well they have grasped crucial knowledge about a particular subject. And yet essays, dissertations and theses' are also often used to see how well a student is able to respond to specific questions on a particular subject matter and how well developed their skills are in terms of actually writing essays.
So what exactly is an essay? What is a dissertation? And what is a thesis?
The online dictionary defines an essay as; '(a) a short literary composition on a literary subject, usually presenting the personal view of the author, (b) something resembling such a composition.'
The online dictionary goes on to define a dissertation as; 'a treatise advancing a new point of view resulting from research, usually a requirement for an advanced academic degree.'
And finally a thesis shares the same definition as a dissertation on the online dictionary website, with one crucial difference; a thesis is usually longer than a dissertation.
So ultimately an essay, a dissertation and a thesis all share many traits:
- They are all literary compositions; that is to say that they are written documents or pieces of text.
- They all reflect in some way the author's point of view.
- They are all based on some form of research.
- They are all discussing some form of topic or subject matter.
- They can all be used as a means of academic testing.
However, there are differences between these three academic assignment types, and when you are completing either an essay, a dissertation or a thesis it is important to know what it is that defines the document as either one of these forms or assignment types so that you can ensure that you approach the completion of the document correctly.
Some of the main differences separating out these three document types are:
- Essays are generally shorter than dissertations and theses.
- Essays are usually used to explore an argument or to provide more information on a particular subject. Thus you'll find that most essay questions start with 'who, what, where, how or why'. They are looking for a conclusion to be drawn by the author, following an assessment of research that is already available.
- Dissertations are usually looking for the author to find new evidence to draw a conclusion about a specific subject matter, as the definition states, to 'advance a new point of view'. This means that dissertations are looking to add to the research pool on a specific subject, not simply discuss research that is already available.
- Theses usually hold the same aims and goals as dissertations, but the level of exploration and investigation into a particular subject matter is greater, and so the length of a thesis is generally longer than that of a dissertation.