As an academic writing tutor, many are times the question of the differences between a project, a thesis and a dissertation arises in my freelance writing clinics. Am sure the same reason could have landed you here as you searched online. I must have you first appreciate that the three are distinctively different though they carry some elements of similarities.
To start with, note that they carry the common features of being testable, taking specific (and almost similar structures), and featuring at the stage of higher education. For the structure, they are similar in that they take the basic outline of Introduction—Literature Review—Methodology—Discussion (for the findings) —Conclusion (and recommendations) —References—Appendix. They are however very different from each other.
First, they differ on the element of ‘when’ they are completed. A project is completed at the level of undergraduate. A thesis on the other hand is completed as a student completes a master’s program. A dissertation is required at the level of doctorate studies. They also differ in length. While a project will take an average length of about 50 pages, a thesis takes about 100-150 pages. A dissertation is longer and is supposed to be twice or more the length of a thesis. Often, a project runs through a semester, a thesis can take one to three semesters and a dissertation can span several years. Again, while a project does not require an oral defense, a thesis and dissertation must go through the stage. It is also worth noting that a project can be completed by an individual or a group. The other difference that one must note regards how the interest to write either arises.
The major feature in a thesis and a dissertation regards the identification of a research problem. For the two, a researcher must establish a literature gap or some form of inconclusiveness about a topic or a subject of interest. Therefore, the identified research gap becomes the rationale for undertaking the study. It also informs the study questions and the objectives.
On the other hand, a project does not proceed from a literature gap or a research problem. It is often informed by the need to solve an identified local, regional, or global problem. Consequently, projects are also regarded as applied studies. A researcher undertaking a project will collect information to address a predefined issue. For example, by noting the global, regional or local problem of deforestation, a researcher could undertake a study to appreciate the causes, the resultant effects, and how to solve the problem. At the end of the study, an applied document such as a program evaluation or a policy proposal would ensue. It, therefore, serves as an evidence-based recommendation to address the problem.
There are therefore the main similarities and differences between the three and which should be clear for students and freelance writers.
Contact us for personalized or group tutorials on mastering chapters 1, 2, and 3 in projects, theses and dissertations. You will benefit from guidance in searching or selecting study titles, literature review, synthesizing findings, establishing a study gap, and developing a study concept from the local or global problems. We also coach on advancing thoughts in introducing the research problem, background information, statement of the problem, the purpose of the study, settling for a theoretical framework, formulation of questions and objectives, and developing data collection tools.