What is a Dissertation? And how does it differ from an Essay?


A dissertation refers to a research study considered an essential academic document that postgraduate and undergraduate students must submit to complete their degrees. Students must conduct a research study based on the available research and develop a well-structured thesis paper. This is not a cakewalk, and it involves a lot of time and patience to pen down an effective research study. Most post-graduation and under-graduation degrees often end up submitting a thesis paper. Submitting a dissertation plays the most significant role, and students often find this challenging as this involves various complex tasks. Students should have a broad knowledge of how to write a dissertation, which will help them score more marks.
It requires students to devote ample time to investigate a particular unique topic and research question and thus present their findings scholarly. Dissertations are required to follow some structure; this helps to enhance the efficiency of the paper. The word limit of the dissertation varies from University to University. But students wishing to achieve a prestigious degree must submit this academic assignment.

Importance of dissertation:

Dissertation plays a significant role in students Life who are pursuing higher studies. A dissertation reflects students’ understanding of the subject matter and showcases their research skills. The dissertation allows every child who is pursuing higher studies to explore different research methodologies and also allows them to develop critical thinking skills, allowing them to gather primary data and secondary data and thus draw evidence-based conclusions. In addition to that dissertation contributes to the existing theories and thus helps to make advancements in the specific subject matter.

Types of Dissertation

There are two types of dissertation, namely empirical dissertation and Non-empirical dissertation.

  • Empirical dissertation: Empirical dissertation is also known as a research-based dissertation and is a type of research study that depends on primary data collection and analysis of the data. This method usually engages the researcher to gather data by conducting experiments, surveys, and interviews. In addition to that, this also follows some specific structure.
  • Non-empirical dissertation: this type of dissertation is quite different from an empirical dissertation, where it does not rely on primary data but on secondary data and theoretical framework, which helps the researcher to answer research questions.

Difference between Dissertation and Essays

  • Structure: The first point that comes to mind is the structure of the dissertation, where the dissertation involves a very complex structure. The students must follow the specific structure where the dissertation starts with a chapter introduction followed by a literature review, research methodology, findings, data analysis and conclusion. This is quite a long academic document as compared to an essay. A dissertation always comes with challenges; the students sometimes feel excited and frustrated when they face difficulty answering the research questions. In addition, that dissertation is much longer and covers many opinions and perspectives on a topic, whereas an essay discusses a topic very concisely.
  • Scope: The dissertation enables students to broader their critical thinking and problem-solving skills as it involves various research methodologies and data analysis methods. And students, before choosing a particular research methodology, must have in-depth knowledge of the primary data and secondary data. Research methodology differs for both processes and must analyse the data properly to give efficient results. A dissertation allows students to excel in their knowledge in many areas, whereas an essay does not involve such chapters.
  • Purpose: There exists a big difference between the purpose of an essay and a dissertation. An essay usually traditionally reflects a writer’s thoughts on a particular topic, where the writer states their statements with supporting arguments. While writing an essay, writers can pen down their thoughts in a storytelling form or adopt pre-defined facts to support their thoughts. On the other hand, the purpose of a dissertation is quite different, where students develop a thesis paper uniquely, which is something new to the existing field of study. It allows advancing the knowledge and adding something new to existing knowledge, where the students take help from the scholar resources. In addition, we would like to bring your focus on a very interesting point is that a dissertation allows students to choose their topic, and if they succeed in drafting a unique and outstanding dissertation, they also get a chance to publish their dissertation in academic journals.
  • Thesis Statement: An essay is subjected to state a compact research statement, based on which a student develops the academic document, but a thesis statement is not essential for a dissertation; it depends upon the student they may add a thesis statement or may not.
  • Audience: Audience refers to those members who read your essay and dissertation. The audience for an essay can be the teachers or the professors of the college and any particular discipline who mainly assigns tasks to the students. On the other hand, as we have discussed earlier, that dissertation is submitted by students who pursue a master’s degree or doctorate. In that case, the audience for a dissertation is not only bound to the university premises but also read many individuals if they get the opportunity to publish their dissertation in academic journals.
  • Acceptance: As a dissertation requires students to draft something new to an existing field of study, it also checks whether students have sufficiently supported their draft; students are required to support their statements with proper citations. The academic committee may only accept a dissertation if they support the argument. If they meet all the criteria, their dissertation gets accepted by the academic committee, and they get to publish it in academic journals. But the essay does not require to meet such criteria.
  • Requirements: Students, before crafting a dissertation, must go through all the requirements that their university asks and along with that, they must have proper knowledge about the structure of the dissertation, and they should have a proper idea about what to add in where to add. In addition, they should be able to categorise their data among primary and secondary data. Along with that students pursuing doctoral degrees, crafting a dissertation is not an end process; you must ensure that you have critically presented your dissertation with unique thoughts to an existing field of study.
  • Writing style: There exists a huge difference between the writing style of these two academic content. An essay is not subjected to much research, whereas students are required to do a lot of research before they craft their dissertation, and when they get approval from the university, they must critically craft their dissertation, which requires strong research skills.
  • Language: The essay mainly follows informal language, and students often present their essays with personal opinions, whereas a dissertation should follow formal language and be written in a scholarly prose manner with proper citations. In addition, a dissertation is subjected to answering a research question, whereas an essay evolves by discussing a specific topic.
  • Citations: Both essays and dissertations should be supported by a proper citation; the reference style depends upon the requirements of the university or any particular discipline. And if it is not mentioned, the students may follow APA, MLA, or Harvard.
  • Length: As we all know that essays are usually shorter than dissertations. The average word limit of an essay is 2000-2500 words, whereas the average word limit of a dissertation is 10000-15000; it depends upon the university. This difference in the word limit may be because essays are subjected to information about a specific topic concisely, whereas a dissertation seeks to explore more on a topic and gather in-depth information.
  • Research: You must engage in strong research to craft an effective essay or dissertation. But students can do less research while crafting an essay, but a dissertation requires thorough research from relevant sources.


A dissertation is an essential academic document that students must submit to achieve a master’s degree or postdoctoral degree. Whereas an essay can be defined as an academic document that is presented to discuss a specific topic. Although both dissertations and essays are academic documents, there exists a huge difference between them. Firstly, both possess different structures, where a dissertation encompasses various chapters whereas essays do not have such criteria; students can pen down their thoughts and opinions under various sub-topics. Secondly, a dissertation offers scope to the students to excel in their knowledge of a specific area of study, and it involves thorough research, and students get an opportunity to gather in-depth knowledge about a specific field of study and contribute a unique theory to an existing body of field of study. Their purposes are different, and an essay usually reflects a writer’s thoughts on a particular topic in the traditional manner. While dissertation’s purpose is to answer research questions and develop a thesis paper uniquely, which is new to the existing field of study. Dissertations are subjected to a peer-reviewed process, whereas essay does not undergo such a process. An essay must involve a thesis statement, which is not mandatory for a dissertation. The academic committee may only accept a dissertation if they support an argument with strong evidence. An essay is not subjected to much research, whereas students must do much research before they craft their dissertations. A language difference exists for both, where an essay follows the informal language and a dissertation follows the formal language and scholarly prose pattern. The average word limit of an essay is 1000-2500, whereas, for a dissertation, it is 10000-15000. And both academic documents must be cited properly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is a dissertation?

A dissertation is an essential academic document that the student must submit who is pursuing a master’s degree and doctoral program. Any master’s degree program ends up submitting this academic document. It has a common structure involving an introduction chapter, a literature review, a research methodology, data analysis and a conclusion. A dissertation is subjected to well-researched and must answer a research question uniquely.

Q2. What is an essay?

An essay is a concise and structured piece of writing which discusses a specific topic. Commonly essays are presdneted traditionally to explore an issue or point. It typically consists of an introduction where the writer states the topic’s background and is followed by a series of paragraphs, which includes explanations, examples, and evidence that helps support a particular discussion.

Q3. Why dissertation is important?

A dissertation is an integral part of a master’s degree program or doctoral program. This helps to add value to their respective course and showcases their research skills. In addition to that, it allows them to present a thesis uniquely and critically. Submitting an effective dissertation reflects their understanding of the subject area.

Q4. How many types of dissertations are there?

There are two types of dissertation one is an empirical dissertation, and another is a non-empirical dissertation. The empirical dissertation, also known as a research-based dissertation, depends on primary data collection. Whereas a non-empirical dissertation does dissertation where it does not rely on primary data but on secondary data and theoretical framework, which helps the researcher to answer research questions.

Q5. How does a dissertation differ from an essay?

A dissertation differs from an essay in many ways. First of all, both academic documents have different structures, different language styles, different formats, and different audiences. Also, there is a huge difference in word length. An essay uses informal language, whereas a dissertation uses formal language.

Author Bio: Mark Edmonds is a renowned archaeologist and author, currently working at Academic Assignments, a leading provider of top-quality student dissertation help. With a wealth of experience in the field, Mark’s expertise extends to prehistory, landscape archaeology, and interdisciplinary collaborations. As an accomplished researcher and academic, he brings invaluable insights and guidance to students seeking comprehensive support for their dissertations. Mark’s commitment to academic excellence makes him a trusted resource for students in their quest for academic success.