I have seen some sites that distinguish a dissertation as what is written as the requirements of a doctoral degree.

Others that distinguish a thesis as a document written for the fulfillment of any degree (Bachelors, Masters or Doctoral) while a dissertation is a more general name for a document where someone is presenting findings.

I am curious if there is any more rigorous definition which distinguishes the two, but my more immediate question is this:

I am writing the document to fulfill a doctoral degree. Within the text of the document do I refer to it as a "Dissertation" or a "Thesis"?

For example: "A more thorough review of this analysis is presented in Chapter 5 of this ________."

Maybe the fact that the [thesis] is the tag used for all of these documents is an indication of the answer?

I've also seen this question on this site, but it doesn't seem to answer my question: What are the main differences between undergraduate, master's, and doctoral theses?

  • I read somewhere that it is a "doctoral thesis" before it is approved and a "doctoral dissertation" afterwards. This does not seem to be standard, though. Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 16:28
  • 2
    If you don't want to make a decision yet (postponing decisions is supposed to be good 1 2, sometimes!) then simply write {\thesis} in LaTeX or $thesis in anything else (unless you are an "advanced user" managing variables), then you will be able to do a search&replace later. This doesn't solve the problem, but effectively postpones its solution in a harmless way IMHO.
    – Trylks
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 17:30
  • 1
    What about just `in Chapter 5'?
    – Jessica B
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 7:13
  • 5
    A thesis has two humps; a dissertation has only one.
    – JeffE
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 22:14

3 Answers 3


"Work" is just as good as either. There's no need for precision or rigor here. All three would be acceptable.


Follow the guidelines of your university's thesis office (or dissertation office, or whatever they call it). They'll probably have a format guide that specifies how to refer to the document, or if not, you can contact someone at the office and ask.

If they really don't tell you which one to use, you can probably use either, but it helps to be consistent.

  • 2
    Certainly be consistent! If you choose one, stick to it.
    – yo'
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 11:14

To lift from the definition provided here:

A Thesis is a scholarly written document of a smaller study on a particular topic in consistent with every details of Research Methodology. It's written usually for obtaining a Masters Degree.

A Dissertation is a scholarly document of a larger study on a particular topic in consistent with every details of research Methodology. It's written usually to obtain a Doctoral Degree.

  • 4
    Not a good definition. A dissertation is almost always written for a doctoral degree; the term "thesis" can be used at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral level.
    – aeismail
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 21:00
  • 2
    @aeismail Clearly there is a cultural problem here. I would say exactly the reverse of your answer.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 6:59
  • @JessicaB: My definition seems to apply to the US as well as many European countries. I have never heard anyone from anywhere ever say "bachelor's dissertation" or "master's dissertation."
    – aeismail
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 10:56
  • 3
    @aeismail The UK must be different. When I just googled 'dissertation' the results I got seem to agree with me. Wikipedia says that one convention applies in some contexts and the reverse in others (without specifying what contexts these are).
    – Jessica B
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 19:49
  • There are also habilitation theses/dissertations.
    – JeffE
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 20:59

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