Difference between a Research Paper and a Dissertation

 Research Paper and a Dissertation

A thesis or dissertation and a research paper are all academic works that study appropriate topics. However, there are some fundamental differences between these documents. Some of the differences will be discussed in this post.


The purpose is one of the main differences between a thesis and a research paper. A thesis is usually written with the goal to obtain high degree of academic qualification. Research papers are significantly shorter than thesis. Research papers can be written in several days. On the other hand, due to significant length of thesis, up to 9,000 words, they can be accomplished in several. The topic of a thesis might be very complex and this explains so much time it takes to complete it.

Supervision and Assistance

There are people who help writers of dissertations and research papers. College or universities have professors or tutors to help with writing research papers. Students receive guidance from them at constant basis. On the other hand, dissertation writing process is guided by a supervisor. Supervisors often have knowledge of the topics areas in order to able to help with scientific aspects of the work.

These people read drafts, make recommendations and so on. In some universities supervisors or coordinators are assigned to meet with students on a regular basis. Because of the complexity of dissertation it is absolutely necessary to attend these meetings.Research papers are written as a part of a course and they do not summarize it. On the other hand, dissertations are intended to summarize a course and provide thorough research of the topic.

Formatting Requirements

The requirements for formatting of dissertations and research papers also have differences. Some universities have very specific demands. For example, the order of elements included in dissertations may be different. Elements like abstract and table of contents are always prerequisite, though. Additionally, dissertation includes numerous elements which are not expected in research papers. These elements include tables, research methodology, list of graphs and other graphical content and so on.


The professor usually chooses the topic for a research paper. On the other hand, topic for a dissertation might be selected by doctoral students. Moreover, the research in dissertation is expected to be unique and break new ground to reveal unknown information. Selecting a topic for a dissertation alone may be a very difficult task for many students. This is completely reasonable because they will spend months and years working with this paper so they have to ensure that the work will be interesting to research. So the main requirements of dissertation are uniqueness, thorough study of the topic and critical analysis. A research paper also includes analysis but this level of intensity cannot be compared with dissertation. Besides, writing a dissertation involved many differences in qualitative aspects.