10 Differences Between Writing An Essay And Writing A Dissertation

Writing A Dissertation

Writing an essay differs from writing a dissertation in many aspects. The former is a shorter document of precise length, whereas the latter is a lengthy document. Writing a dissertation is a more complex task than writing an essay. Dissertation writing is an advanced and sophisticated form of essay writing. So, it differs significantly from a typical essay. This article will tell you the differences between writing an essay and a dissertation.

What Are The Differences Between Writing An Essay And Writing A Dissertation?


The word essay derives from the French word essayer, “to try” or “to attempt”. It means an attempt to put your thoughts in a written form. An essay attempts to educate the audience about an issue or explain something informative to the readers. There are different essay forms such as persuasive, argumentative, expository, descriptive, narrative, and informative. An essay is relatively a short piece of writing whose purpose is to inform and educate the audience. The length of an essay is usually between 1500-2500 words.

On the other hand, the purpose of writing a dissertation is to add value to the existing corpus of knowledge. A dissertation means discourse or an extended piece of writing on a particular subject. A dissertation is an extended form of essay and a longer piece of writing on a specific topic. It requires a detailed analysis and a thorough investigation to add something new to the literature. A writer identifies the gaps in the existing studies and addresses them by writing a dissertation. The purpose of an essay is to argue or debate an issue to educate the audience. But the purpose of writing a dissertation is to contribute to the field of knowledge and open avenues for new forms of thinking. It leads to discovering new facts, theories and conclusions with practical implications.


Another primary difference between an essay and a dissertation is scope. The scope of an essay is narrower than a dissertation. An essay only attempts to highlight the issues at the surface and does not delve deeper into the specifics. On the other hand, writing a dissertation entails exploring the multiple facets of a topic and probing the specific details. 


The audience of an essay is different from the audience of a dissertation. Students generally write essays for their professors and teachers. Some of the essays get published in newspaper columns or magazines. On the other hand, writing a dissertation means that you are writing for the academic committee. The academic committee consists of subject experts, and they evaluate the dissertation.

They identify the strengths and weaknesses of the dissertation and determine its scholarly worth. The committee has the power to accept or reject the dissertation on many grounds. For example, a committee consisting of best dissertation writers and researchers can reject a dissertation if they think it is not adding anything valuable to the academic discourse. They can also point out whether the author successfully proved the assumptions and answered the questions.


The contents of an essay differ from the dissertation’s contents. An essay usually revolves around a thesis statement which is the central idea. Although in dissertation, a writer has a central idea, which is the problem statement, but it requires deeper analysis than an essay. An essay usually has an introduction, main body, and conclusion part. But a dissertation requires dividing the several components into sections, headings, and sub-headings. An essay does not need research questions, research methodology and literature review. But writing a dissertation requires the incorporation of the following components:

  • Acknowledgements and Dedication
  • Approval Certificate
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Glossary
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Background of the Study
  • Problem Statement
  • Research Questions
  • Hypotheses
  • Significance of the Study
  • Dissertation Outline
  • Literature Review
  • Research Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion and Analysis
  • Conclusion
  • Limitations
  • Recommendations
  • References
  • Appendices

Analytical Approaches

Argumentative and analytical essays require analysis and evaluation of the discussed topic. An author has to present arguments and support them with evidence. But writing a dissertation requires advanced analytical skills to probe the issue deeply. It requires an ability to engage with the discourse and derive inferences from the evidence. Writing a dissertation also includes statistical analysis for quantitative studies. An author must define a hypothesis with variables and test them using statistical tools and techniques. It is an elaborate piece of writing that demands complex analytical techniques and methods.

Extensive Research and Citations

A dissertation requires extensive research, citations and references since it is a lengthy text. On the other hand, essay writing requires a few references.

Time Period

An essay is a piece of writing that you can complete in a short time. On the other hand, writing a dissertation requires a significant amount of time to complete. You can write an essay even in a day or two. But writing a dissertation requires topic selection, careful planning, research, development of ideas, data collection, and analysis. It takes more time than writing an essay.

Difference in Structure

Essay writing has a different structure than dissertation writing. A dissertation requires proper structure and different sections that reflect each stage of the dissertation. It is more difficult to maintain coherent structure in a dissertation than in an essay because dissertation writing is a complex activity.

Aims and Objectives

An essay aims to explore a topic generically. On the other hand, a dissertation is specific and starts with a specific research question or problem. It attempts to answer the research question with a detailed analysis of primary and secondary evidence.

Data Collection

Essay writing relies on secondary evidence to strengthen the arguments. But a dissertation entails primary data collection to address the research questions. A researcher must conduct detailed surveys, interviews, focus group discussions and experiments on finding answers to a research question. On the other hand, an essay relies on secondary literature to inform the audience about the issue’s importance.


Writing a dissertation is more rigorous and more formal than essay writing. It is longer than an essay with a different structure and style than an essay. It is a process that requires extensive research and is time-consuming.

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