Differences in graduation and dissertation

Graduates and dissertations are text types that resemble each other in many ways: Both are theses that are done with the help of a supervisor. Both are pursuing a degree. Both are looking for an answer to some kind of research question, using some sort of research method. The structure of the degree and the dissertation may be similar, at least in its basic parts.

What are the differences between a graduate and a dissertation? In the following I discuss the differences between the graduate and the dissertation. However, I am not really limited to the differences in text types, but I also consider how these species differ as processes. I believe that discussing this question is equally useful for a graduate as well as for writing a doctoral thesis.


In my opinion, the biggest single difference is that making a doctoral thesis is simply a much longer project than a project. Graduates can, of course, stretch, but in reality one can write at least a year, in practice, much, much faster, if he so wishes. Ideally, the dissertation is a project that lasts at least four years and is often even longer in practice.

The length of the project will lead to the project being simply more challenging to manage. It requires more perseverance, and maintaining motivation is more challenging.

The length of the project also has a strong impact on the economy of the doctoral candidate. The doctoral thesis is often done as a main job, either with a grant or a monthly salary, for example, at a graduate school. If a doctoral dissertation is made without funding, in practice, life must be ‘financed’ by some completely different work, along with the doctoral thesis. Of course, the graduate also has to live for a while, but the question is less relevant.

Credits and depth

Another clear difference relates to scale. The dissertation is simply longer than the master’s thesis. From the point of view of writing, this means that the author of the dissertation must master the broader structure in a structured and substantive manner.

At the same time, if the dissertation is more than a graduate, it is usually more profound than the graduate. In this context, I simply mean that the thesis focuses more on the subject in the light of broader material and source material. The aim of the graduation is often to answer one simple research question, but in the dissertation, the viewing angles are usually inevitably more. The end result, or at least the goal, is to have a more thorough picture of the phenomenon under consideration.

The scope is also reflected in the length of the list of sources and, in practice, in the amount of literature to be read. When you graduate, it is enough to be familiar with some relevant literature. When making a doctoral thesis, you have to show that you are familiar with the whole field of literature and have also read at least some of the key sources. When doing graduation, it is often possible to use Finnish source literature primarily, but relying solely on domestic literature when making a doctoral dissertation is usually impossible.

Criteria of science

Sometimes it is thought that graduation is a practice of science, while making a doctoral thesis is already a science. In my opinion, the thing is not so unambiguous, although there is a certain truth in this statement.

Graduates are allowed larger deficiencies than in the doctoral thesis, and no one assumes that the thesis must meet the same criteria as the official scientific publications. On the other hand, the dissertation is assessed in the light of the same criteria as other scientific studies. So the end result must meet the criteria of science, and it must also have something real to give to the scientific community.

Still, it is important to remember that the dissertation is also a thesis. Dissertation is a practice, learning to do science. The dissertation is also conducted in cooperation with the supervisor. The text produced by the author of the dissertation is not expected to be a science in principle, but the process should become such a thing.

Volunteering and academic identity

The big difference or, in fact, the huge difference is that the Master is in principle compulsory, while the dissertation is not. In order to qualify for a degree, each graduate must complete a master’s degree or equivalent. Many students do not have a particularly strong researcher identity. Still, at the end of their studies, they have to present a researcher at least some level. This can cause great problems for many students, as academic research and scientific language use may seem to be very well received by many. However, a graduate can always think, “I play for a moment for a moment.”

Instead, the author of the dissertation can no longer escape an academic identity or researcher. All authors of the dissertation do not end up as researchers, and many do postgraduate studies in order to strengthen their own professional identity and qualifications, for example as a teacher. Even though the dissertation would remain a unique excursion to the world of research, during this process, research and academicness are part of the identity of the author of the dissertation.

Maybe the dissertation and the final difference between the thesis and the final dissertation of the dissertation are crystallized: the master is forced to do it, but only those who have not completed the degree will start the dissertation. So some kind of internal fire must be found. However, I think that this internal fire can be directed at a variety of things: the research topic, the challenge of doing research, and at the same time satisfaction, writing, or even just being fun to set goals for you all the time!

I would like to thank the thoughts of this article for the postgraduate students of the Kokkola University Center Chydenus and the Faculty of Education of the University of Joensuu.