English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

The thesis of this dissertation is that managing and accessing the Structured Web poses unique difficulties which neither traditional database systems nor search engines address.

This is from Dr.Cafarella's doctoral thesis. I assume that thesis and dissertation have very similar meanings. The expression "the thesis of this dissertation" confuses me.

share|improve this question
I think it's sloppy usage - in academia, thesis and dissertation often mean the same thing, so it strikes me as careless to draft in the "non-academic" meaning of thesis in this context. – FumbleFingers Feb 29 '12 at 18:37
They mean hypothesis, not thesis – Matt E. Эллен Feb 29 '12 at 21:27
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Per Merriam-Webster:

thesis, n. 1 a : a claim put forward : STATEMENT, PROPOSITION; specifically : a position or proposition that a person (as a candidate for scholastic honors) advances and maintains or offers to maintain by argument

dissertation, n. : 2 : an extended usually systematic oral or written treatment of a subject : TREATISE, DISQUISITION; specifically : a substantial paper that is submitted to the faculty of a university by a candidate for an advanced degree that is typically based on independent research and that if acceptable usually gives evidence of the candidate's mastery both of his own subject and of scholarly method

The terms are not equivalent in this context (although they are commonly used as though they are).

A dissertation makes the case for its thesis. Dr. Cafarella's dissertion is going to make the case ‒ argue the thesis ‒ that "managing and accessing the Structured Web poses unique difficulties which neither traditional database systems nor search engines address."

share|improve this answer

A thesis is the idea put forth to be discussed or proven.

A dissertation is usually a written essay, often written by a student in order to get a higher degree (otherwise, it would probably just be called an essay). In order to get a doctorate you have to research and write so many pages on a subject.

So a dissertation will likely contain a thesis, and that up there in your quote is what's known as the "thesis statement", usually found near the beginning, where one clearly states exactly what the thesis is.

Now, dissertation and thesis can sometimes be used interchangeably, but usually that is only encountered pertaining to the writing assignment itself. So you can say that you "have to finish your thesis for class on Monday" instead of using "dissertation."

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.