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Guide to writing your thesis/dissertation, definition of dissertation and thesis.

The dissertation or thesis is a scholarly treatise that substantiates a specific point of view as a result of original research that is conducted by students during their graduate study. At Cornell, the thesis is a requirement for the receipt of the M.A. and M.S. degrees and some professional master’s degrees. The dissertation is a requirement of the Ph.D. degree.

Formatting Requirement and Standards

The Graduate School sets the minimum format for your thesis or dissertation, while you, your special committee, and your advisor/chair decide upon the content and length. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and other mechanical issues are your sole responsibility. Generally, the thesis and dissertation should conform to the standards of leading academic journals in your field. The Graduate School does not monitor the thesis or dissertation for mechanics, content, or style.

“Papers Option” Dissertation or Thesis

A “papers option” is available only to students in certain fields, which are listed on the Fields Permitting the Use of Papers Option page , or by approved petition. If you choose the papers option, your dissertation or thesis is organized as a series of relatively independent chapters or papers that you have submitted or will be submitting to journals in the field. You must be the only author or the first author of the papers to be used in the dissertation. The papers-option dissertation or thesis must meet all format and submission requirements, and a singular referencing convention must be used throughout.

ProQuest Electronic Submissions

The dissertation and thesis become permanent records of your original research, and in the case of doctoral research, the Graduate School requires publication of the dissertation and abstract in its original form. All Cornell master’s theses and doctoral dissertations require an electronic submission through ProQuest, which fills orders for paper or digital copies of the thesis and dissertation and makes a digital version available online via their subscription database, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses . For master’s theses, only the abstract is available. ProQuest provides worldwide distribution of your work from the master copy. You retain control over your dissertation and are free to grant publishing rights as you see fit. The formatting requirements contained in this guide meet all ProQuest specifications.

Copies of Dissertation and Thesis

Copies of Ph.D. dissertations and master’s theses are also uploaded in PDF format to the Cornell Library Repository, eCommons . A print copy of each master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation is submitted to Cornell University Library by ProQuest.

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What Is a Dissertation? | 5 Essential Questions to Get Started

Published on 26 March 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on 5 May 2022.

A dissertation is a large research project undertaken at the end of a degree. It involves in-depth consideration of a problem or question chosen by the student. It is usually the largest (and final) piece of written work produced during a degree.

The length and structure of a dissertation vary widely depending on the level and field of study. However, there are some key questions that can help you understand the requirements and get started on your dissertation project.

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Table of contents

When and why do you have to write a dissertation, who will supervise your dissertation, what type of research will you do, how should your dissertation be structured, what formatting and referencing rules do you have to follow, frequently asked questions about dissertations.

A dissertation, sometimes called a thesis, comes at the end of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. It is a larger project than the other essays you’ve written, requiring a higher word count and a greater depth of research.

You’ll generally work on your dissertation during the final year of your degree, over a longer period than you would take for a standard essay . For example, the dissertation might be your main focus for the last six months of your degree.

Why is the dissertation important?

The dissertation is a test of your capacity for independent research. You are given a lot of autonomy in writing your dissertation: you come up with your own ideas, conduct your own research, and write and structure the text by yourself.

This means that it is an important preparation for your future, whether you continue in academia or not: it teaches you to manage your own time, generate original ideas, and work independently.

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During the planning and writing of your dissertation, you’ll work with a supervisor from your department. The supervisor’s job is to give you feedback and advice throughout the process.

The dissertation supervisor is often assigned by the department, but you might be allowed to indicate preferences or approach potential supervisors. If so, try to pick someone who is familiar with your chosen topic, whom you get along with on a personal level, and whose feedback you’ve found useful in the past.

How will your supervisor help you?

Your supervisor is there to guide you through the dissertation project, but you’re still working independently. They can give feedback on your ideas, but not come up with ideas for you.

You may need to take the initiative to request an initial meeting with your supervisor. Then you can plan out your future meetings and set reasonable deadlines for things like completion of data collection, a structure outline, a first chapter, a first draft, and so on.

Make sure to prepare in advance for your meetings. Formulate your ideas as fully as you can, and determine where exactly you’re having difficulties so you can ask your supervisor for specific advice.

Your approach to your dissertation will vary depending on your field of study. The first thing to consider is whether you will do empirical research , which involves collecting original data, or non-empirical research , which involves analysing sources.

Empirical dissertations (sciences)

An empirical dissertation focuses on collecting and analysing original data. You’ll usually write this type of dissertation if you are studying a subject in the sciences or social sciences.

  • What are airline workers’ attitudes towards the challenges posed for their industry by climate change?
  • How effective is cognitive behavioural therapy in treating depression in young adults?
  • What are the short-term health effects of switching from smoking cigarettes to e-cigarettes?

There are many different empirical research methods you can use to answer these questions – for example, experiments , observations, surveys , and interviews.

When doing empirical research, you need to consider things like the variables you will investigate, the reliability and validity of your measurements, and your sampling method . The aim is to produce robust, reproducible scientific knowledge.

Non-empirical dissertations (arts and humanities)

A non-empirical dissertation works with existing research or other texts, presenting original analysis, critique and argumentation, but no original data. This approach is typical of arts and humanities subjects.

  • What attitudes did commentators in the British press take towards the French Revolution in 1789–1792?
  • How do the themes of gender and inheritance intersect in Shakespeare’s Macbeth ?
  • How did Plato’s Republic and Thomas More’s Utopia influence nineteenth century utopian socialist thought?

The first steps in this type of dissertation are to decide on your topic and begin collecting your primary and secondary sources .

Primary sources are the direct objects of your research. They give you first-hand evidence about your subject. Examples of primary sources include novels, artworks and historical documents.

Secondary sources provide information that informs your analysis. They describe, interpret, or evaluate information from primary sources. For example, you might consider previous analyses of the novel or author you are working on, or theoretical texts that you plan to apply to your primary sources.

Dissertations are divided into chapters and sections. Empirical dissertations usually follow a standard structure, while non-empirical dissertations are more flexible.

Structure of an empirical dissertation

Empirical dissertations generally include these chapters:

  • Introduction : An explanation of your topic and the research question(s) you want to answer.
  • Literature review : A survey and evaluation of previous research on your topic.
  • Methodology : An explanation of how you collected and analysed your data.
  • Results : A brief description of what you found.
  • Discussion : Interpretation of what these results reveal.
  • Conclusion : Answers to your research question(s) and summary of what your findings contribute to knowledge in your field.

Sometimes the order or naming of chapters might be slightly different, but all of the above information must be included in order to produce thorough, valid scientific research.

Other dissertation structures

If your dissertation doesn’t involve data collection, your structure is more flexible. You can think of it like an extended essay – the text should be logically organised in a way that serves your argument:

  • Introduction: An explanation of your topic and the question(s) you want to answer.
  • Main body: The development of your analysis, usually divided into 2–4 chapters.
  • Conclusion: Answers to your research question(s) and summary of what your analysis contributes to knowledge in your field.

The chapters of the main body can be organised around different themes, time periods, or texts. Below you can see some example structures for dissertations in different subjects.

  • Political philosophy

This example, on the topic of the British press’s coverage of the French Revolution, shows how you might structure each chapter around a specific theme.

Example of a dissertation structure in history

This example, on the topic of Plato’s and More’s influences on utopian socialist thought, shows a different approach to dividing the chapters by theme.

Example of a dissertation structure in political philosophy

This example, a master’s dissertation on the topic of how writers respond to persecution, shows how you can also use section headings within each chapter. Each of the three chapters deals with a specific text, while the sections are organised thematically.

Example of a dissertation structure in literature

Like other academic texts, it’s important that your dissertation follows the formatting guidelines set out by your university. You can lose marks unnecessarily over mistakes, so it’s worth taking the time to get all these elements right.

Formatting guidelines concern things like:

  • line spacing
  • page numbers
  • punctuation
  • title pages
  • presentation of tables and figures

If you’re unsure about the formatting requirements, check with your supervisor or department. You can lose marks unnecessarily over mistakes, so it’s worth taking the time to get all these elements right.

How will you reference your sources?

Referencing means properly listing the sources you cite and refer to in your dissertation, so that the reader can find them. This avoids plagiarism by acknowledging where you’ve used the work of others.

Keep track of everything you read as you prepare your dissertation. The key information to note down for a reference is:

  • The publication date
  • Page numbers for the parts you refer to (especially when using direct quotes)

Different referencing styles each have their own specific rules for how to reference. The most commonly used styles in UK universities are listed below.

You can use the free APA Reference Generator to automatically create and store your references.

APA Reference Generator

The words ‘ dissertation ’ and ‘thesis’ both refer to a large written research project undertaken to complete a degree, but they are used differently depending on the country:

  • In the UK, you write a dissertation at the end of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and you write a thesis to complete a PhD.
  • In the US, it’s the other way around: you may write a thesis at the end of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and you write a dissertation to complete a PhD.

The main difference is in terms of scale – a dissertation is usually much longer than the other essays you complete during your degree.

Another key difference is that you are given much more independence when working on a dissertation. You choose your own dissertation topic , and you have to conduct the research and write the dissertation yourself (with some assistance from your supervisor).

Dissertation word counts vary widely across different fields, institutions, and levels of education:

  • An undergraduate dissertation is typically 8,000–15,000 words
  • A master’s dissertation is typically 12,000–50,000 words
  • A PhD thesis is typically book-length: 70,000–100,000 words

However, none of these are strict guidelines – your word count may be lower or higher than the numbers stated here. Always check the guidelines provided by your university to determine how long your own dissertation should be.

At the bachelor’s and master’s levels, the dissertation is usually the main focus of your final year. You might work on it (alongside other classes) for the entirety of the final year, or for the last six months. This includes formulating an idea, doing the research, and writing up.

A PhD thesis takes a longer time, as the thesis is the main focus of the degree. A PhD thesis might be being formulated and worked on for the whole four years of the degree program. The writing process alone can take around 18 months.

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Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started

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The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working elements of your project.

Weekly Goals Sheet (a.k.a. Life Map) [Word Doc]

This editable handout provides a place for you to fill in available time blocks on a weekly chart that will help you visualize the amount of time you have available to write. By using this chart, you will be able to work your writing goals into your schedule and put these goals into perspective with your day-to-day plans and responsibilities each week. This handout also contains a formula to help you determine the minimum number of pages you would need to write per day in order to complete your writing on time.

Setting a Production Schedule (Word Doc)

This editable handout can help you make sense of the various steps involved in the production of your thesis or dissertation and determine how long each step might take. A large part of this process involves (1) seeking out the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding specific document formatting requirements, (2) understanding research protocol limitations, (3) making note of deadlines, and (4) understanding your personal writing habits.

Creating a Roadmap (PDF)

Part of organizing your writing involves having a clear sense of how the different working parts relate to one another. Creating a roadmap for your dissertation early on can help you determine what the final document will include and how all the pieces are connected. This resource offers guidance on several approaches to creating a roadmap, including creating lists, maps, nut-shells, visuals, and different methods for outlining. It is important to remember that you can create more than one roadmap (or more than one type of roadmap) depending on how the different approaches discussed here meet your needs.

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Dissertation vs Thesis: Your 2024 Guide

Chriselle Sy

If you’ve been thinking about going to graduate school, you may be familiar with the application requirements, rigorous academic schedule, and thesis or dissertation you’ll be expected to complete. So, what exactly is the difference between a thesis and a dissertation? While there are similarities, there’s a clear difference between the two. In our guide, we compare dissertation vs thesis. Discover more about both – and what you can expect during your graduate program. Let’s get started!

  • Table of Contents

What Is a Thesis?

A thesis is an academic paper or project that’s completed towards the end of a master’s degree program . It is typically completed as the capstone project , meaning it’s the final project required for a student to graduate.

Students need to select a narrow, specific topic within – or relating to – their field of study. Once they’ve selected a topic, students must conduct an in-depth review of existing research on their chosen subjects. The next step is to formulate an academic argument, an assertion they’ll need to support or prove with said research.

Therefore, a thesis is akin to an in-depth research paper. It’s comprised of research that essentially proves what a student has learned during their program.

What Is a Typical Thesis Structure?

A thesis generally follows a rigid structure that’s decided by the program, department, or university. Here is an example of a thesis structure:

  • The Title Page
  • Summary of Thesis Abstract
  • Table of Maps and Figures
  • The Thesis Body (Sometimes divided into chapters)
  • The Results or Conclusion

Who Needs to Complete a Thesis?

Most master’s degree programs require students to complete a thesis. While some undergraduate programs may also require a thesis, these are generally shorter and narrower in scope.

Some programs will also require a master’s student to defend their thesis in front of a panel or committee.

What Is a Dissertation?

What is “the PhD paper” called? Some people refer to it as a PhD thesis, but it’s most commonly known as a dissertation in the US. Dissertations are the capstone project required at the tail end of a PhD program . It is almost always required, except for a select few one-year PhD programs .

Much like a thesis, dissertations are also academic papers that aim to prove a student’s expertise – while adding to the current body of knowledge – in their field. Thus, a student must look at existing research and conduct their own research .

dissertation thesis paper

Basically, it’s the magnum opus of a doctoral journey in the United States. A dissertation isn’t just a long research paper; it’s a beast of a project. It demands extensive research, originality, and the ability to make a meaningful contribution to your chosen field. Think of it as a research odyssey guided by a seasoned mentor. Once you’ve conquered this scholarly quest and defended your findings, you’ll proudly emerge with your hard-earned doctoral degree, a testament to your dedication and scholarly prowess.

A dissertation typically comes after a PhD student completes their required courses and passes their qualifying exams. In some programs, the dissertation process is embedded into the coursework. In such cases, students receive a jump start on their work, allowing them to potentially finish their program earlier.

What Does a Dissertation Do?

PhD candidates must present a new theory or hypothesis. Alternatively, they must present their research to question (or disprove) the existing accepted theory on their chosen subject. Students may choose to tackle their topic from a new angle or take their research in a different direction.

Most programs will require students to defend their dissertations. During the defense, candidates must be able to justify the methodology of their research and the results and interpretation of their findings. Defenses are typically oral presentations in front of a dissertation committee , where the students are asked questions or presented with challenges.

Although the defense may seem daunting, PhD students work closely with their advisors to prepare for their dissertations. Students receive feedback and advice to guide their dissertations in their chosen direction.

What Is the Typical Dissertation Structure? 

Dissertations follow a rigid structure typically set by the program, department, or university. Here is an example format:

  • The Acknowledgments Page
  • The Abstract
  • Introduction
  • The Literature Review & Theoretical Framework
  • The Methodology
  • Findings/Results
  • Discussions of the Findings, including analysis, interpretation, and applications
  • The Conclusion
  • List of References
  • Any Appendices

What Is a Doctoral Thesis?

A doctoral thesis is a substantial piece of scholarly work that marks the pinnacle of a doctoral degree program, such as a PhD. Think of it as the academic grand finale. Its primary mission? To showcase the candidate’s mastery in their chosen field and their knack for delving deep into research.

dissertation thesis paper

In a nutshell, a doctoral thesis is a mammoth project that calls for originality. You’ve got to dig, investigate, gather data, crunch numbers, and present real data-supported findings. All this hard work usually happens under the watchful eye of a knowledgeable mentor. Once you’ve conquered this scholarly mountain and defended your thesis successfully, you’ll be proudly awarded your well-deserved doctoral degree. It’s the hallmark of your expertise and contribution to your field.

And how does a doctoral thesis differ from a dissertation? That’s mainly a geographic explanation. While they’re largely similar in scope and purpose, when comparing a doctoral thesis vs. a dissertation:

  • A dissertation is the PhD capstone requirement in the US .
  • A doctoral thesis is the PhD capstone requirement in Europe .

Related Reading: The Easiest PhDs

Dissertation vs. Thesis: The Similarities

In the master’s thesis vs dissertation discussion, there are plenty of similarities. Both are lengthy academic papers that require intense research and original writing. They’re also capstone projects which are completed at the tail end of their respective programs.

Students must work closely with their respective committees (e.g., faculty members, advisors, professionals) who provide feedback and guidance on their research, writing, and academic arguments. Both thesis and dissertation committees have a committee chair with whom the students work closely.

In some ways, the requirements for theses and dissertations are quite similar. They require a skillful defense of a student’s academic arguments. What’s more, both papers require critical thinking and good analytical reasoning, as well as in-depth expertise in the chosen field of study.

Students must also invest a significant amount of time into both projects while also being able to accept and action feedback on their work.

Dissertation vs. Thesis: The Differences

What are the differences between a PhD dissertation vs. thesis? The first and most distinct difference is the degree program requiring a PhD dissertation or thesis. A dissertation is typically the capstone project for a doctorate, while a thesis is the capstone project for a master’s degree program (or undergraduate program).

Candidates will have to defend their dissertation during an oral presentation in front of their committee. Only some master’s theses require this.

During a thesis, students typically conduct research by reviewing existing literature and knowledge on their chosen subject. During a dissertation, students must do their own research and prove their theory, concept, or hypothesis. They should also expect to develop a unique concept and defend it based on the practical and theoretical results achieved from their rigorous research.

Theses are also typically shorter (around 40 to 80 pages). Dissertations, however, are much longer (between 100 and 300 pages). Of course, the actual length of the paper may depend on the topic, program, department, or university.

Related Reading : PhD Candidate vs Student: What’s the Difference? 

Dissertations and Theses: US vs. Europe

Whether you’re in the US or Europe, dissertations and theses are similar. However, European requirements and conventions differ slightly:

Doctoral Thesis

To ensure your PhD graduation, a dissertation is generally required. Doctoral theses in Europe are much like a PhD dissertation in the US : You must complete your own research and add to the existing body of knowledge in your field.

Master’s Dissertation

It may seem odd to require a dissertation for master’s degree programs, but in Europe, this is exactly what you’ll need. A master’s dissertation is a broader post-graduate program research project , though it’s most typically required for master’s programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few of the most common questions we hear about the meaning of thesis vs. dissertation.

Is a Thesis and a Dissertation the Same?

Yes and no. In some ways, a dissertation and a thesis are the same. For example, both require original writing, critical skills, analytical thinking, plenty of research, and lots of academic effort. However, a thesis is more commonly reserved for master’s – and some undergraduate – programs. Dissertations are generally required by PhD programs in the United States.

Additionally, a thesis typically calls for heavy research and compilation of existing knowledge and literature on a subject. A dissertation requires candidates to conduct their own research to prove their own theory, concept, or hypothesis – adding to the existing body of knowledge in their chosen field of study.

How Long Is a Thesis vs. a Dissertation?

One of the primary differences between thesis and dissertation papers is their length. While a thesis might be anywhere from 40 to 80 pages long, a dissertation can easily run from 100 to 300. It’s important to note that these numbers depend on the specific program and university.

Does a PhD Require a Thesis or a Dissertation?

It all depends on where you are! While a US-based PhD requires you to complete a dissertation, a thesis (or “doctoral thesis”) is more commonly required for PhD candidates in Europe. In the US, a thesis is more commonly reserved for master’s degree programs and occasionally undergraduate programs. In Europe, a “master’s dissertation” is typically required for the completion of a master’s degree.

So, there you have it: an in-depth comparison of the dissertation vs. thesis academic requirements. Now that you know the primary similarities and differences between the two, it might become easier to decide your academic path. Just remember, you may be able to find a master’s program without a thesis or a doctorate without a dissertation requirement if you prefer. Good luck!

Are you ready to jump into your doctorate? Find out if you need a master’s degree to get a PhD .

dissertation thesis paper

Chriselle Sy

Chriselle has been a passionate professional content writer for over 10 years. She writes educational content for The Grad Cafe, Productivity Spot, The College Monk, and other digital publications.  When she isn't busy writing, she spends her time streaming video games and learning new skills.

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What’s Included: The Dissertation Template

If you’re preparing to write your dissertation, thesis or research project, our free dissertation template is the perfect starting point. In the template, we cover every section step by step, with clear, straightforward explanations and examples .

The template’s structure is based on the tried and trusted best-practice format for formal academic research projects such as dissertations and theses. The template structure reflects the overall research process, ensuring your dissertation or thesis will have a smooth, logical flow from chapter to chapter.

The dissertation template covers the following core sections:

  • The title page/cover page
  • Abstract (sometimes also called the executive summary)
  • Table of contents
  • List of figures /list of tables
  • Chapter 1: Introduction  (also available: in-depth introduction template )
  • Chapter 2: Literature review  (also available: in-depth LR template )
  • Chapter 3: Methodology (also available: in-depth methodology template )
  • Chapter 4: Research findings /results (also available: results template )
  • Chapter 5: Discussion /analysis of findings (also available: discussion template )
  • Chapter 6: Conclusion (also available: in-depth conclusion template )
  • Reference list

Each section is explained in plain, straightforward language , followed by an overview of the key elements that you need to cover within each section. We’ve also included practical examples to help you understand exactly what’s required in each section.

The cleanly-formatted Google Doc can be downloaded as a fully editable MS Word Document (DOCX format), so you can use it as-is or convert it to LaTeX.

FAQs: Dissertation Template

What format is the template (doc, pdf, ppt, etc.).

The dissertation template is provided as a Google Doc. You can download it in MS Word format or make a copy to your Google Drive. You’re also welcome to convert it to whatever format works best for you, such as LaTeX or PDF.

What types of dissertations/theses can this template be used for?

The template follows the standard best-practice structure for formal academic research projects such as dissertations or theses, so it is suitable for the vast majority of degrees, particularly those within the sciences.

Some universities may have some additional requirements, but these are typically minor, with the core structure remaining the same. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to double-check your university’s requirements before you finalise your structure.

Will this work for a research paper?

A research paper follows a similar format, but there are a few differences. You can find our research paper template here .

Is this template for an undergrad, Masters or PhD-level thesis?

This template can be used for a dissertation, thesis or research project at any level of study. It may be slight overkill for an undergraduate-level study, but it certainly won’t be missing anything.

How long should my dissertation/thesis be?

This depends entirely on your university’s specific requirements, so it’s best to check with them. As a general ballpark, Masters-level projects are usually 15,000 – 20,000 words in length, while Doctoral-level projects are often in excess of 60,000 words.

What about the research proposal?

If you’re still working on your research proposal, we’ve got a template for that here .

We’ve also got loads of proposal-related guides and videos over on the Grad Coach blog .

How do I write a literature review?

We have a wealth of free resources on the Grad Coach Blog that unpack how to write a literature review from scratch. You can check out the literature review section of the blog here.

How do I create a research methodology?

We have a wealth of free resources on the Grad Coach Blog that unpack research methodology, both qualitative and quantitative. You can check out the methodology section of the blog here.

Can I share this dissertation template with my friends/colleagues?

Yes, you’re welcome to share this template. If you want to post about it on your blog or social media, all we ask is that you reference this page as your source.

Can Grad Coach help me with my dissertation/thesis?

Within the template, you’ll find plain-language explanations of each section, which should give you a fair amount of guidance. However, you’re also welcome to consider our dissertation and thesis coaching services .

Free Webinar: Literature Review 101

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Difference between a research paper, dissertation & thesis

When it comes to writing academic papers, students should have the right skills if they must succeed. Whether it is doing a weekly essay assignment, crafting a term paper, or doing research, the best learners are those who have mastered the art of literary composition. You should also note that understanding how each school paper differs from the other puts you ahead of the pack. Most of the schools, universities and institutions require you to undertake research at some point or another in form of coursework .

Often, students mistake research for term papers or thesis for dissertations. The worst-case scenario is when instead of writing a thesis; you end up with a dissertation paper. Such is an occurrence that often denies students marks. And so, the big question we want to answer in this post is what the differences between research, dissertation, and thesis are? Keep reading to learn more.

Writing Research

First things first note that variations between different types of academic papers could be in the form of writing style , definition, presentation of arguments, not to mention the purpose of writing and level of academia.  You should not expect high school students, for example, to partake in thesis writing. But when it comes to writing research papers, it can happen at any level of academia right from high school through college and university.

Note: There are differences in how these terminologies are used. In few countries they are used interchangeably, while in other countries thesis is related to bachelor’s or master’s degree course and dissertation is used in the context of a doctorate degree, whereas in some countries the reverse is true. For example, in Indian context, PhD students are required to submit a “thesis” whereas M. Phil students are required to submit a dissertation. Thesis is considered to be much longer form of research which is opposite in case of USA.

Differences based on the definition

Definitive differences between academic papers simplify things for a college newbie yet to write his or her academic paper. Now, on defining the thesis, research and dissertation, the following are worth noting:

  • A research paper refers to a piece of literary composition, often a class requirement. The most notable aspect of research papers is that before you craft them, you must gather knowledge independently. After collecting data and information, students then put together findings in a descriptive format. Learners must also present their arguments based on their evaluation of a subject under study. A good research paper opens the gates to advanced academic writing which will involve the implementation of findings.
  • A dissertation is a paper that students write as a requirement for the conferment of a diploma or degree. In some countries, Ph.D. students also write dissertations.
  • A thesis is a paper students craft as a requirement for a degree at college or university level. You do realize that all the three types of academic papers lead to something, often an academic qualification that would see one earn a degree or get admitted to the next level of academia.

Length of paper and methodology

While the methodology of writing these papers is similar, often constituting sections such as introduction, abstract, literature review, research method, presentation/finings, discussions, conclusion and recommendations, the length of each paper does vary. Research papers and dissertations are generally long. However, thesis papers tend to be short hence requiring less time to write. Dissertations and research require a comprehensive study of a study and gathering information/data. You, therefore, spend more time on them before and during writing. You may even use an editing service to help you research, write, and proofread your dissertation properly.

Differences based on knowledge inference and hypothesis

A hypothesis is an educated guess. Before you conduct a study, assumptions have to be made that something will turn out in some way. Most importantly, how the outcome will impact a population informs the construction of a hypothesis/thesis statement. In research and dissertation writing, students must exhibit a rigorous understanding of a subject based on a study. It is on this premise that they must come up with/infer a meaningful conclusion. However, when writing thesis papers, the formulation of a hypothesis comes after researching and writing on a subject.

Differences based on the approach

How students go about crafting research, dissertation and thesis is another way of differentiating the three papers. In writing research and dissertation papers, students must use existing pieces of literature to back their findings. However, thesis papers more often rely on existing research work to prove a point. You can, for example, sample different research papers on climate change to prove your study on the same. Ostensibly, you are using existing and published academic papers to ascertain that phenomena or a problem exist.

Mode of publication and utilization

You should also note that academic papers exhibit differences based on the reason for which they get published and also how people use them. Dissertation papers are like complete and newly published books given their voluminous nature. You could refer to yours as an academic book. It makes you a published author. However, thesis and research work are like articles that shed light on a subject but not as comprehensively as dissertations.

Differences based on the level of academia

While students can write research papers at any level, they are most common at the undergraduate level. Completion of a research paper often leads to the conferment of an undergraduate degree. And when it comes to writing dissertation papers, the bargain is qualifying for a master’s degree, thusly; postgraduate, Mphil or MBA.  It means if you are not writing a dissertation to obtain a postgraduate degree, you do so as a means of enrolling in a postgraduate program. Thesis papers lead to the conferment of a Ph.D. degree or a doctorate as some scholars call it. Students who write thesis papers do so within the last two years of their academic life.

Final Thoughts

Many factors distinguish academic papers. But regardless of the methodology or purpose of these papers, the most important thing is that students showcase their literary skills. Moreover, academic paper tests the knowledge of students on different issues and subjects. Whether it is writing about how past events led to present-day situations or how human activities will lead to something happening in the future, knowledge dispensation helps societies grow.

In the interest of time, research work involved in crafting academic papers is meant to unearth critical findings on a subject and provide solutions to an existing problem. As a rule of the thumb, students who write research, dissertation or thesis papers must demonstrate their understanding of the society and problems that bedevil it. It is through doing so that recommendations for solving a problem become trustworthy, dependable, acceptable and applicable. Most importantly, learners must meet a set academic threshold before writing the above papers.

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What is a Master’s Thesis: A Guide for Students 

masters thesis

A master’s thesis is an academic research output that is expected to showcase a student’s competence in a higher level of research as compared to an undergraduate one. The primary objective of a master’s thesis is to assess a student on the depth of their understanding, knowledge, and competence on the subject of their choice. It provides a scholarly and research foundation for students to build on if they are interested in pursuing higher academic degrees and professional work. 

Benefits of Writing a Master’s Thesis  

Undertaking a master’s thesis program enhances your career and academic prospects. In the academic sphere, those who have completed a master’s thesis program are in a more advantageous position when they seek admission to a PhD program. Research-focused disciplines, in particular, usually favour students who have completed their master’s thesis. Opting for a master’s thesis program also gives researchers the opportunity to pursue their interest area through study and research. Further, through the process of thesis writing, students also develop their skills in writing, putting forth an informed argument and developing research questions. A well-developed thesis can also be published as a research paper in peer-reviewed journals, thereby enhancing future academic and career prospects.  

Thesis Masters and Non-thesis Masters Program: Differences   

It is critical to note that all master’s programs do not have a thesis requirement. At the same time, some programs allow students to choose between a thesis and a non-thesis master’s program. In a thesis Master’s program, you are required to prepare a comprehensive scholarly paper under the advice of a faculty member that demonstrates the knowledge, skills, and critical thinking that you have developed during the program. Hence, it is a mandatory requirement for the completion of your degree. However, in a non-thesis master’s program, you are not expected to write a thesis. You are nevertheless required to take additional classes and, by the end of the program, complete a Capstone project, a comprehensive exam, or a summary project. 

Master’s thesis and PhD Dissertation: Differences  

A Master’s thesis is very different from a PhD dissertation, though often, the words thesis and dissertation are used interchangeably not only by students but also by the wider academic community and publishers.   

  • A PhD dissertation is an original research by the doctoral candidate that contributes something new to the existing body of knowledge in the field, such as new theories and information. This should not have been published previously. In contrast, a master’s thesis is a scholarly paper that involves original testing of ideas and demonstrates the knowledge and skills the student has acquired and built during the master’s program.  
  • A master’s thesis deals or engages more with existing research or secondary knowledge, though depending on the subject, there can be research of primary sources as well. Here, the student certainly has to bring in their critical and analytical skills. The sources of data will generally be research papers, scholarly books, journal articles, government reports, statistics, and so on. However, in a PhD dissertation, the focus is on generating new and novel data, resulting in an original piece of work that external subject experts will evaluate. Hence, apart from the sources of data mentioned for the Master’s thesis, the significant component of sources of data for PhD dissertation will be generated from interviews, focus groups, surveys, laboratory experiments and so on. 
  • A master’s thesis is presented at the end of the master’s program, which is about one or two years. The thesis is a critical part of completing the degree. A PhD dissertation takes a considerable amount of time, ranging from 4 to 7 years. By this time, the candidate should have completed, apart from their dissertation, other requirements such as fulfilling a set of coursework, attending seminars/ conferences, presenting papers at seminars and publishing papers in peer-reviewed journals. 
  • The master’s thesis is completed and submitted at the end of the master’s program. The PhD dissertation is presented to earn the PhD degree. 
  • Another major difference between the two is the length. While a master’s thesis may be between 50 and 100 pages, the Ph.D. dissertation is more detailed, in-depth, and comprehensive, with a length of up to 400 pages. 

While all Master’s programs do not have a thesis requirement, completing a thesis provides a scholarly and research foundation for students to pursue higher academic degrees and professional work. A master’s thesis program can be a valuable experience for students interested in pursuing higher academic degrees and professional work in research-focused disciplines.

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UNT Theses and Dissertations

dissertation thesis paper

Theses and dissertations represent a wealth of scholarly and artistic content created by masters and doctoral students in the degree-seeking process. Some ETDs in this collection are restricted to use by the UNT community .

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Essay、Thesis、Paper和Dissertation区别

关山难越

说到留学生最头疼的几件大事,莫过于Essay、Thesis、Paper、Dissertation这几件,每到学期即将结束、临近毕业又或者DDL临近的时候,它们都让赶due人抓耳挠腮,苦不堪言,为什么会这样呢?一方面是留学生需要提前克服语言障碍,只有把语言关先过了,才能考虑写的文章是否有深度,是否有专业性,能不能抓人眼球。另一方面,仍然有很多学生不会区分这四种任务的不同需求。写好一篇国外的作业真的这么难吗?

今天就带大家来看看Essay、Thesis、Paper、Dissertation的区别在哪,也让大家能更客观的看待国外的作业,不至于视之为恶魔。第一眼从最常用的中译英角度来看,这四个词与都可以翻译为文章,那它们又有什么区别呢?为何要用四个不同的英文单词来进行区分呢?面对留学生最头疼的大事,我决定将每个单词在牛津词典中的解释翻出来,给大家进行最权威最清晰的区分。

dissertation thesis paper

这几个词当中,paper的含义是最广泛的。这个词有很多意思,且它的这些意思当中和写作任务相关的义项也有好几个,并对应了不同类型的文章。它既可以指经过了同行评议(peer review),在期刊(journal)或学术会议(academic conference)上发表的研究论文,也可以指学校给学生布置的学期论文(term paper)。在本科阶段,学期论文(term paper)这个词组的出现频率应该是比较高的,对于文科专业的同学来说尤其。文科的期末考评很少会以答题考试的方式进行,大部分情况都是让学生交一篇学期论文。

dissertation thesis paper

Essay这个词也是一个含义非常丰富的词。在用于学术语境下时,essay和另外那三个词最主要的区别就是篇幅。Essay属于篇幅相对短小的综述议论性质的文章,但paper通常会有几千字,thesis和dissertation更是会有上万字。从结构上来看,essay的结构是最为简单的。一般不会有自己的数据(实验/取证),行文会相对自由一些,没有研究型论文那么八股的格式要求。基本等于针对某一个topic做一个相对没那么严谨的讨论甚至猜想。

Thesis & Dissertation 最后thesis和dissertation这两个词就可以放一起说了。

dissertation thesis paper

这两个词的意思有很接近的地方,它们都是指篇幅较长,且和高等教育阶段获取学位相关的写作任务。不过这两个词的使用场合有些区别——在英国英语中,本科和硕士论文叫做dissertation,博士论文用thesis;但在美国英语中,本科和硕士论文用thesis,博士论文用dissertation。需要你的论文有实际的价值以及贡献。也就是“现实意义”。硕士毕业论文一般在1万字到1万五千字左右。硕士论文和博士论文的不同之处。对硕士论文和博士论文的要求是不同的。区别不是在于论文的格式,而是在于问题的重要性、对要解决问题的探索层次以及贡献。博士论文当然要求解决更难的问题、作出更具原创性的贡献。硕士论文对知识的贡献可以是类似于对某一知识领域的改进,或者是已有技术在新领域中的应用。博士论文必须对知识作出具有实质性和创新性的贡献。

最后给大家看看与论文和写作相关的那些同义词都是什么意思:

composition:多指学校里老师给学生的作文练习。

article:多指在报刊、杂志上发表的非文艺性的文章,包括新闻报导、学术论文等。

essay:指任何一种非小说性的,篇幅不长、结构简练的文章,如论说文、报道、评论、讽刺性杂文等。

paper:正式用词,多指在学术刊物上发表或在学术会议上宣读的专题论文,也指高等学校的学期论文,或学校里的作文练习。

prose:专指散文。

thesis:既可指毕业论文、学位论文,又可指一般的为阐述学术观点而写的论文。

theme:一般指大学或高中生作为作业所写的篇幅有限、较完整论述某个观点的文章。也可指作品或谈话的主要论题。

dissertation:书面语用词,指独立研究后所写的较为详细的专题文章;也可指学位论文。

Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture Ph.D. Candidate Wins Three Minute Thesis Competition

Graduate School

By | Katya Hrichak , Cornell University Graduate School

“So, this is a coin from 12th century Sri Lanka. And, like many coins, it’s inscribed with the name of the monarch who commissioned it,” began Bruno Shirley, a doctoral candidate in Asian literature, religion, and culture at the seventh annual Cornell University Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

Alongside seven other finalists, Shirley presented his dissertation research in just three minutes to a panel of judges and a virtual audience from across campus and around the world. Presentations were judged by how clearly and compellingly students summarized their research to a general audience, using only one static slide.

His presentation, “ Constructing Buddhist kingship in medieval Sri Lanka ,” earned him first place and $1,500. Second place and $1,000 was awarded to physics doctoral candidate Vaibhav Sharma for his presentation, “ What happens when atoms colder than outer space are spun around? ”

ancient metal coin

After nearly 100 audience members cast their ballots, votes were tallied and the People’s Choice Award and $250 were presented to plant pathology and plant-microbe biology doctoral candidate Juliana González-Tobón for her presentation, “Can bacteria smell their food?”

For Shirley, whose fieldwork plans were disrupted by the pandemic, entering the 3MT enabled him to reengage with his dissertation research.

“These three-minute talks are more than just elevator pitches; the process helped me to really hone-in on what’s most important in my dissertation topic,” he said. “It’s so easy to lose sight of the woods for the trees when we’re deep into dissertation-land, and this was a valuable opportunity to step back and re-orient.”

Sharma, while enthusiastic about his research, struggled to articulate it clearly and compellingly to friends and family in the past. Through the 3MT, he learned valuable skills about concisely summarizing his complex research.

“Before 3MT, I didn’t believe I could talk about my research in just three minutes. The 3MT preparation stage was an eye-opener for me, and I realized the value of each and every sentence. There was no benefit to adding a single ‘filler’ or useless word. I learned how to cut down on verbosity and explain even difficult concepts in brief and easy to understand language. It will help me in the long run if I write shorter and better papers,” he said. “And now if anyone asks me about my research, I can just give them the link to my 3MT video.”

González-Tobón wanted to enter the 3MT since she began her doctoral program and appreciated that this year’s virtual platform allowed for a larger audience.

“It was a great opportunity to invite friends and family from around the world. As an international student, being able to invite everyone felt fantastic and was so heart-warming!” she said. “Also, since the finalists were both international and domestic and from several different research areas, it was amazing to see how diverse this community is and how different our expertise areas are.”

The 3MT competition was first held in 2008 at the University of Queensland and has since been adopted by over 900 universities in over 85 countries. 3MT challenges research degree students to present a compelling story on their dissertation or thesis and its significance in just three minutes, in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

Cornell’s Graduate School first hosted a 3MT competition in 2015 and the event has grown steadily since that time. Cornell’s winner will go on to compete in the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools 3MT competition in late April.

“We are so proud of each and every one of our finalists,” said Jan Allen, associate dean for academic and student affairs. “They not only gave excellent presentations, but learned important skills about research communication in the process that will benefit them as they graduate and move into new roles.”

Cornell’s seventh 3MT final round competition was held on March 22, 2022, at 4:00 p.m. on Zoom.

Read the story on the Cornell University Graduate School website.

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  • Dissertation

How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Conclusion

Published on September 6, 2022 by Tegan George and Shona McCombes. Revised on November 20, 2023.

The conclusion is the very last part of your thesis or dissertation . It should be concise and engaging, leaving your reader with a clear understanding of your main findings, as well as the answer to your research question .

In it, you should:

  • Clearly state the answer to your main research question
  • Summarize and reflect on your research process
  • Make recommendations for future work on your thesis or dissertation topic
  • Show what new knowledge you have contributed to your field
  • Wrap up your thesis or dissertation

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Table of contents

Discussion vs. conclusion, how long should your conclusion be, step 1: answer your research question, step 2: summarize and reflect on your research, step 3: make future recommendations, step 4: emphasize your contributions to your field, step 5: wrap up your thesis or dissertation, full conclusion example, conclusion checklist, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about conclusion sections.

While your conclusion contains similar elements to your discussion section , they are not the same thing.

Your conclusion should be shorter and more general than your discussion. Instead of repeating literature from your literature review , discussing specific research results , or interpreting your data in detail, concentrate on making broad statements that sum up the most important insights of your research.

As a rule of thumb, your conclusion should not introduce new data, interpretations, or arguments.

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dissertation thesis paper

Depending on whether you are writing a thesis or dissertation, your length will vary. Generally, a conclusion should make up around 5–7% of your overall word count.

An empirical scientific study will often have a short conclusion, concisely stating the main findings and recommendations for future research. A humanities dissertation topic or systematic review , on the other hand, might require more space to conclude its analysis, tying all the previous sections together in an overall argument.

Your conclusion should begin with the main question that your thesis or dissertation aimed to address. This is your final chance to show that you’ve done what you set out to do, so make sure to formulate a clear, concise answer.

  • Don’t repeat a list of all the results that you already discussed
  • Do synthesize them into a final takeaway that the reader will remember.

An empirical thesis or dissertation conclusion may begin like this:

A case study –based thesis or dissertation conclusion may begin like this:

In the second example, the research aim is not directly restated, but rather added implicitly to the statement. To avoid repeating yourself, it is helpful to reformulate your aims and questions into an overall statement of what you did and how you did it.

Your conclusion is an opportunity to remind your reader why you took the approach you did, what you expected to find, and how well the results matched your expectations.

To avoid repetition , consider writing more reflectively here, rather than just writing a summary of each preceding section. Consider mentioning the effectiveness of your methodology , or perhaps any new questions or unexpected insights that arose in the process.

You can also mention any limitations of your research, but only if you haven’t already included these in the discussion. Don’t dwell on them at length, though—focus on the positives of your work.

  • While x limits the generalizability of the results, this approach provides new insight into y .
  • This research clearly illustrates x , but it also raises the question of y .

You may already have made a few recommendations for future research in your discussion section, but the conclusion is a good place to elaborate and look ahead, considering the implications of your findings in both theoretical and practical terms.

  • Based on these conclusions, practitioners should consider …
  • To better understand the implications of these results, future studies could address …
  • Further research is needed to determine the causes of/effects of/relationship between …

When making recommendations for further research, be sure not to undermine your own work. Relatedly, while future studies might confirm, build on, or enrich your conclusions, they shouldn’t be required for your argument to feel complete. Your work should stand alone on its own merits.

Just as you should avoid too much self-criticism, you should also avoid exaggerating the applicability of your research. If you’re making recommendations for policy, business, or other practical implementations, it’s generally best to frame them as “shoulds” rather than “musts.” All in all, the purpose of academic research is to inform, explain, and explore—not to demand.

Make sure your reader is left with a strong impression of what your research has contributed to the state of your field.

Some strategies to achieve this include:

  • Returning to your problem statement to explain how your research helps solve the problem
  • Referring back to the literature review and showing how you have addressed a gap in knowledge
  • Discussing how your findings confirm or challenge an existing theory or assumption

Again, avoid simply repeating what you’ve already covered in the discussion in your conclusion. Instead, pick out the most important points and sum them up succinctly, situating your project in a broader context.

The end is near! Once you’ve finished writing your conclusion, it’s time to wrap up your thesis or dissertation with a few final steps:

  • It’s a good idea to write your abstract next, while the research is still fresh in your mind.
  • Next, make sure your reference list is complete and correctly formatted. To speed up the process, you can use our free APA citation generator .
  • Once you’ve added any appendices , you can create a table of contents and title page .
  • Finally, read through the whole document again to make sure your thesis is clearly written and free from language errors. You can proofread it yourself , ask a friend, or consider Scribbr’s proofreading and editing service .

Here is an example of how you can write your conclusion section. Notice how it includes everything mentioned above:

V. Conclusion

The current research aimed to identify acoustic speech characteristics which mark the beginning of an exacerbation in COPD patients.

The central questions for this research were as follows: 1. Which acoustic measures extracted from read speech differ between COPD speakers in stable condition and healthy speakers? 2. In what ways does the speech of COPD patients during an exacerbation differ from speech of COPD patients during stable periods?

All recordings were aligned using a script. Subsequently, they were manually annotated to indicate respiratory actions such as inhaling and exhaling. The recordings of 9 stable COPD patients reading aloud were then compared with the recordings of 5 healthy control subjects reading aloud. The results showed a significant effect of condition on the number of in- and exhalations per syllable, the number of non-linguistic in- and exhalations per syllable, and the ratio of voiced and silence intervals. The number of in- and exhalations per syllable and the number of non-linguistic in- and exhalations per syllable were higher for COPD patients than for healthy controls, which confirmed both hypotheses.

However, the higher ratio of voiced and silence intervals for COPD patients compared to healthy controls was not in line with the hypotheses. This unpredicted result might have been caused by the different reading materials or recording procedures for both groups, or by a difference in reading skills. Moreover, there was a trend regarding the effect of condition on the number of syllables per breath group. The number of syllables per breath group was higher for healthy controls than for COPD patients, which was in line with the hypothesis. There was no effect of condition on pitch, intensity, center of gravity, pitch variability, speaking rate, or articulation rate.

This research has shown that the speech of COPD patients in exacerbation differs from the speech of COPD patients in stable condition. This might have potential for the detection of exacerbations. However, sustained vowels rarely occur in spontaneous speech. Therefore, the last two outcome measures might have greater potential for the detection of beginning exacerbations, but further research on the different outcome measures and their potential for the detection of exacerbations is needed due to the limitations of the current study.

Checklist: Conclusion

I have clearly and concisely answered the main research question .

I have summarized my overall argument or key takeaways.

I have mentioned any important limitations of the research.

I have given relevant recommendations .

I have clearly explained what my research has contributed to my field.

I have  not introduced any new data or arguments.

You've written a great conclusion! Use the other checklists to further improve your dissertation.

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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In a thesis or dissertation, the discussion is an in-depth exploration of the results, going into detail about the meaning of your findings and citing relevant sources to put them in context.

The conclusion is more shorter and more general: it concisely answers your main research question and makes recommendations based on your overall findings.

While it may be tempting to present new arguments or evidence in your thesis or disseration conclusion , especially if you have a particularly striking argument you’d like to finish your analysis with, you shouldn’t. Theses and dissertations follow a more formal structure than this.

All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the discussion section and results section .) The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.

For a stronger dissertation conclusion , avoid including:

  • Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the discussion section and results section
  • Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion …”)
  • Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g., “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)

Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5–7% of your overall word count.

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation should include the following:

  • A restatement of your research question
  • A summary of your key arguments and/or results
  • A short discussion of the implications of your research

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  1. What Is a Thesis?

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    A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program. Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating ...

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    This is the guide for preparing a thesis or dissertation, taking it through the approval process, and binding the final paper. Notes are written in red where further clarification is needed. This guide is formatted in the main approved style. Your paper should look like this, or like the samples in the Appendices, before submitting to the

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