Writing a Master’s Dissertation VS an Undergrad Dissertation: The 5 Key Differences

February 2017 by


A dissertation at any level is designed to test even the most essay hardened students. If you have done your undergraduate degree you will remember how tough the final project was. For some, it might even put them off from taking the step up to do a Master’s degree. This article goes over the 5 key differences in the dreaded dissertation at Undergraduate level and Master’s level.

  1. Word count

    First up is the most obvious, the word count for Master’s dissertations tends to be a sizeable increase on the words needed at undergraduate level. Whilst on paper 15,000 words does not seem to be too much longer than 10,000 words, it actually is. If you struggled to reach the word count at undergraduate then you are likely to be a long way off at Master’s. The increase in word count also heavily impacts the rest of the list of reasons that will be mentioned shortly.

  2. Originality

    At undergraduate your tutors are mainly assessing your dissertation on your ability to follow academic procedure and ability to produce a coherent piece of research. At Master’s degree level your tutors are looking for you to produce research on a topic that adds new insight to a specific area of study. Therefore, your Master’s dissertation has to be more original than your undergraduate paper, this makes everything that little bit harder because you are venturing out into lesser known areas of academia.

  3. Intensity

    Master’s dissertation time is bound to feel more intense than at undergraduate level. Whilst you may have been surrounded by people in a similar situation to yours at Undergraduate, at postgraduate the road will feel a lot lonelier. The pressure to complete the work is a lot harder to bear when you have no one to compare your progress to, especially with deadlines looming ever close.

  4. Sources

    As previously mentioned a Master’s dissertation is supposed to be far more original, this is reflected in the types of sources you are expected to call upon. At postgraduate level you should be searching high and low for every possible useful information, and your tutors will be looking to see the wide range of sources you have used. Because the word count is also considerably bigger the same will be necessary for your bibliography so make sure to find an appropriate number of references.

  5. Level

    You will have less time to adjust to the level that your essays have to be at. Taking a step up is hard, but you need to learn fast over your master’s year if your writing is going be up to scratch enough to tackle your dissertation. There is a lot less time to make mistakes now, so use every module leading up to your dissertation as a guideline in order to fully understand what is required of you for your Masters dissertation.

Hopefully, this article has been able to shed some light on the difference between the postgraduate and the undergraduate dissertation writing process. Its aim was not to put you off studying a Master’s but to give the warning to be cautious rather than arrogant; a Master’s degree really is a step up!



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