What Is the Difference Between an Essay and a Thesis?

What Is the Difference Between an Essay and a Thesis?

Differences and Similarities Between an Essay and Thesis

Are you confused about whether a thesis is an essay? In a single academic year, a college student will complete numerous academic assignments. This includes writing different types of essays and a thesis. Learners who are used to writing essays may encounter a thesis for the first time and wonder what the similarities or differences could be. Luckily this article explains the differences and similarities.


Both a thesis and an essay are literary compositions that reflect an author’s point of view. They are based on research and work to discuss a specific subject matter or topic. They are often graded and help test a student’s writing skills, knowledge, time management, and ability to adhere to given instructions. They have to be written based on a specified citation style and format, which can differ depending on the course, school, and instructor.

While there are several similarities between these two types of academic tasks, a student must know the difference to enable them to create a correct document.


Before we dive into the differences, it is necessary to remember that both an essay and a thesis have an introduction that starts with a topic sentence and ends with a thesis statement. Transitions connect the paragraphs, and recent scholarly evidence is used to support arguments or claim made. A reference list, works cited, or bibliography has to be included at the end of the paper.

Unlike an essay whose structure consists of an introduction, the main body with two or three paragraphs, and a conclusion, a thesis has more sections. A thesis includes an abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and concluding section in that order. So unlike a standard essay that mainly has three chapters, a thesis has five.

A thesis has a more formal format and tone as compared to an essay. While, in some cases, an essay may not contribute to the end of semester grade in most higher learning institutions, students have to complete a thesis before they graduate. Rarely are essays published. However, a thesis has to fulfill all the academic requirements before it can be approved and published.


In most cases, a typical essay is shorter than a thesis. It may not cover more than five pages, and to ensure it is informative and has adequate research, it might have five to seven paragraphs.

A thesis is long because it requires extensive research and has more chapters. However, the length of a thesis depends on the academic level. For an undergraduate course, the text can cover up to 60 pages long, excluding a bibliography.

On the other hand, a doctoral or graduate level may be more in-depth and cover over 100 pages. A PhD thesis can cover up to 80,000 words, excluding footnotes and bibliography.

A thesis has to add to the already existing research. This means it must add new information that contributes to the field of study. Essays are often assigned to high school and college students. A thesis more common in ungraduated and graduate levels.

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