What's the difference between coursework and thesis?
The difference between coursework and thesis is one of many big topics with a lot of different questions. What exactly is the difference? How do they differ? Which one should you use for what kind of project and what are their benefits? This article will answer all these questions and more, providing an overview of those differences for both students and teachers.
Thesis vs. Coursework vs. Honors Work: What’s the Difference?
The key differences between thesis, coursework, and honors/distinguished work are in their purpose and length. Thesis is intended for a degree of completion that takes a year or more to complete. Coursework is created for different purposes, including course requirements or distance learning purposes, which might be completed in less time than a year. As for honors work, this is created to recognize students’ achievements in their college or university institutions and is usually completed within one year.
- Length and Expected Time Commitment
The length of thesis, coursework, and honors work can vary depending on the institution’s guidelines for submission. For example, a standard range for honours work is 10-25 pages, while a standard range for coursework is 20-30 pages. A thesis can range from 40-200 pages depending on the institution’s specifications. In addition to these differences in length, the time commitment differs too. These three types of projects are not created equal when it comes to time spent researching, writing and editing these projects.
- Purpose and Expectations
Thesis, coursework, and honors work have different purposes because each of these projects is an individual piece of the puzzle and is created for specific reasons. For example, a thesis is meant to be something that fills a gap in knowledge for a particular field by answering an important question or solving a problem. By contrast, coursework aims to meet the requirements of a course within the limits of time and resources provided by the instructor. A thesis can be used as a source of information to provide background material on some aspect of history or religion while also offering insights into some new concept in philosophy or sociology. Coursework can be used to prove or disprove a particular viewpoint based on research and argumentation.
- Originality of Content vs. Expected Conclusion
The thesis, coursework, and honours work differ in terms of originality as well. For example, the specific topic of a thesis is always chosen by the student and should be one that is not often discussed in academic journals or other published works about the same subject matter. Coursework generally discusses some aspect of an established field of study and should serve to provide further insight into that field on a particular topic that has already been established as significant within academic circles through numerous publications by many different authors.
- Form and Organization
A thesis, coursework and honors work are all written differently in terms of form and organization. While the organization of a thesis is similar to that of a research paper, the coursework is generally divided into smaller chunks of information organized by topic or by author. In terms of formatting, it is important to remember that writers adhere to certain formatting principles when creating their thesis, coursework or honors work. For example, the authorship style used might vary according to type of work as follows:
Theses should be attributed to an individual’s name with last name first (last initial). For example: (Smith et al. 1996)
Honors work should be attributed to the “student” or “author” and their last name first (last initial). For example: (Smith, Smith, and Smith 1996)
Coursework can also be attributed in a variety of ways. The attribution rules and formatting are similar to those in a thesis, the following is a specific example that describes two different styles of attribution:
Thesis/Coursework- There are two different formats for using author names. If all authors are being referred to as “the authors” then you would write the following sentence: “Smith et al. (1996) utilized three objectives to measure web site usability. Results were presented in two tables and one flowchart.”
It is also acceptable to refer to each author individually with their last name and initial after “et al.” for the thesis portion of the document. For example: “Smith (1996) utilized three objectives to measure web site usability. Results were presented in two tables, and one flowchart.”
However, if only some authors are being referred to as “the authors” then you should follow this guideline for the complete document. For example: “Smith et al. (1996) utilized three objectives to measure web site usability. Results were presented in two tables, and one flowchart. Smith (1996) utilized three objectives to measure web site usability. Results were presented in two tables and one flowchart.”
When writing a thesis/coursework- “et al.” is not used unless all authors are being referred to as “the authors”. If you are only referring to some of the authors then you should use “Smith et al.” or use the first author followed by an open parenthesis: “Smith, Smith, and Smith (1996) utilized three objectives to measure web site usability. Results were presented in two tables and one flowchart.”
Students are advised that in MLA works cited format, all sources must be listed by their appropriate title. As a basic rule, you must follow how the source which you are citing has been formatted on your citation sheet or within the document itself. This is because noted information should be cited exactly as it appears on your MLA paper’s Works Cited page. If a source does not ask for a comma to be placed between the title and the authors, then it is incorrect to place commas in that position. For example, if you are citing “The New York Times,” then you must refer to it with no commas as: “The New York Times.” If your source lists the author name and article title separated by a comma, then it is not necessary to include a comma after the article title in your paper.
- Citation Style
There are different citation styles used for writing a thesis, coursework or honors work as mentioned above. The MLA and APA systems of citation differ from one another in terms of where commas should be placed within quotations and parenthetical citations.
- Research Problems vs. Research Questions
While research problems and questions are both used in a thesis, coursework, or honours work, they serve a very different purpose. A research problem is necessary to develop an overall topic of interest for research, while the focus of a research question is usually much more specific in nature. Research questions are formulated to focus on particular variables or components that contribute to the development of your main hypothesis (or null hypothesis).
Thesis/Coursework- The general purpose of a problem statement is to provide information that will help the student (and reader) understand why this particular topic was chosen for study.