The History of dissertations in education

What is a dissertation?

A dissertation, also known as a thesis in some countries, is a document showing the results of the final research project undertaken by students pursuing either a Master’s degree or a PhD. In some universities, the words thesis and dissertation are interchangeable while in others, the thesis is the document submitted by Master’s students presenting their research and findings, while a dissertation is a document of the final project submitted by PhD students.

Both allow students to present their findings in response to a question or proposition they chose themselves. Both have the same structure that is; introduction, literary review, main body, conclusion, bibliography, and appendix.

However, some argue that a thesis only demonstrates the candidate’s knowledge acquired through the course of the program whereas a dissertation serves to contribute something totally new or previously undiscovered in the candidate’s field of study.

What is the history of dissertations?

The concept of the dissertation started in Germany. Students in the middle ages in Germany were expected to portray their understanding of the texts and age-old theories of ancient scholars and this included presenting opposing views, giving lectures and defending them against critical attack by the establishment and the entire charade served to reveal the student’s readiness to be counted worthy as a colleague and scholar and involved many oaths of allegiance to the church, state, and school.

It was also a form of the display where the scholar “sold” himself to the public and this enabled him to recruit new students because the ability to engage in this type of argument publicly was considered as a mark of a good scholar. This is somewhat similar to the oral defence of their dissertations by graduate students.

During these sessions where it was decided whether scholars would become doctors of theology, the entire school would be present and it was an intricate process where lectures were given and questions answered. They were thought to be of very impressive educational value and everybody looked forward to them.

In the Medieval times, there was no clear boundary between students and professors and there was constant questioning of knowledge and sometimes even two professors would argue about questions in the presence of their students. Through this students memorized many theories and advanced in the art of critical thinking and debate.

It is, however, important to note that in the Middle Ages it was not really about the contribution to or advancement of knowledge but rather about mastering skills that made men knowledgeable. It is also worth mentioning that most of the subjects of the debate were religious and the schools were run by the Catholic Church and it was mostly in monasteries.

Over time, universities were formed to study secular subjects. They were mostly groups of students who sat down with a master to learn from him. The masters were paid by the students and the schools themselves were also run by the students. They were considered the highest forms of learning and this tradition has been carried on to date.

How have dissertations changed today?

In Medieval times, candidates argued and presented their views on particular topics or subjects orally to the public and professors in the form of a debate. These days, students do lots of research and write them down and present documents that are hundreds of pages long on their views. They still have to go before a panel to defend their research but it also must be printed and available to read.

While in ages past only the confident and articulate had the chance to present their ideas, today, if students do not feel confident enough in their ability to eloquently present their research, they can buy dissertation online. They can hire a professional writer to do the work for them that will be up to the standards required by the university. Whatever your reasons, if you decide to go with this option, please look out for plagiarism and only go with people who are experts in the field to avoid the embarrassment that comes from badly written work.