Student life, in partnership with UEA
I'm in my first year of university but I'm curious what exactly is a dissertation and can you writ your dissertation on any topic you choose or does it have to be related to your course?
If you have a dissertation as part of your 3rd years course structure, then yes, of course it has to be about something related to the course. But you get all the information about it towards the end of your second year, so you can think of ideas for a topic, and then there is training in the 3rd year on how to structure the piece, how to reference, how to do a literature review etc.
The terms dissertation and thesis are often used interchangeably, and their use in the US is often different to their use in the UK. Strictly speaking (in the UK) a dissertation is just a long piece of academic writing such as you would do for final year undergrad or Masters. A thesis is what you write for a PhD, where you put forward a hypothesis, and then provide evidence for and against that hypothesis. However, there are many interpretations of this, and for most purposes, thesis and dissertation are used interchangeably.