How Long Is a Dissertation: Ultimate Guide

Students may find themselves wondering how long is a dissertation when the instructor does not provide certain word count requirements and there is not much information apart from the need to develop a dissertation research proposal. Our guide was developed to give basic understanding regarding expectations towards the completed manuscript so that the students could learn how to write a dissertation.

Defined Average Dissertation Length

Universities’ databases contain a lot of valuable information, including students’ theses papers and dissertations. This allows curious minds to determine how long is the average dissertation. In this case, actual pages are counted which also include table of contents, title pages, appendices, reference pages, and even white space and acknowledgements. While all these parts should also be written, they cannot be really treated as complex as dissertation’s body text. Anyway, average dissertation range might be as long as 160 pages.

Institutional Guidelines

All instructors in any university have specific word count instructions that depend on subject, institutional policies, professor’s preferences, and many other factors. Contrary to what was stated earlier, it is highly unlikely that students will be given a simple direction to write a long dissertation without any additional guidelines. Most universities even have specific unified templates that include section headings that allow students to understand how long does a dissertation have to be once they fill in all sections’ empty spaces. Many experts whose works were taken for our essay writing services reviews reported that these templates are familiar, and they have already worked with them in the past. 

They may also provide a range of pages for each section that a student should meet. For instance, a literature review chapter may be requested to be at least as long as 30 pages and no longer than 50 pages. This length allows covering the existing state of research and justifies further research. At the same time, providing a 100-page literature review section does seem to be excessive and even redundant.

Committee preferences

Feedback sometimes depends on individual preferences of committee members and while some comments may seem to be contradictory, there is usually a reason behind them. Even the generic comment that states only “insufficient evidence” means you haven’t completely studied your area of research and instead of identifying the knowledge gap in existing studies allowed a gap’s appearance in your argument’s development. In this case, you should wonder not how long is a dissertation paper and whether yours is long enough, but rather whether you managed to cover your question within the provided word count.

Dissertation Length Per Each Chapter

All of them have obligatory elements to be included, and they can be covered within a specified word count. Following general requirements for each chapter and focusing on content’s quality, one could end up with a decent manuscript with average length of dissertation.

  • Chapter 1: Introduction

Even though problem statement and subsequent research question should not take much word count, introduction usually includes describing background of the chosen dissertation question. Suggested range is up to 15-20 pages depending on the subject. It should not be excessively long compared to other sections.

  • Chapter 2: Literature review

Recommended minimum length of 30 pages presupposes adequate exploration of existing studies and all chosen sources’ relevance to topic under review. Otherwise, there is no point in including everything even slightly related to the problem that you have ever read. Completing an excessively long literature review will undermine the quality of your own research 

  • Chapter 3: Methodology

Those who are curious regarding how long should a dissertation be oftentimes keep in mind this essential section that initiates student’s original research. It outlines the main plan that drives the research forward. Describing what was done and how exactly it was done, including all experiments or surveys procedures, requires substantial word count so that no details are omitted. Long detailed review is a requirement because it is expected that readers may want to replicate the experiment or apply another described methods framework in their own subsequent research. Thus, a minimum of 15 pages should be devoted to this section.

  • Chapter 4: Results

This section represents raw data and findings you collected upon completing research outlined in the previous chapter. The question of how long are dissertations’ results chapters cannot be answered with precise page range because it depends on the type of research. Quantitative research will include a lot of numbers, tables, and graphs which contribute to considerable quantity of pages while the overall word count will be comparatively low. At the same time, one should remember that some tables that are not directly related to core research should be included in Appendix rather than in chapter’s text, as unnecessary word count increase is not something professor would approve.

  • Chapter 5: Discussion

If there is a place for one to demonstrate their outstanding analytical skills and critical thinking approach, this chapter would be treated as primary option. Substantial, quiet long discussion part of minimum of 15 pages should be included in average length of a dissertation because this is the essence of the research as opposed to the review of someone else’s articles or describing a methodology that many other scholars utilized before. This is a true opportunity for original research and some intriguing discoveries as well as discussing implications and your findings’ usefulness for further studies or even entire field’s development. Do not limit this part of dissertation, as it usually contributes to the biggest portion of the grade.

  • Chapter 6: Conclusion

Since this chapter should not only summarize what you had to said on multiple pages in previous chapters but also admit present study’s limitations and potential implications, word count dedicated to this section should be sufficient enough. Looks like minimum 10 pages are needed for the mentioned purposes and its length also depends on the type of dissertation, since if one ever wondered how long is a doctoral dissertation, the answer would be “considerably longer than Masters-level one”.

Dissertation Length by Discipline

Dissertation length will also depend on the subject and dissertation writing services experience suggest that manuscripts related to History, Political science, Sociology, or Communication studies are the longest while students whose majors are Physics, Statistics, or Engineering need to provide much shorter dissertations that are approximately 100-page long. 

If you want to know how long is a PhD dissertation in every subject, you need to understand what makes PhD manuscripts considerably more difficult. These students are expected to develop their conclusions and implications based on new knowledge rather than existing on, as is expected from other students. No doubts it requires more time, effort, and word count. Independent research also presupposes less restrictive guidelines and limitations.

Approximate Length Suggestions

Many former students already accomplished this major challenge in their academic careers and are aware of how long dissertation should be. Professionals in the best dissertation editing service that we include in our reviews are in progress with finalizing more dissertations for various institutional affiliations. Based on their experience, we may determine how many words is a dissertation, depending on location and discipline. Here is are some results that provide word count limitations (in words, not pages) for dissertations in specific schools:

University of Edinburgh


University of Bath


University of Stanford


University of Minnesota


University of Cambridge

     60,000 - 80,000

These are basic word count rules as per universities’ policies that set the highest limit. Though, there are specific requirements that stand upon subject. Let’s take the University of Cambridge as an example. A Ph.D. thesis should not exceed 60,000 for Biology students and the upper limit is 80,000 words for those who study Business and Management, Classics, or English. 

Students should pay attention to the fact that upper limits are set, and it does not necessarily mean they must reach them. Completed dissertation may be just 100-page long, but as soon as it covers the topic explicitly and follows other criteria, it will earn the highest grade. 

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Final Ideas

When it comes to dissertation lengths, there is no definite word count standards. Professors prefer determining minimum or maximum pages’ number or even a number of pages that can be dedicated to either an entire paper or its specific parts. Reason is simple: dissertation writing requires substantial work and original research that should be completed during a long time. This means both more freedom and more content-related quality demands.

Posted by Chris M., August 03, 2021

110 Dissertation Topics And Tips

Choose the best dissertation topics for your dissertation project. Read our list of interesting ideas on a wide range of academic subjects.

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