How Long Is a Dissertation in Universities

posted by Andy Preisler 06 Aug 2021

Students rarely wonder, “How long is a dissertation?”, not until the time for completing their project arrives. This question is difficult to answer because every educational establishment has its own rules and requirements. Still, we are going to share a few insights with you. Our guide is based on research into various colleges and universities; we sent surveys and questions to hundreds of students, making inquiries about their dissertations. Now, we are finally ready to present our findings.

Average Dissertation Length According to Common Guidelines

When people need help with dissertation writing, the question about its required length is one of the first to come up. It’s understandable: everyone worries about their time and wants to know how much effort they’ll have to invest. The problem is, there is no universal number of pages that all universities would find satisfying. Some insist that you need to focus on quality over quantity; others are very strict, demanding no less than 60 or so pages. We’re going to make a brief overview of institutional vs. committee requirements.

  • Institutional: This type of demand tends to be very specific. To the question of, “How long are dissertations?,” each university gives a set of guidelines coupled with headlines. For example, they point out that in literature review chapters, the number of pages should range between 30 and 50. So, you get a minimum and a maximum length that you should base your expectations on. If you start writing a dissertation but realize that you need more or less space, let your supervisor know. It’s possible that they’ll make an exception for you. After all, how well you explained your dissertation topic is the most important thing.
  • Committee: Committee makes suggestions after reading students’ work. If they feel like some point isn’t explored well, they comment on it. In turn, one of the sections could look overdone to them. Listen to their suggestions.

But we have another piece of advice, too. Before you start obsessing over an average length of a dissertation, just focus on writing as well as you can. Pick a subject and research it. Share information about it with your readers, provide only relevant details, and it is likely that things will work out. If you like the results, there is every chance that other people will love them as well.

Dissertation Length Based on Specific Chapters: Introduction

Now let’s talk about dissertation chapters and their average length. That’s right, each of them follows its unique rules, and the introduction is the first section you should learn about. Several nuances apply here at once.

  1. In terms of pages, introduction usually takes between 10 and 20.
  2. It must deal with information briefly. Don’t discuss anything in depth, this is something for the main body.
  3. As a whole, it shouldn’t exceed the word count in the entire dissertation by more than 10%. It also shouldn’t be less than 7%.
  4. Because of the third rule, the fourth one states that the introduction should be written last even if it is technically the first chapter. The reasoning is simple here: students cannot know what 7% or 10% comprises without knowing the final word count.

Average Length of Dissertation Literature Review

In some ways, annotated bibliography service is connected with literature review. Both require technical and formatting skills, and both are time-consuming. In terms of lit review in particular, it must include synthesis of several credible sources. You have to read them and find them useful in proving (or refuting) your major points. Minimal size starts around 20 pages, and the limit is usually 50 pages. You need space for showing what other scholars think about this topic and whether there is a consensus on it. At the same time, there is no need to endlessly cite sources and analyze what they say. This will frustrate and bore your audience. Good balance is vital in every section, but especially in one dealing with dry facts from outside studies.

General Word Count for Writing Methodology Chapter

How long is a PhD dissertation methodology? Before you learn an answer, you need to understand what content it should include. In this chapter, your goal is to describe what kind of research you performed, which methods you used, and what actions you took during this process. There are three types of studying data you could choose:

  • Qualitative. This means students organize their own research and get their unique data. They do primary work, so they find sample populations, arrange meetings or interviews, speak with people directly and collect fresh information from them.
  • Quantitative. In this type of research, you study books, audios, and other sources with information that is already prepared. You don’t conduct any novel studies and focus on what is already available.
  • Mixed. If you contact a company and tell them, “I’d like some help writing my dissertation,” we suggest asking for mixed methodology. It’s a combination of the previous two types and it’s generally considered the best approach.

How long is the average dissertation methodology? We’d say around 15 pages. It’s enough to describe what you are doing, which tools for information collection you use, how you contact your sample population and analyze their words, etc.

Ideal Size of Results Section

Here, students should present their results. There is no need to discuss anything, not yet — just show what facts you’ve collected and what findings you’ve got. For example, if you questioned 15 people about their views on a current president, disclose what they said. How many of them were pleased? How many felt indifferent or angry with him? Point it out. You could include graphs and tables for making it easier for your readers to understand the information you’re presenting. In this case, though, be careful: don’t overwhelm them. Some students love creating tables for every little fact, and it’s a big mistake. If you have lots of figures, better put most of them in the appendix. Leave only essential ones.
 
But of course, there is still a matter of length. How long is a dissertation paper results section? It’s between 10 and 15 pages in most universities. Everything depends on how extensive your research was and how much information you’ve decided on collecting. Some Nursing students could question people in 4 different hospitals; others could focus on just one. Obviously, the length of their presentation would be different in this instance.

Discussion Section and Its Length

Sometimes universities ask to combine findings and discussion sections. In other cases, they need to come separately. Clarify this, but in any case, make certain you include all the info. Discussion means exactly that: you need to discuss what you found. Take each point from a previous chapter and talk about it. What does it mean? What conclusions could we make from the percentage of people who love a new president and why do others hate him? Did you uncover a new area that needs research? These are just suggestions. Think of other questions and provide answers to them. How long is a doctoral dissertation discussion section? It cannot be shorter than 10 pages, but ideally, it should take about 20-25. After all, this is the major point of the entire project, your chance to make it clear why you chose this topic.

Concluding Your Dissertation

This is the last chapter, but it doesn’t mean you can stop making an effort and relax. You still need to make an impression! Conclusion, like introduction, needs to take around 10% from the overall word count. How long does a dissertation have to be in this case? Let’s say it has 40K words. Conclusion would have to be about 4000 words, then. In it, you restate major points from your research, offer their implications, provide recommendations for other interested parties, and admit what mistakes you might have made. Addressing limitations is important as it proves that you are a professional and objective researcher.

Useful info: Use help with improving your final draft, check our “correct my writing” service.

Dissertation Length Varying by Discipline

There are different norms regarding dissertation lengths based on a discipline. For example, works written in technical subjects, particularly from the STEM category, usually have shorter size. Non-STEM projects tend to be longer. That’s because formulas and technical hypotheses don’t need as many pages as research into someone’s beliefs, conditions, etc. But let’s take a look at this difference in more detail in the next section.

Differing Length of Dissertations Across Universities and Disciplines

Requirements in every school, college, and university differ. It doesn’t concern dissertations alone — it’s about each academic task. For instance, students could buy book reports online ranging from 2 to 20 pages. Some unis ask for acknowledgements page, others ask to do without it. Look at the table below to see random examples of universities, disciplines, and the size of dissertations for each.

University Name

Discipline

Word Count

University of Essex (Master’s Degree)

Art & Humanities

65K words

University of Cambridge (Master’s Degree)

Business & Management

40K words

Australian National University (Master’s Degree)

History

20K words

University of Glasgow

Social Services

30-40K words

University of Malta (Master’s Degree)

Art & Theater

45K words

Consult the Guide and Start Working On Your Dissertation

How long should a dissertation be? Now you know the answer. Use our guide before starting your project and keep checking it as you work. Don’t forget to ask for advice from your supervisor, and of course, rely on your own sense of rightness. Explore the topic you chose in as much depth as you consider appropriate. If you realize you are stuck, don’t be scared to contact professionals and ask them, “Can you do my paper by my deadline?”  Choose a great topic, be clear about what you want and you’ll love your dissertation.

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