How long is a dissertation: finding all answers to this question

Beginning a doctoral journey often raises the critical question about dissertation length and in general how to write a dissertation. This seemingly straightforward query has layers of complexity that many aspiring scholars grapple with.

As the cornerstone of a Ph.D., understanding the length of a dissertation not only guides the depth and breadth of research but also aids in effective planning. This article seeks to provide a comprehensive answer to this pivotal question, shedding light on the factors influencing its length and offering insights to guide both new and seasoned doctoral candidates.

Dive in to unravel all the answers related to dissertation length.

How long is a dissertation

Determining the length of a doctoral dissertation is not straightforward, as there is no definitive answer. However, the typical length of most dissertations falls within the range of 100-200 pages. One individual may argue for 146 pages, while another may suggest 90 pages. Yet another person might advocate for a length of 200 pages.
Ultimately, the appropriate length of this crucial academic work should be based on factors such as the subject matter, writing approach, and the writer’s objectives.
When pursuing master’s and Ph.D. degrees, universities mandate students to write dissertations. These academic papers hold significant importance in esteemed educational institutions. Consequently, many undergraduate students feel concerned about the length of this document as it plays a crucial role in their academic journey.
Typically, there are practical recommendations regarding the ideal length of a dissertation. One crucial factor to consider is your dissertation’s specific subject matter, likely affecting its length. For example, a historical dissertation is expected to be longer than the average dissertation in chemistry. Therefore, your academic discipline will play a role in determining the appropriate length for your dissertation.

How long is a Ph.D. dissertation

According to most experts in academia, it is generally agreed that a Ph.D. dissertation should be at most 80,000 words. Therefore, your text should be around this length. This word count includes the appendices but needs to include references, footnotes, and bibliography. The footnotes in a dissertation should be at most 20% of the overall text.
Students should avoid including discursive footnotes and refrain from using footnotes to include materials that belong in the main text. This is because it would exceed the average length of the dissertation.
The statistical tables in a dissertation are typically considered to have a word count of approximately 150 words each. However, the Degree Committee may permit students to exceed this limit in certain circumstances if an application is made. As a result, students should apply for this exception well before the proposed thesis submission date. The Graduate Committee will review the application and determine whether to grant the student permission to modify the average length of the dissertation.
The committee reviews the dissertation proposal and requires a signed statement confirming the length of the proposed dissertation. If they fail to provide this statement and the dissertation turns out to be longer than the average length, it will be sent back for revision before being sent to the institution’s examiners.

Average dissertation length as a general rule

When determining the length of a Ph.D. dissertation, it is essential to consider various factors. However, students are advised to keep their writing within 80,000 to 100,000 words but sometimes they may ask how to make an essay longer , typically resulting in a document spanning approximately 204 pages. Nevertheless, the specific length of a PhD thesis can vary depending on the university and the subject being studied.
In basic terms, a university has the authority to establish the guidelines for a dissertation, which includes determining its length. However, most institutions typically aim for a word count of approximately 100,000. Studies indicate that dissertations in STEM tend to average around 159 pages, while non-STEM dissertations average around 223 pages. As a result, there is a notable disparity in length between STEM and non-STEM dissertations.

How long is a dissertation chapter

You may be wondering how long each chapter of a dissertation is. The length of each chapter can vary as each section focuses on a specific topic. If you include the necessary information accurately and concisely, your final dissertation should be the appropriate length. So, how long should each section of a doctoral dissertation be? Here is a general estimation.


The purpose of this part of the thesis is to explain the topic’s significance to readers and provide relevant information about the subject. The introduction should explain why you selected the topic or issue and what makes it essential. Typically, the introduction should be around 10 to 15 pages, an ideal length to summarize everything. It is necessary to captivate the audience’s interest without giving away too many details, making the introduction more of a teaser.

Literature review

This section examines the appropriate sources you have selected for your research paper. Only sources that are relevant to the dissertation should be included. Within this section, you will analyze and identify the strengths and weaknesses of these chosen sources. The literature review should have a length of 20 to 25 pages.


The section of a dissertation dedicated to research methods typically spans 10 to 15 pages. Its main objective is to outline the specific techniques and processes employed in the study. This part also encompasses strategies for engaging with the chosen sample population and gathering relevant data. Additionally, any obstacles encountered during the research process can be addressed within this section.


In your dissertation, ensure this part is at most 10 pages. It encompasses a list and explanation of the findings you have gathered. You need to explicitly mention the research findings and the hypotheses, indicating whether they were proven or disproven. Additionally, this section should conclude everything you have accomplished during your investigation.


The section known as the discussion section is also referred to as this. It should be around 15 to 20 pages long. In this section, you should clarify the significance of your research and discuss its implications. Additionally, offering a broader and up-to-date perspective on your research topic is essential. Moreover, you should expand the current body of evidence on the subject. Lastly, make recommendations and acknowledge any limitations in this section.
Therefore, the length of a dissertation chapter can vary depending on various factors such as the subject matter, educational institution, and research objectives. The size of each section can differ based on the specific nature of the study and the information collected.

However, dissertations in psychology, history, communication, nursing, and management can range up to 300 pages. On the other hand, education, environmental health, and political science dissertations tend to be around 100 pages. Ultimately, the length of a dissertation depends on the nature of the research and the data that needs to be included.

How long is a dissertation proposal

You no longer need to inquire about the word count of a dissertation, as that question has already been addressed. However, you may be curious about the length of its proposal. In this case, there is no set length for this document. Nevertheless, it should be perceived as a lengthy and formally written treatise.
Typically, faculties suggest a proposal length of approximately 15 to 20 pages. However, the ideal length should be determined by various factors, such as the nature of the problem being addressed, the justification for addressing the issue, the sources from which answers will be sought, and the rationale for selecting specific sources.
The purpose of this document is to outline the proposed work. It is essential to emphasize and persuade the thesis committee of your faculty that your research question is valuable and merits further exploration. Therefore, you must create a persuasive document that convinces your faculty to approve you to proceed with the dissertation writing project. Hence, the question arises: what should be the length of this document?

How long should a dissertation abstract be

Lastly, it is crucial to determine the appropriate length for the abstract section of your dissertation. This section on a separate page serves as a condensed overview of your entire research. It presents the main goals and findings of the study. Essentially, the abstract should provide readers with a clear understanding of the document’s content. Therefore, composing this section at the end is recommended, ensuring it outlines the research objectives, problem statement, methodology, significant results, and conclusion.
The length of the abstract for a dissertation can vary from 150 to 300 words. Similar to the dissertation’s main sections, a specified word limit must be adhered to. So, it is vital to consult the journal or university you are writing the dissertation for to know the exact word limit.

The Bottom Line

A set number of words or pages does not determine the length of a dissertation. As a result, it is essential to consult your university, faculty, or journal to understand the specific length requirements for your dissertation.
Once you have finished writing your dissertation, it is advisable to have a preliminary version or utilize the introduction from your proposal as a guide, as it contains the essential elements necessary for your final work.