How Long Are Dissertations?

One common question that arises among students when they first start writing up their research findings is: How long are dissertations?

In this article, we’ll take a quick and dirty look at the typical length and structure of dissertations across various fields and offer insights into what to expect and how you can effectively manage the length of your own dissertation.

What is a Dissertation?

A dissertation is a substantial piece of original research conducted by a student as part of their academic program, typically at the undergraduate, master’s, or doctoral level. Unlike other academic papers, such as writing a thesis or research paper, dissertations require students to make a significant contribution to their field of study through original research and analysis.

How Long is a Dissertation?

Factors Influencing Dissertation Length

The length of a dissertation can vary widely depending on several factors, including the discipline or field of study, the level of the academic program, the type of dissertation and specific program requirements. Additionally, the scope of research, dissertation methodology employed, and complexity of the topic can all impact the overall length of the dissertation. For example, dissertations in fields such as humanities and social sciences may tend to be longer due to extensive literature reviews and qualitative analysis, while those in STEM fields may be shorter but include more technical data and analysis.

Typical Length of Dissertations

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of dissertation length, there are some general guidelines that can provide you with a sense of what to expect. At the undergraduate level, dissertations typically range from 5,000 to 10,000 words, while master’s dissertations may be between 10,000 and 20,000 words. Doctoral dissertations, on the other hand, can vary significantly in length, often ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 words or more.

If you find your dissertation is too long or too short, a professional dissertation editor can help you to refine your words to meet the word count.

Type of Dissertation Expected Word Count Range
Undergraduate 5,000 – 10,000 words
Master’s 10,000 – 20,000 words
Doctoral 50,000 – 100,000+ words

This table provides a general guideline for the expected word count range for each type of dissertation. Keep in mind that these ranges can vary depending on factors such as discipline, dissertation topic, institution, and specific program requirements.

Structural Components of a Dissertation

Regardless of length, dissertations generally follow a similar structure consisting of several key components. These typically include:

  • Abstract: The dissertation abstract provides a high-level overview of the topic of your dissertation, the research that was performed, and the findings. Read more: How to write an abstract.
  • Acknowledgements: A brief paragraph naming and thanking the people who helped to perform your research and write your dissertation. Read more: How to write acknowledgements
  • Introduction: Provides an overview of the research topic, objectives, and significance.
  • Literature Review: Summarizes existing research and identifies gaps in the literature.
  • Methodology: Describes the research design, data collection methods, and analytical techniques.
  • Results: Presents the findings of the research in a clear and organized manner.
  • Discussion: Analyzes and interprets the results, discussing their implications and limitations.
  • Conclusion: Summarizes the key findings and contributions of the study, as well as suggesting areas for future research.

You can read more in our guide to sections to include in a dissertation.

Tips for Managing the Length of Your Dissertation

Managing the length of a dissertation can be a daunting task, but there are some strategies that can help. These include:

  • Setting clear research objectives and focusing on addressing specific research questions.
  • Staying organized and disciplined throughout the research and writing process.
  • Avoiding unnecessary repetition and tangential discussions.
  • Seeking feedback from advisors and peers to ensure clarity and conciseness.

Additional Resources

For further guidance on writing dissertations, consider exploring the following resources:

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