what is the average word count for a thesis

  • How Long Is a PhD Thesis?
  • Doing a PhD

It’s no secret that one of the most challenging aspects of a PhD degree is the volume of work that goes into writing your thesis . So this raises the question, exactly how long is a thesis?

Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all answer to this question. However, from the analysis of over 100 PhD theses, the average thesis length is between 80,000 and 100,000 words. A further analysis of 1000 PhD thesis shows the average number of pages to be 204 . In reality, the actual word count for each PhD thesis will depend on the specific subject and the university it is being hosted by. This is because universities set their own word length requirements, with most found to be opting for around 100,000.

To find out more about how these word limits differ between universities, how the average word count from STEM thesis differ from non-STEM thesis and a more detailed breakdown from the analysis of over 1000 PhDs, carry on reading the below.

Word Count Differences Between Universities

For any PhD student writing a thesis, they will find that their document will be subject to a word limit set by their university. In nearly all cases, the limit only concerns the maximum number of words and doesn’t place any restrictions on the minimum word limit. The reason for this is that the student will be expected to write their thesis with the aim of clearly explaining their research, and so it is up to the student to determine what he deems appropriate.

Saying this, it is well accepted amongst PhD students and supervisors that the absence of a lower limit doesn’t suggest that a thesis can be ‘light’. Your thesis will focus on several years worth of original research and explore new ideas, theories or concepts. Besides this, your thesis will need to cover a wide range of topics such as your literature review, research methodology, results and conclusion. Therefore, your examiners will expect the length of your thesis to be proportional to convey all this information to a sufficient level.

Selecting a handful of universities at random, they state the following thesis word limits on their website:

  • University of Edinburgh: 100,000
  • University of Exeter: 100,000
  • University of Leister: 80,000
  • University of Bath: 80,000
  • University of Warwick: 70,000

The above universities set upper word limits that apply across the board, however, some universities, such as the University of Birmingham and the University of Sheffield, set different word limits for different departments. For example, the University of Sheffield adopts these limits:

  • Arts & Humanities: 75,000
  • Medicine, Dentistry & Health: 75,000
  • Science: 80,000
  • Social Sciences: 75,000-100,000

Although there’s a range of limit, it’s safe to say that the majority fall within the 80,000 to 100,000 bracket.

Word Count Based on Data from past Theses

A poll of 149 postdocs.

In mid-2019, Dr Eva Lantsoght, a published author, academic blogger and Structural Engineering Professor, conducted a poll which asked postgraduate doctoral students to share the length of their final thesis. 149 PostDoc students responded to the survey, with the majority reporting a length falling within the ‘80,000 – 120,000 words’ bracket as seen below.

DiscoverPhDs_How-long-is-a-PhD-Thesis_Poll

Analysis of 1000 PhD Theses

Over a three-year time period, Dr Ian Brailsford, a then Postgraduate Learning Adviser at the University of Auckland, analysed 1000 doctoral thesis submitted to his university’s library. The PhD theses which formed the basis of his analysis were produced between 2008 to 2017 and showed:

  • Average number of pages = 204
  • Median number of pages = 198
  • Average number of chapters = 7.6

We should note that the above metrics only cover the content falling within the main body of the thesis. This includes the introduction, literature review, methods section, results chapter, discussions and conclusions. All other sections, such as the title page, abstract, table of contents, acknowledgements, bibliography and appendices were omitted from the count.

Although it’s impossible to draw the exact word count from the number of pages alone, by using the universities recommended format of 12pt Times New Roman and 1.5 lines spacing, and assuming 10% of the main body are figures and footnotes, this equates to an average main body of 52,000 words.

STEM vs Non-STEM

As part of Dr Ian Brailsford’s analysis, he also compared the length of STEM doctorate theses to non-STEM theses. He found that STEM theses tended to be shorter. In fact, he found STEM theses to have a medium page length of 159 whilst non-STEM theses had a medium of around 223 pages. This is a 40% increase in average length!

Can You Exceed the Word Count?

Whilst most universities will allow you to go over the word count if you need to, it comes with the caveat that you must have a very strong reason for needing to do so. Besides this, your supervisor will also need to support your request. This is to acknowledge that they have reviewed your situation and agree that exceeding the word limit will be absolutely necessary to avoid detriment unnecessary detriment to your work.

This means that whilst it is possible to submit a thesis over 100,000 words or more, it’s unlikely that your research project will need to.

How Does This Compare to a Masters Dissertation?

The average Masters dissertation length is approximately 20,000 words whilst a thesis is 4 to 5 times this length at approximately 80,000 – 100,000.

The key reason for this difference is because of the level of knowledge they convey. A Master’s dissertation focuses on concluding from existing knowledge whilst a PhD thesis focuses on drawing a conclusion from new knowledge. As a result, the thesis is significantly longer as the new knowledge needs to be well documented so it can be verified, disseminated and used to shape future research.

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Related Reading

Unfortunately, the completion of your thesis doesn’t mark the end of your degree just yet. Once you submit your thesis, it’s time to start preparing for your viva – the all-to-fun thesis defence interview! To help you prepare for this, we’ve produced a helpful guide which you can read here: The Complete Guide to PhD Vivas.

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What’s a Good Word Count for a Thesis Statement?

Crafting a thesis statement is an essential skill for all students to develop if they want to write quality essays and earn high grades. Although most understand the basics of how to write a thesis statement , many students wonder how long it should be.

Everyone agrees it has to be “concise,” but exactly how concise? Is there a magic number of words you should be looking to reach (or avoid exceeding) in your word counter?

Looking at thesis statement examples can help you see how thesis statements can vary in length but still be effective.

Unfortunately, the exact number of words can be tough to pinpoint. The range can be anywhere between 20-50 words depending on your topic.

Thankfully, there are some examples and hints to help you see if your thesis statement length is appropriate.

How Long is Too Long?

Compare these thesis statement examples :

  • All students should have access to a free college education because society will benefit from having better-educated citizens to help guide our nation.
  • I think that it would be a positive idea to have each and every student who wants to attend a college or university be able to do so at no cost to him or her because our whole nation would be better off if people were smart enough to make wise decisions to lead our country in a good direction.

When we enter these into our word counter , the first example is 24 words. The second? A whopping 60 words!

Unnecessary words have no place in a thesis statement, and number 2 has a lot of extra words that don't need to be there.

Bottom line: If you can say more using less, do it.

Use the Introductory Paragraph

You might be thinking: I have a lot I want to say about my main idea, but I don't think I can cram all of my thoughts into one clear and concise sentence .

This is a really common concern. But no need to worry. You can create a concise thesis statement and still add your supporting thoughts throughout the essay.

Remember, your thesis statement is just one sentence of your introduction. You can surround it with other details and information you want to share about your topic.

But this leads to more questions:

  • How many sentences in a paragraph will make my essay most effective?
  • How many words in a paragraph is an acceptable number?

While there is no exact number, you should be mindful of how wordy your paragraphs and sentences are . Every word should be purposeful and your ideas should be clear. Broad or vague statements are a no-no when it comes to making a strong claim.

So What is the Magic Number of Words?

You want to aim for the most clear and concise thesis statement you can make. If you have a more complex idea, naturally your word count will be higher than if you are expressing a more basic argument.

Like I mentioned above, the range can be anywhere between 20–50 words depending on the subject you're writing about.

No matter your topic, your goal should always be to be specific, accurate, and supportive of your claim. Always avoid unnecessary words and vague statements.

If you are successful in getting rid of the “fluff,” you should have all of the words you need to make your thesis statement count.

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How long is a PhD dissertation? [Data by field]

The final piece of the PhD journey is the PhD dissertation. It takes many years to accumulate enough original and new data to fill out a dissertation to the satisfaction of experts in your field. Interestingly, the PhD dissertation length and content vary significantly based on the field you are studying and the publishing conventions.

A PhD can be anywhere from 50 pages to over 450 pages long. This equates to between about 20,000 words to 100,000 words. Most PhD theses are between 60,000 and 80,000 words long excluding contents, citations and references.

A PhD thesis contains different sections including an introduction, methods, results and discussion, conclusions, further work, and references. Each one of these different sections will vary in length depending on the field of study and your particular topic.

Ultimately, a PhD dissertation should contain as many pages and words as it takes to communicate the results of your multi-year investigation.

It is very rewarding to see your thesis come together as you are writing day after day. When I was writing my PhD dissertation I wrote the sections separately and my heart filled with joy when I finally put them all together and compile them into a single PDF document.

Counting the pages should not be the way to determine a PhD dissertation’s value but it certainly helps when your thesis is starting to look substantial in thickness.

How many pages should a PhD dissertation be?

A PhD dissertation should contain as many pages and words as it takes to outline the current state of your field and provide adequate background information, present your results, and provide confidence in your conclusions. A PhD dissertation will also contain figures, graphs, schematics, and other large pictorial items that can easily inflate the page count.

Here is a boxplot summary of many different fields of study and the number of pages of a typical PhD dissertation in the field. It has been created by Marcus Beck from all of the dissertations at the University of Minnesota.

what is the average word count for a thesis

Typically, the mathematical sciences, economics, and biostatistics theses and dissertations tend to be shorter because they rely on mathematical formulas to provide proof of their results rather than diagrams and long explanations.

On the other end of the scale, English, communication studies, political science, history and anthropology are often the largest theses in terms of pages and word count because of the number of words it takes to provide proof and depth of their results.

At the end of the day, it is important that your thesis gets signed off by your review committee and other experts in the field. Your supervisor will be the main judge of whether or not your dissertation is capable of satisfying the requirements of a PhD in your field.

If you want to know more about how long a Masters’s thesis and PhD dissertation is you can check out my other articles:

  • How Long is a Masters Thesis? [Your writing guide]
  • How long is a Thesis or dissertation? [the data]

Can a PhD dissertation be too long?

A PhD thesis should contain enough evidence and discussion to report on the most significant findings of your PhD research.

A PhD dissertation should not contain everything that you have done during your PhD. It should only include the data and information required to convince your PhD examining body that wraps up and tells the full story of particular lines of investigation.

Including random results, thoughts, or superfluous explanation can result in a dissertation that is unfocused. I have heard of music PhD is being described as too verbose and physical sciences PhD dissertations as being unfocused.

Therefore, a PhD thesis can be too long if the information it contains does not form a full and cohesive story.

One of my colleagues during their PhD removed an entire chapter from the thesis after writing it as the supervisor said that it needed more experiments to be a full story. They did not want to spend the next six months gathering the data and simply removed the chapter altogether.

How short can PhD dissertation be?

The shortest PhD dissertations are typically found in mathematics.

George Bernard Danzig was an American mathematical scientist who made contributions to industrial engineering and many other mathematical-related fields. An interesting miscommunication led to 1 of the shortest PhD theses ever.

In 1939 his professor wrote two problems on the blackboard and Danzig thought they were homeless assignments. He stated that they were harder than usual but handed in solutions to the surprise of the professor.

They were, in fact, open mathematical problems in statistics.

His professor said to bind the solution to the two problems together and submit them as his thesis – the total thesis length = 14 pages.

Obviously, most PhD theses and dissertations will be so much longer than that!

My PhD dissertation was 256 pages long. It was full of schematics, diagrams, and tables to demonstrate and communicate my findings.

I would say that most people’s PhD thesis experience will be closer to mine than Prof George Bernard Danzig’s.

Why PhD dissertations are typically so long

PhD dissertations are often over 200 pages long.

One of the primary reasons they are so long is that it is a single document that summarises many years of hard work. Also, summarising the research field to date and making sure that all of your references and citations are included so you avoid plagiarism will bolster the word count of the thesis dramatically.

Here are all of the reasons PhD dissertations tend to be so long.

Many years of work

PhD theses or dissertations contain many years of research and analysis.

In many of my YouTube videos I recommend that a PhD student work towards their PhD thesis by doing at least three hours of focused work every work day.

This amount of work quickly adds up.

Of course, not every bit of work makes it into the PhD dissertation but a lot of it does. It can be difficult to work out what to include or leave out of your thesis.

As a PhD student, I perfected the art of turning one experiment into many different types of grafts and schematics to fully explore the limits of my data. The graphs can take up a lot of space in your PhD thesis and, therefore, bolster the page count significantly.

In depth literature review

One of the most substantial parts of a PhD dissertation is the literature review.

The literature review can take up a huge portion of the early part of your PhD dissertation depending on the amount of data and publications in your field.

Writing an in-depth literature review requires just as much meticulous data analysis and searching as the central part of your dissertation.

Figures and schematics

Some fields end up producing a lot of figures and schematics.

My thesis had many full-page figures of atomic force microscopy experiments with much more explanation on subsequent pages.

what is the average word count for a thesis

As they say, a picture paints a thousand words and a dissertation can really benefit from having many schematics to highlight the important aspects of your findings.

References and citations

The recommended PhD dissertation word count from an institution or university does not include citations, references, or other thesis parts such as summary of abbreviations, table of figures, et cetera.

However, these components of your dissertation can take up many pages and add to the overall thickness of your PhD dissertation.

University formatting rules

University formatting rules will also dictate how you many pages your words take up.

I often get roasted on my YouTube channel for having doublespaced lines and wide margins. Unfortunately, this layout was dictated by my university before printing.

PhD dissertations often end up going into long-term storage and therefore, need to adhere to archival and standardised formatting rules.

Deep in the depths of the University of Newcastle, there is a copy of my thesis on a shelf. The formatting and binding rules mean that my thesis looks like everyone else’s.

Universities will often have their own requirements for PhD dissertation cover colour, quality, and type of paper. Even the quality of the paper can change the thickness of the PhD dissertation significantly.

PhD by publication

It is becoming increasingly common to submit a number of peer-reviewed papers bound together with supplementary information in between instead of a PhD dissertation.

The benefits of this to the researcher and university are:

  • More early career peer-reviewed journals for career advancement
  • an easier review process – they have already been peer-reviewed
  • an early focus on publishing means better research outcomes for the researcher, supervisor, and Department.
  • No mad rush at the end to finish a thesis
  • continually writing peer-reviewed papers throughout your PhD helps with timely analysis and communication of results

Even though this option has been available to PhD students for a number of years, I have only known a handful of students actually submit their PhD via publication.

Nonetheless, having this option will suit some research fields better than others and lead to a more productive PhD.

Wrapping up

This article has been through everything you need to know about the length of a PhD dissertation and the common lengths of PhD dissertations for various fields.

Ultimately, there is no predefined length of a PhD.

A PhD thesis is as long as it needs to be to convince your examiners that you have contributed significantly enough to an academic field to be awarded the title of Dr of philosophy.

Mathematical and analytical theses tend to be shorter and can be as short as 50 pages (with one of the shortest being only 14 pages long). At the other end of the spectrum, PhD students in anthropology and history tend to produce the longest dissertations.

what is the average word count for a thesis

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.

Thank you for visiting Academia Insider.

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Senior Thesis Formatting Guidelines

Contents and form.

Length : The required length is between 10,000 and 20,000 words, not counting notes, bibliography, and appendices. The precise length of the main body text must be indicated on the word count page  immediately following the title page . If a student expects the thesis to exceed 20,000 words, the student’s tutor should consult the Director of Studies. Please note that students’ requests to exceed 20,000 words must go through their tutors and that these requests must be made in early February. Any extension of the thesis beyond the maximum must be justified by the nature of the topic, or sustained excellence in the treatment of the subject, or both. Theses that receive permission to exceed 20,000 words can still be penalized if readers do not think that the excess length is warranted.

Acknowledgments : Please do not include acknowledgments in your final copy of the thesis. If you wish, you can add acknowledgments after your thesis has been read. Readers prefer not to know who directed your thesis, lest they be somehow swayed by that knowledge.

Illustrations : Illustrations, also called figures, might include anything from a photograph to a printed advertisement to a map to a chart. Illustrations may be inserted in the body of your thesis or included in an appendix at the end. Writers often choose to reference an illustration in the body of text, signaling to readers to refer to a particular figure that’s being discussed by turning to a nearby page or to an appendix (e.g., “See Figure 1.”) The inclusion of illustrations in a senior thesis, which has a fairly circumscribed audience, falls under fair use, so you do not need permissions to reproduce illustrations in your thesis. However, all images should be accompanied by a caption that identifies the image and may include brief explanatory text. You may also use the caption to attribute the source where you found the illustration (e.g., a url or the name of the archive where you photographed the item), or you can cite the illustration in a footnote or endnote. You do not need to cite your images in your bibliography. For more detailed guidelines on including illustrations in your thesis, see The Chicago Manual of Style or the MLA Style Manual .

Format : Pages should be 8 1/2" x 11". Margins should be 1 inch, and pages should be numbered. Do not right-justify. The lines of type must be double-spaced, except for quotations of five lines or more, which should be indented and single-spaced.

Style : If you have questions beyond those covered on this page, consult the University of Chicago's A Manual of Style or the Modern Language Association's Style Manual . Kate L. Turabian's A Manual for Writers is a good, inexpensive, brief guide to Chicago style. The Expository Writing Program guide, Writing with Sources , is very useful.

Table of Contents : Every thesis requires a Table of Contents to guide the reader.

Quotations : Quotations of four lines or fewer, surrounded by quotation marks, may be incorporated into the body of the text. Longer extracts should be indented and single-spaced; they should not be included in quotation marks. Each full quotation should be accompanied by a reference. Follow the general practice in the best periodicals in your field, and be consistent. Foreign words that are not quotations should be underlined or italicized.

Appendices : An appendix provides additional material that helps support your argument and is too lengthy to be included as a footnote or endnote. Appendices might include images, passages from primary texts in a non-English language or in your translation, or archival material that is difficult to access. It is rare but perfectly acceptable for theses to include appendices, so make sure to discuss with your tutor whether an appendix makes sense for your project.

Notes : You may use either footnotes (at bottom of page), endnotes (at end of the thesis) or MLA style parenthetical notes. However, for a History & Literature thesis, Chicago style is generally better. Footnote or endnotes are properly used:

  • To state precisely the source or other authority for a statement in the text, or to acknowledge indebtedness for insights or arguments taken from other writers. Quotations should be given when necessary.
  • To make minor qualifications, to prevent misunderstanding, or otherwise to clarify the text when such statements, if put in the text, would interrupt the flow.
  • To carry further some topic discussed in the text, when such discussion is needed but does not fit into the text.

Bibliography : You must append a list of works cited to your thesis. It's a good idea to compile your bibliography as you write, rather than try to put it together all at once at the end (there are very powerful bibliography programs available, such as Zotero and Endnote, that generate bibliographies automatically). The purpose of the bibliography is to be a convenience to your reader. In the works cited list, primary and secondary sources should be listed under separate headings.

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  • How long is an essay? Guidelines for different types of essay

How Long is an Essay? Guidelines for Different Types of Essay

Published on January 28, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The length of an academic essay varies depending on your level and subject of study, departmental guidelines, and specific course requirements. In general, an essay is a shorter piece of writing than a research paper  or thesis .

In most cases, your assignment will include clear guidelines on the number of words or pages you are expected to write. Often this will be a range rather than an exact number (for example, 2500–3000 words, or 10–12 pages). If you’re not sure, always check with your instructor.

In this article you’ll find some general guidelines for the length of different types of essay. But keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity – focus on making a strong argument or analysis, not on hitting a specific word count.

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Essay length guidelines, how long is each part of an essay, using length as a guide to topic and complexity, can i go under the suggested length, can i go over the suggested length, other interesting articles, here's why students love scribbr's proofreading services.

Discover proofreading & editing

In an academic essay, the main body should always take up the most space. This is where you make your arguments, give your evidence, and develop your ideas.

The introduction should be proportional to the essay’s length. In an essay under 3000 words, the introduction is usually just one paragraph. In longer and more complex essays, you might need to lay out the background and introduce your argument over two or three paragraphs.

The conclusion of an essay is often a single paragraph, even in longer essays. It doesn’t have to summarize every step of your essay, but should tie together your main points in a concise, convincing way.

The suggested word count doesn’t only tell you how long your essay should be – it also helps you work out how much information and complexity you can fit into the given space. This should guide the development of your thesis statement , which identifies the main topic of your essay and sets the boundaries of your overall argument.

A short essay will need a focused, specific topic and a clear, straightforward line of argument. A longer essay should still be focused, but it might call for a broader approach to the topic or a more complex, ambitious argument.

As you make an outline of your essay , make sure you have a clear idea of how much evidence, detail and argumentation will be needed to support your thesis. If you find that you don’t have enough ideas to fill out the word count, or that you need more space to make a convincing case, then consider revising your thesis to be more general or more specific.

The length of the essay also influences how much time you will need to spend on editing and proofreading .

You should always aim to meet the minimum length given in your assignment. If you are struggling to reach the word count:

  • Add more evidence and examples to each paragraph to clarify or strengthen your points.
  • Make sure you have fully explained or analyzed each example, and try to develop your points in more detail.
  • Address a different aspect of your topic in a new paragraph. This might involve revising your thesis statement to make a more ambitious argument.
  • Don’t use filler. Adding unnecessary words or complicated sentences will make your essay weaker and your argument less clear.
  • Don’t fixate on an exact number. Your marker probably won’t care about 50 or 100 words – it’s more important that your argument is convincing and adequately developed for an essay of the suggested length.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

In some cases, you are allowed to exceed the upper word limit by 10% – so for an assignment of 2500–3000 words, you could write an absolute maximum of 3300 words. However, the rules depend on your course and institution, so always check with your instructor if you’re unsure.

Only exceed the word count if it’s really necessary to complete your argument. Longer essays take longer to grade, so avoid annoying your marker with extra work! If you are struggling to edit down:

  • Check that every paragraph is relevant to your argument, and cut out irrelevant or out-of-place information.
  • Make sure each paragraph focuses on one point and doesn’t meander.
  • Cut out filler words and make sure each sentence is clear, concise, and related to the paragraph’s point.
  • Don’t cut anything that is necessary to the logic of your argument. If you remove a paragraph, make sure to revise your transitions and fit all your points together.
  • Don’t sacrifice the introduction or conclusion . These paragraphs are crucial to an effective essay –make sure you leave enough space to thoroughly introduce your topic and decisively wrap up your argument.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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Preparing a thesis

Guidance on writing your thesis and the support available.

English language requirements

Theses should normally be written in English. In exceptional circumstances, a student may request permission from their Faculty to present a thesis that is written in another language where there is a clear academic justification for doing so, eg. where the language is directly linked to the research project, or where there is a clear benefit to the impact and dissemination of the research.

Likewise, the oral examination should normally be conducted in English, except in cases where there are pedagogic reasons for it to be held in another language, or where there is a formal agreement in place that requires the viva to be conducted in another language. Permission should be sought from the appropriate faculty for a viva to be conducted in a language other than English.

Guidance on writing the thesis

The main source of advice and guidance for students beginning to write their thesis is the supervisory team. Students should discuss the proposed structure of the thesis with their supervisor at an early stage in their research programme, together with the schedule for its production, and the role of the supervisor in checking drafts. Supervisors should be prepared to advise on such matters as undertaking a literature review, referencing and formatting the thesis, and on what should or should not be included in the thesis, including any supplementary or non-standard material.

Additional support is also available via the English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC), which offers academic writing and thesis writing courses. In addition, the University offers a Thesis Mentoring programme  to help students to manage better the process of writing their thesis.

Students may also find it helpful to consult theses from the same subject discipline that are available in institutional repositories such as White Rose Etheses Online or via the British Library’s EThOS service.

Students who intend to include in their thesis any material owned by another person should consider the copyright implications at an early stage and should not leave this until the final stages of completing the thesis. The correct use of third-party copyright material and the avoidance of unfair means are taken very seriously by the University. Attendance at a copyright training session offered by the Library is strongly recommended.

Students should take care to ensure that the identification of any third-party individuals within their thesis (e.g. participants in the research), is only done with the informed consent of those individuals, and in recognition of any potential risks that this may present to them. This is especially important because an electronic copy of the thesis will normally be made publicly available via the White Rose Etheses Online repository.

Use of copyright material

Guidance on good practices in authorship is set out in the GRIP policy expectations.

Good practices in authorship

Acceptable support in writing the thesis

It is acceptable for a student to receive the following support in writing the thesis from the supervisory team (that is additional to the advice and/or information outlined above), if the supervisory team has considered that this support is necessary:

  • Where the meaning of the text is not clear the student should be asked to re-write the text in question in order to clarify the meaning.
  • If the meaning of the text is unclear, the supervisory team can provide support in correcting grammar and sentence construction to clarify its meaning. If a student requires significant support with written English above what is considered to be correcting grammar and sentence construction, the supervisory team will, at the earliest opportunity, request that the student obtains remedial tuition support from the University’s English Language Teaching Centre.
  • The supervisory team cannot rewrite text that changes the meaning of the text (ghost writing/ghost authorship in a thesis is unacceptable).
  • The supervisory team can provide guidance on the structure, content and expression of writing.
  • The supervisory team can proofread the text.
  • Anyone else who may be employed or engaged to proofread the text is only permitted to change spelling and grammar and must not be able to change the content of the thesis.

The Confirmation Review and the oral examination are the key progression milestones for testing whether a thesis is a student's own work.

Requests for an extension to a student’s time limit for the student to improve their standard of written English in the thesis will not be approved. Students who require additional language support should be signposted to appropriate sources of help at an early stage in their degree to avoid such an occurrence.

Yellow Sticker scheme for disabled students

The University runs a sticker scheme for students who have an impairment that can affect aspects of their written communication. This applies to all students, including PGRs submitting a thesis for examination.

Yellow Sticker scheme

The University does not have any regulatory requirements governing the length of theses, but most faculties have established guidelines:

  • Arts and Humanities: 40,000 words (MPhil); 75,000 words (PhD)
  • Health: 40,000 words (MPhil); 75,000 words (PhD, MD)
  • Science: 40,000 words (MPhil); 80,000 words (PhD)
  • Social Sciences: 40,000 words (MPhil); 75,000-100,000 words (PhD)

The above word counts exclude footnotes, bibliography and appendices. Where there are no guidelines, students should consult the supervisor as to the length of thesis appropriate to the particular topic of research.

Related information

Contact the Research Degree Support Team

Thesis submission

Use of unfair means in the assessment process

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Thesis word count and format

Three months ago you considered whether you required a restriction to the access of your thesis, and you submitted your ‘Approval of Research Degree Thesis Title’ form. You’ve now finished writing up your thesis and it’s time to submit. We require your thesis to be presented and formatted in a certain way, so it’s important you read through the requirements below, before submitting your thesis. Find out more about thesis submission policy  (.pdf)

The completed thesis should be saved in PDF format. Once saved, please review the file to ensure all pages are displayed correctly.

Page layout

  • Double line spacing should be used for everything except quotations, footnotes, captions to plates etc.
  • It is desirable to leave 2.5cm margins at the top and bottom of the page.
  • The best position for the page number is at the top right 1.3cm below the top edge.
  • The fonts of Arial or Times New Roman should be used throughout the main body of the thesis, in the size of no less than 12 and no greater than 14

Illustrations (Graphs, diagrams, plates, computer printout etc.)

Illustrations embedded within the thesis should be formatted, numbered and titled accordingly:

a) Illustration upright - Caption at the bottom, Illustration number immediately above the

Illustration.

b) Illustration sideways - Caption at right-hand side with Illustration number above it.

Numbers for graphs, diagrams and maps are best located in the bottom right hand corner.

For further advice, please consult your supervisor.

Word counts

The following word counts are the maximum permitted for each level of award*:

What's excluded from the word count

*In all cases above, the word count includes quotations but excludes appendices, tables (including tables of contents), figures, abstract, references, acknowledgements, bibliography and footnotes (as long as the latter do not contain substantive argument). Please note these are word limits, not targets.

Specific requirements

For degrees which involve Practice as Research (PaR), no less than 50% of the research output should be the written thesis. The written thesis for PaR degrees may be comprised of a range of written elements including, but not limited to, a critical review, a portfolio, and/or a statement on theoretical discourse or methodology.

**In cases of practice-based PhD’s or MPhil’s these suggested word counts may be different. It is normally expected that the written component would comprise no less than 50% of the overall output.

Each copy of the thesis should contain a summary or abstract not exceeding 300 words.

As an example, see how the  layout of your title page (.pdf) should be.

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Word Counter

How Many Words In A Dissertation? [A Word Count Guide]

/ By Alan Reiner

/ September 6, 2022

When students begin writing a dissertation, the first thing they look for is the dissertation’s structure and breakdown.

How Many Words In A Dissertation? [A Word Count Guide]

It can be much easier to write a dissertation if you are aware of how many words each chapter should contain. 

One of the most frequent mistakes students make when writing their dissertations is underwriting or overwriting. 

Because of this, it’s critical to establish up front the recommended word count for each chapter of the dissertation. 

Because it gives you the foundation for writing a dissertation, the format and breakdown of the number of words are as crucial to dissertation writing as a building’s plan or a map.

Each institution also has its own standards and regulations.

Your professor should provide you a dissertation writing prompt or dissertation template if you are required to write a dissertation. 

You may then create your schedule taking into account the specifics of the word count for each of the sections.

The university where you are enrolled sets the dissertation word limit, and the length of a master’s dissertation may differ from that of a doctoral dissertation or an undergraduate dissertation.

Most dissertations have a word count of between 10,000 and 15,000 words, however some can exceed 30,000 words.

This article will discuss how to format and complete your dissertation according to word count guidelines based on a 10,000 word dissertation.

What Is A Dissertation?

In comparison to essays or reports, a dissertation is a longer piece of writing that calls for more research and wider reading.

The dissertation gives you the chance to explore a subject that interests you from planning to conclusion. 

Additionally, it will provide you the chance to show off and develop particular abilities that are highly valued by both prospective companies and university admissions.

Along with critical thinking and writing skills, this also involves problem-solving and time-management abilities.

There are two main sorts of dissertations: those with primary research components, which call for you to collect your own data, and those with secondary research components, which rely on data gathered by other researchers.

You get the chance to conduct study on a subject that interests you in a dissertation.

You can get ideas from a variety of places, such as a recent news story you watched, recent advancements in your area of study, an experience at work, or a personal agenda. 

Whatever the subject, you need to make absolutely sure it will hold your interest for a long time, that you can finish it by the deadline, and that you are able to contribute something unique to your industry. 

Now you know the basics of what a dissertation is, let’s look at how to structure it in terms of the word count.

Introduction: 1000 Words

An introduction is the first major chapter of a dissertation. A dissertation’s initial chapter makes up 10% of the entire document.

The first section of the dissertation should be 1000 words long if it will be 10,000 words in length. 

You must establish your study topic, present your research questions, declare the dissertation’s aims, and give a general summary of the dissertation’s structure in these 1000 words.

Literature Review: 3000 Words

A dissertation’s literature review chapter makes up 30% of the entire document.

The dissertation’s chapter on literature review will be 3000 words long in a 10,000 word dissertation. 

You must explore the gap in the existing literature, adopt a methodological stance toward the subject, suggest potential answers to unanswered issues, and, with the aid of the new data, strengthen the body of current knowledge pertinent to the dissertation topic idea in these 3000 words.

Research Methodology: 1500 Words

Research Methodology: 1500 Words

A dissertation’s research technique chapter makes up 15% of the entire document.

The research technique chapter of a 10,000 word dissertation should be 1500 words long. 

You must describe the dissertation’s overall format and organization in around 1500 words, as well as examine the data in great detail and give a thorough explanation of how the research techniques were evaluated.

Results: 500 Words

A dissertation’s results or findings chapter makes up 5% of the entire document.

The conclusions or results part of a 10,000 word dissertation is 500 words long.

A student’s analysis of a dissertation’s findings must go into great detail in these 500 words.

Analysis/Discussion: 3000 Words

A dissertation’s analysis and discussion chapter makes up 30% of the entire document.

The analysis and discussion chapter of the dissertation should be 3000 words long, just like the literature review.

You must give a thorough overview of the consequences of the findings that are pertinent to the dissertation’s central issue in these 3000 words.

Conclusion And Suggestions: 1000 Words

A dissertation’s conclusions and suggestions chapter makes up 10% of the entire dissertation.

The conclusions and suggestions chapter of a 10,000 word dissertation is 1000 words long.

You must summarize your dissertation’s main ideas in these 1000 words. The dissertation’s last chapter should leave the reader with a clear comprehension of the thesis.

References Section

To prevent plagiarism, students must cite reliable sources in their writing. The references section is not usually included in the word count specified by the university. 

The amount of references is typically not capped by universities because it relies on the body of literature on a particular subject. 

You shouldn’t, however, overlook any study or research project in your field.

To support your theory and demonstrate the importance and necessity of your study topic, you must verify the most recent references. 

For the literature review chapter, you also require books, journals, research papers, and previously published pieces.

Final Thoughts

A major and extensive research project on a particular subject is the dissertation.

A dissertation is typically required of a student during his final year of study. The topic for the student’s dissertation might be chosen in accordance with his interests. 

After deciding on a topic for your dissertation, you must thoroughly research it. Working with an advisor is essential for students completing undergraduate dissertations. 

The requirements and instructions of the advisor must therefore be followed by the students as they create their dissertation, including the word count limitations. 

When you’re asked to complete a dissertation, instructions on how to do so are given. The word limit of the dissertation is mentioned in these recommendations. 

Reading your advisor’s prerequisites and guidelines and following the structure outlined above is the best way to adhere to the word count specified.

Alan Reiner

Alan Reiner

Hi, my name is Alan Reiner and I have been in the writing industry for almost seven years. I write articles that can span from 200 words all the way to 20,000 words every single day. How do I do it? With a lot of determination. All my way through school and college, I hated long-form assignments. I could never get into the groove of working on one piece for an extended period of time. My pieces were always late because I didn’t have the motivation to type them, let alone edit them.

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  • Formatting Your Dissertation
  • Introduction

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On this page:

Language of the Dissertation

Page and text requirements, body of text, tables, figures, and captions, dissertation acceptance certificate, copyright statement.

  • Table of Contents

Front and Back Matter

Supplemental material, dissertations comprising previously published works, top ten formatting errors, further questions.

  • Related Contacts and Forms

When preparing the dissertation for submission, students must follow strict formatting requirements. Any deviation from these requirements may lead to rejection of the dissertation and delay in the conferral of the degree.

The language of the dissertation is ordinarily English, although some departments whose subject matter involves foreign languages may accept a dissertation written in a language other than English.

Most dissertations are 100 to 300 pages in length. All dissertations should be divided into appropriate sections, and long dissertations may need chapters, main divisions, and subdivisions.

  • 8½ x 11 inches, unless a musical score is included
  • At least 1 inch for all margins
  • Body of text: double spacing
  • Block quotations, footnotes, and bibliographies: single spacing within each entry but double spacing between each entry
  • Table of contents, list of tables, list of figures or illustrations, and lengthy tables: single spacing may be used

Fonts and Point Size

Use 10-12 point size. Fonts must be embedded in the PDF file to ensure all characters display correctly. 

Recommended Fonts

If you are unsure whether your chosen font will display correctly, use one of the following fonts: 

If fonts are not embedded, non-English characters may not appear as intended. Fonts embedded improperly will be published to DASH as-is. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that fonts are embedded properly prior to submission. 

Instructions for Embedding Fonts

To embed your fonts in recent versions of Word, follow these instructions from Microsoft:

  • Click the File tab and then click Options .
  • In the left column, select the Save tab.
  • Clear the Do not embed common system fonts check box.

For reference, below are some instructions from ProQuest UMI for embedding fonts in older file formats:

To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2010:

  • In the File pull-down menu click on Options .
  • Choose Save on the left sidebar.
  • Check the box next to Embed fonts in the file.
  • Click the OK button.
  • Save the document.

Note that when saving as a PDF, make sure to go to “more options” and save as “PDF/A compliant”

To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2007:

  • Click the circular Office button in the upper left corner of Microsoft Word.
  • A new window will display. In the bottom right corner select Word Options . 
  • Choose Save from the left sidebar.

Using Microsoft Word on a Mac:

Microsoft Word 2008 on a Mac OS X computer will automatically embed your fonts while converting your document to a PDF file.

If you are converting to PDF using Acrobat Professional (instructions courtesy of the Graduate Thesis Office at Iowa State University):  

  • Open your document in Microsoft Word. 
  • Click on the Adobe PDF tab at the top. Select "Change Conversion Settings." 
  • Click on Advanced Settings. 
  • Click on the Fonts folder on the left side of the new window. In the lower box on the right, delete any fonts that appear in the "Never Embed" box. Then click "OK." 
  • If prompted to save these new settings, save them as "Embed all fonts." 
  • Now the Change Conversion Settings window should show "embed all fonts" in the Conversion Settings drop-down list and it should be selected. Click "OK" again. 
  • Click on the Adobe PDF link at the top again. This time select Convert to Adobe PDF. Depending on the size of your document and the speed of your computer, this process can take 1-15 minutes. 
  • After your document is converted, select the "File" tab at the top of the page. Then select "Document Properties." 
  • Click on the "Fonts" tab. Carefully check all of your fonts. They should all show "(Embedded Subset)" after the font name. 
  •  If you see "(Embedded Subset)" after all fonts, you have succeeded.

The font used in the body of the text must also be used in headers, page numbers, and footnotes. Exceptions are made only for tables and figures created with different software and inserted into the document.

Tables and figures must be placed as close as possible to their first mention in the text. They may be placed on a page with no text above or below, or they may be placed directly into the text. If a table or a figure is alone on a page (with no narrative), it should be centered within the margins on the page. Tables may take up more than one page as long as they obey all rules about margins. Tables and figures referred to in the text may not be placed at the end of the chapter or at the end of the dissertation.

  • Given the standards of the discipline, dissertations in the Department of History of Art and Architecture and the Department of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning often place illustrations at the end of the dissertation.

Figure and table numbering must be continuous throughout the dissertation or by chapter (e.g., 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, etc.). Two figures or tables cannot be designated with the same number. If you have repeating images that you need to cite more than once, label them with their number and A, B, etc. 

Headings should be placed at the top of tables. While no specific rules for the format of table headings and figure captions are required, a consistent format must be used throughout the dissertation (contact your department for style manuals appropriate to the field).

Captions should appear at the bottom of any figures. If the figure takes up the entire page, the caption should be placed alone on the preceding page, centered vertically and horizontally within the margins.

Each page receives a separate page number. When a figure or table title is on a preceding page, the second and subsequent pages of the figure or table should say, for example, “Figure 5 (Continued).” In such an instance, the list of figures or tables will list the page number containing the title. The word “figure” should be written in full (not abbreviated), and the “F” should be capitalized (e.g., Figure 5). In instances where the caption continues on a second page, the “(Continued)” notation should appear on the second and any subsequent page. The figure/table and the caption are viewed as one entity and the numbering should show correlation between all pages. Each page must include a header.

Landscape orientation figures and tables must be positioned correctly and bound at the top so that the top of the figure or table will be at the left margin. Figure and table headings/captions are placed with the same orientation as the figure or table when on the same page. When on a separate page, headings/captions are always placed in portrait orientation, regardless of the orientation of the figure or table. Page numbers are always placed as if the figure were vertical on the page.

If a graphic artist does the figures, Harvard Griffin GSAS will accept lettering done by the artist only within the figure. Figures done with software are acceptable if the figures are clear and legible. Legends and titles done by the same process as the figures will be accepted if they too are clear, legible, and run at least 10 or 12 characters per inch. Otherwise, legends and captions should be printed with the same font used in the text.

Original illustrations, photographs, and fine arts prints may be scanned and included, centered between the margins on a page with no text above or below.

Use of Third-Party Content

In addition to the student's own writing, dissertations often contain third-party content or in-copyright content owned by parties other than you, the student who authored the dissertation. The Office for Scholarly Communication recommends consulting the information below about fair use, which allows individuals to use in-copyright content, on a limited basis and for specific purposes, without seeking permission from copyright holders.

Because your dissertation will be made available for online distribution through DASH , Harvard's open-access repository, it is important that any third-party content in it may be made available in this way.

Fair Use and Copyright 

What is fair use?

Fair use is a provision in copyright law that allows the use of a certain amount of copyrighted material without seeking permission. Fair use is format- and media-agnostic. This means fair use may apply to images (including photographs, illustrations, and paintings), quoting at length from literature, videos, and music regardless of the format. 

How do I determine whether my use of an image or other third-party content in my dissertation is fair use?  

There are four factors you will need to consider when making a fair use claim.

1) For what purpose is your work going to be used?

  • Nonprofit, educational, scholarly, or research use favors fair use. Commercial, non-educational uses, often do not favor fair use.
  • A transformative use (repurposing or recontextualizing the in-copyright material) favors fair use. Examining, analyzing, and explicating the material in a meaningful way, so as to enhance a reader's understanding, strengthens your fair use argument. In other words, can you make the point in the thesis without using, for instance, an in-copyright image? Is that image necessary to your dissertation? If not, perhaps, for copyright reasons, you should not include the image.  

2) What is the nature of the work to be used?

  • Published, fact-based content favors fair use and includes scholarly analysis in published academic venues. 
  • Creative works, including artistic images, are afforded more protection under copyright, and depending on your use in light of the other factors, may be less likely to favor fair use; however, this does not preclude considerations of fair use for creative content altogether.

3) How much of the work is going to be used?  

  • Small, or less significant, amounts favor fair use. A good rule of thumb is to use only as much of the in-copyright content as necessary to serve your purpose. Can you use a thumbnail rather than a full-resolution image? Can you use a black-and-white photo instead of color? Can you quote select passages instead of including several pages of the content? These simple changes bolster your fair use of the material.

4) What potential effect on the market for that work may your use have?

  • If there is a market for licensing this exact use or type of educational material, then this weighs against fair use. If however, there would likely be no effect on the potential commercial market, or if it is not possible to obtain permission to use the work, then this favors fair use. 

For further assistance with fair use, consult the Office for Scholarly Communication's guide, Fair Use: Made for the Harvard Community and the Office of the General Counsel's Copyright and Fair Use: A Guide for the Harvard Community .

What are my options if I don’t have a strong fair use claim? 

Consider the following options if you find you cannot reasonably make a fair use claim for the content you wish to incorporate:

  • Seek permission from the copyright holder. 
  • Use openly licensed content as an alternative to the original third-party content you intended to use. Openly-licensed content grants permission up-front for reuse of in-copyright content, provided your use meets the terms of the open license.
  • Use content in the public domain, as this content is not in-copyright and is therefore free of all copyright restrictions. Whereas third-party content is owned by parties other than you, no one owns content in the public domain; everyone, therefore, has the right to use it.

For use of images in your dissertation, please consult this guide to Finding Public Domain & Creative Commons Media , which is a great resource for finding images without copyright restrictions. 

Who can help me with questions about copyright and fair use?

Contact your Copyright First Responder . Please note, Copyright First Responders assist with questions concerning copyright and fair use, but do not assist with the process of obtaining permission from copyright holders.

Pages should be assigned a number except for the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate . Preliminary pages (abstract, table of contents, list of tables, graphs, illustrations, and preface) should use small Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). All pages must contain text or images.  

Count the title page as page i and the copyright page as page ii, but do not print page numbers on either page .

For the body of text, use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) starting with page 1 on the first page of text. Page numbers must be centered throughout the manuscript at the top or bottom. Every numbered page must be consecutively ordered, including tables, graphs, illustrations, and bibliography/index (if included); letter suffixes (such as 10a, 10b, etc.) are not allowed. It is customary not to have a page number on the page containing a chapter heading.

  • Check pagination carefully. Account for all pages.

A copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC) should appear as the first page. This page should not be counted or numbered. The DAC will appear in the online version of the published dissertation. The author name and date on the DAC and title page should be the same. 

The dissertation begins with the title page; the title should be as concise as possible and should provide an accurate description of the dissertation. The author name and date on the DAC and title page should be the same. 

  • Do not print a page number on the title page. It is understood to be page  i  for counting purposes only.

A copyright notice should appear on a separate page immediately following the title page and include the copyright symbol ©, the year of first publication of the work, and the name of the author:

© [ year ] [ Author’s Name ] All rights reserved.

Alternatively, students may choose to license their work openly under a  Creative Commons  license. The author remains the copyright holder while at the same time granting up-front permission to others to read, share, and (depending on the license) adapt the work, so long as proper attribution is given. (By default, under copyright law, the author reserves all rights; under a Creative Commons license, the author reserves some rights.)

  • Do  not  print a page number on the copyright page. It is understood to be page  ii  for counting purposes only.

An abstract, numbered as page  iii , should immediately follow the copyright page and should state the problem, describe the methods and procedures used, and give the main results or conclusions of the research. The abstract will appear in the online and bound versions of the dissertation and will be published by ProQuest. There is no maximum word count for the abstract. 

  • double-spaced
  • left-justified
  • indented on the first line of each paragraph
  • The author’s name, right justified
  • The words “Dissertation Advisor:” followed by the advisor’s name, left-justified (a maximum of two advisors is allowed)
  • Title of the dissertation, centered, several lines below author and advisor

Dissertations divided into sections must contain a table of contents that lists, at minimum, the major headings in the following order:

  • Front Matter
  • Body of Text
  • Back Matter

Front matter includes (if applicable):

  • acknowledgements of help or encouragement from individuals or institutions
  • a dedication
  • a list of illustrations or tables
  • a glossary of terms
  • one or more epigraphs.

Back matter includes (if applicable):

  • bibliography
  • supplemental materials, including figures and tables
  • an index (in rare instances).

Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the end of the dissertation in an appendix, not within or at the end of a chapter. If additional digital information (including audio, video, image, or datasets) will accompany the main body of the dissertation, it should be uploaded as a supplemental file through ProQuest ETD . Supplemental material will be available in DASH and ProQuest and preserved digitally in the Harvard University Archives.

As a matter of copyright, dissertations comprising the student's previously published works must be authorized for distribution from DASH. The guidelines in this section pertain to any previously published material that requires permission from publishers or other rightsholders before it may be distributed from DASH. Please note:

  • Authors whose publishing agreements grant the publisher exclusive rights to display, distribute, and create derivative works will need to seek the publisher's permission for nonexclusive use of the underlying works before the dissertation may be distributed from DASH.
  • Authors whose publishing agreements indicate the authors have retained the relevant nonexclusive rights to the original materials for display, distribution, and the creation of derivative works may distribute the dissertation as a whole from DASH without need for further permissions.

It is recommended that authors consult their publishing agreements directly to determine whether and to what extent they may have transferred exclusive rights under copyright. The Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) is available to help the author determine whether she has retained the necessary rights or requires permission. Please note, however, the Office of Scholarly Communication is not able to assist with the permissions process itself.

  • Missing Dissertation Acceptance Certificate.  The first page of the PDF dissertation file should be a scanned copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC). This page should not be counted or numbered as a part of the dissertation pagination.
  • Conflicts Between the DAC and the Title Page.  The DAC and the dissertation title page must match exactly, meaning that the author name and the title on the title page must match that on the DAC. If you use your full middle name or just an initial on one document, it must be the same on the other document.  
  • Abstract Formatting Errors. The advisor name should be left-justified, and the author's name should be right-justified. Up to two advisor names are allowed. The Abstract should be double spaced and include the page title “Abstract,” as well as the page number “iii.” There is no maximum word count for the abstract. 
  •  The front matter should be numbered using Roman numerals (iii, iv, v, …). The title page and the copyright page should be counted but not numbered. The first printed page number should appear on the Abstract page (iii). 
  • The body of the dissertation should be numbered using Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, …). The first page of the body of the text should begin with page 1. Pagination may not continue from the front matter. 
  • All page numbers should be centered either at the top or the bottom of the page.
  • Figures and tables Figures and tables must be placed within the text, as close to their first mention as possible. Figures and tables that span more than one page must be labeled on each page. Any second and subsequent page of the figure/table must include the “(Continued)” notation. This applies to figure captions as well as images. Each page of a figure/table must be accounted for and appropriately labeled. All figures/tables must have a unique number. They may not repeat within the dissertation.
  • Any figures/tables placed in a horizontal orientation must be placed with the top of the figure/ table on the left-hand side. The top of the figure/table should be aligned with the spine of the dissertation when it is bound. 
  • Page numbers must be placed in the same location on all pages of the dissertation, centered, at the bottom or top of the page. Page numbers may not appear under the table/ figure.
  • Supplemental Figures and Tables. Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the back of the dissertation in an appendix. They should not be placed at the back of the chapter. 
  • Permission Letters Copyright. permission letters must be uploaded as a supplemental file, titled ‘do_not_publish_permission_letters,” within the dissertation submission tool.
  •  DAC Attachment. The signed Dissertation Acceptance Certificate must additionally be uploaded as a document in the "Administrative Documents" section when submitting in Proquest ETD . Dissertation submission is not complete until all documents have been received and accepted.
  • Overall Formatting. The entire document should be checked after all revisions, and before submitting online, to spot any inconsistencies or PDF conversion glitches.
  • You can view dissertations successfully published from your department in DASH . This is a great place to check for specific formatting and area-specific conventions.
  • Contact the  Office of Student Affairs  with further questions.

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  • Cookies & Privacy
  • GETTING STARTED
  • Introduction
  • FUNDAMENTALS

what is the average word count for a thesis

Getting to the main article

Choosing your route

Setting research questions/ hypotheses

Assessment point

Building the theoretical case

Setting your research strategy

Data collection

Data analysis

CONSIDERATION ONE

Word count issues.

Most students run out of words when writing up. At the start of the process, especially if you're an undergraduate doing a dissertation for the first time, 10,000, 12,000, or 15,000 words (and up) sound like a lot, but they soon get eaten up. Worst still, they get eaten up in the wrong places, so you have a lop-sided dissertation, with some chapters receiving more focus than they should, whilst others are relatively neglected. Your dissertation guidelines might provide some instructions or recommendations on word count per chapter, but this is not always the case. Since you're likely to run out of words at some point during the writing up process, we'd recommend the following:

Always leave extra words for your Results chapter. This chapter can be concisely written, especially when you know how to summarize data well and make good use of Appendices . However, more often than not, too much is included and it becomes excessively large. The problem is that you can suddenly find the Results chapter becoming 1,000 to 2,000 words too long (sometimes more), and it's very hard to either shorten the chapter or reduce the word count in other chapters. Leaving a little extra in terms of word count for this chapter is advisable, but when it comes down to it, knowing how to write up the Results chapter properly is important and will help you get this right first time.

Don't waste words on peripheral sections within chapters. Every chapter has a number of sections that are useful, and often have to be included to some extent, but (a) can eat into your word count and (b) won't give you lots of extra marks by themselves. Obvious examples include the Chapter Summaries section within the Introduction chapter, as well as necessary components such as Acknowledgements . In the case of Acknowledgements , this is sometimes even included in your word count, despite having no influence on the mark you are awarded, even though you would be expected to include it.

Don't waste words (a) waffling or (b) going off-point in your Literature Review , Research Strategy and Results chapters. Now there is a difference between waffling and going off-point:

Going off-point When writing a dissertation as a student, as opposed to a conference paper or journal as an academic, you have to provide a lot more explanation of possible choices you could have made, rather than simply justifying the choices you made. For example, in the Research Strategy chapter, you'll often be expected to explain the differences between research designs, research methods or sampling strategies that could have been used. This is sometimes the result of a marker needing to know that you have read up about the available options and can demonstrate this by briefly summarising these different components of research strategy. This is what we mean by going off-point , and it can be a real word hog, eating into your available word count. You need to try and avoid this by keeping these sections short, but also focusing on justifications (i.e., why you are using one research method or sampling strategy over another), which when written well, demonstrate your understanding of different components of research strategy, without having to waste words explaining each component in turn.

Waffling Ignoring waffling that comes from laziness - we know this happens! - waffling is often a problem of the Literature Review and Results chapters. Waffling is simply similar to dumping everything you know on the page, which can happen when (a) you don't know the material very well or (b) you're struggling to gauge which content is important and which can be left out, something that is a real challenge for the first-time dissertation student. As a result, you add too much content. This happens a lot in the Literature Review chapter because it is hard to be selective and critical, and in the Results chapter when you don't know (a) what analysis should be included, (b) what can be omitted entirely, and (c) what can be removed and put into the Appendix . In these chapters within the Route #1: Chapter-by-Chapter section of Lærd Dissertation, we help you to avoid this kind of waffling, which not only saves words, but makes your argument much more coherent.

Finally, there can be an obsession with word count when doing marked work. You're doing an essay of 1,500 words or 3,000 words, and you try to use every single word available. This can make sense when you have a small word count and lots of worthwhile things to say in such a small space. However, when taking on a much larger document (i.e., 10,000 words or more), it is not only important what is being said, but also what you leave out. Rather than thinking too hard about word count, focus on making sure that everything being said is worthwhile. All chapters, but especially your Literature Review and Results chapter can lose a lot of quality simply because of three or four unnecessary paragraphs that disrupt the flow and logic of your arguments and results. Despite the added word count of dissertations compared with essays, less can be more.

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Word limits and requirements of your Degree Committee

Candidates should write as concisely as is possible, with clear and adequate exposition. Each Degree Committee has prescribed the limits of length and stylistic requirements as given below. On submission of the thesis you must include a statement of length confirming that it does not exceed the word limit for your Degree Committee.

These limits and requirements are strictly observed by the Postgraduate Committee and the Degree Committees and, unless approval to exceed the prescribed limit has been obtained beforehand (see: Extending the Word Limit below), a thesis that exceeds the limit may not be examined until its length complies with the prescribed limit.

Extending the Word Limit

Thesis word limits are set by Degree Committees. If candidates need to increase their word limits they will need to apply for permission.

Information on how to apply (via self-service account) is available on the ‘ Applying for a change in your student status’  page. If following your viva, you are required to make corrections to your thesis which will mean you need to increase your word-limit, you need to apply for permission in the same way.

Requirements of the Degree Committees

Archaeology and anthropology, architecture and history of art, asian and middle eastern studies, business and management, clinical medicine and clinical veterinary medicine, computer laboratory, earth sciences and geography, scott polar institute, engineering, history and philosophy of science, land economy, mathematics, modern and medieval languages and linguistics, physics and chemistry, politics and international studies, archaeology and social anthropology.

The thesis is not to exceed 80,000 words (approx. 350 pages) for the PhD degree and 60,000 words for the MSc or MLitt degree. These limits include all text, figures, tables and photographs, but exclude the bibliography, cited references and appendices. More detailed specifications should be obtained from the Division concerned. Permission to exceed these limits will be granted only after a special application to the Degree Committee. The application must explain in detail the reasons why an extension is being sought and the nature of the additional material, and must be supported by a reasoned case from the supervisor containing a recommendation that a candidate should be allowed to exceed the word limit by a specified number of words. Such permission will be granted only under exceptional circumstances. If candidates need to apply for permission to exceed the word limit, they should do so in good time before the date on which a candidate proposes to submit the thesis, by application made to the Graduate Committee.

Biological Anthropology:

Students may choose between two alternative thesis formats for their work:

either in the form of a thesis of not more than 80,000 words in length for the PhD degree and 60,000 words for the MSc or MLitt degree. The limits include all text, in-text citations, figures, tables, captions and footnotes but exclude bibliography and appendices; or

in the form of a collection of at least three research articles for the PhD degree and two research articles for the MSc or MLitt degree, formatted as an integrated piece of research, with a table of contents, one or more chapters that outline the scope and provide an in-depth review of the subject of study, a concluding chapter discussing the findings and contribution to the field, and a consolidated bibliography. The articles may be in preparation, submitted for publication or already published, and the combined work should not exceed 80,000 words in length for the PhD degree and 60,000 words for the MSc or MLitt degree. The word limits include all text, in-text citations, figures, tables, captions, and footnotes but exclude bibliography and appendices containing supplementary information associated with the articles. More information on the inclusion of material published, in press or in preparation in a PhD thesis may be found in the Department’s PhD submission guidelines.

Architecture:

The thesis is not to exceed 80,000 words for the PhD and 60,000 words for the MSc or MLitt degree. Footnotes, references and text within tables are to be counted within the word-limit, but captions, appendices and bibliographies are excluded. Appendices should be confined to such items as catalogues, original texts, translations of texts, transcriptions of interview, or tables.

History of Art:

The thesis is not to exceed 80,000 words for the PhD and 60,000 words for the MLitt degree. To include: footnotes, table of contents and list of illustrations, but excluding acknowledgements and the bibliography. Appendices (of no determined word length) may be permitted subject to the approval of the candidate's Supervisor (in consultation with the Degree Committee); for example, where a catalogue of works or the transcription of extensive primary source material is germane to the work. Permission to include such appendices must be requested from the candidate's Supervisor well in advance of the submission of the final thesis. NB: Permission for extensions to the word limit for most other purposes is likely to be refused.

The thesis is for the PhD degree not to exceed 80,000 words exclusive of footnotes, appendices and bibliography but subject to an overall word limit of 100,000 words exclusive of bibliography. For the MLitt degree not to exceed 60,000 words inclusive of footnotes but exclusive of bibliography and appendices.

The thesis for the PhD is not to exceed 60,000 words in length (80,000 by special permission), exclusive of tables, footnotes, bibliography, and appendices. Double-spaced or one-and-a-half spaced. Single or double-sided printing.

The thesis for the MPhil in Biological Science is not to exceed 20,000 words in length, exclusive of tables, footnotes, bibliography, and appendices. Double-spaced or one-and-a-half spaced. Single or double-sided printing.

For the PhD Degree the thesis is not to exceed 80,000 words, EXCLUDING bibliography, but including tables, tables of contents, footnotes and appendices. It is normally expected to exceed 40,000 words unless prior permission is obtained from the Degree Committee. Each page of statistical tables, charts or diagrams shall be regarded as equivalent to a page of text of the same size. The Degree Committee do not consider applications to extend this word limit.

For the Doctor of Business (BusD) the thesis will be approximately 200 pages (a maximum length of 80,000 words, EXCLUDING bibliography, but including tables, tables of contents, footnotes and appendices).

For the MSc Degree the thesis is not to exceed 40,000 words, EXCLUDING bibliography, but including tables, tables of contents, footnotes and appendices.

The thesis is not to exceed 80,000 words including footnotes, references, and appendices but excluding bibliography; a page of statistics shall be regarded as the equivalent of 150 words. Only under exceptional circumstances will permission be granted to exceed this limit. Candidates must submit with the thesis a signed statement giving the length of the thesis.

For the PhD degree, not to exceed 60,000 words (or 80,000 by special permission of the Degree Committee), and for the MSc degree, not to exceed 40,000 words. These limits exclude figures, photographs, tables, appendices and bibliography. Lines to be double or one-and-a-half spaced; pages to be double or single sided.

The thesis is not to exceed, without the prior permission of the Degree Committee, 60,000 words including tables, footnotes and equations, but excluding appendices, bibliography, photographs and diagrams. Any thesis which without prior permission of the Degree Committee exceeds the permitted limit will be referred back to the candidate before being forwarded to the examiners.

The thesis is not to exceed 80,000 words for the PhD degree and the MLitt degree, including footnotes, references and appendices but excluding bibliography. Candidates must submit with the thesis a signed statement giving the length of the thesis. Only under exceptional circumstances will permission be granted to exceed this limit for the inclusion of an appendix of a substantial quantity of text which is necessary for the understanding of the thesis (e.g. texts in translation, transcription of extensive primary source material). Permission must be sought at least three months before submission of the thesis and be supported by a letter from the supervisor certifying that such exemption from the prescribed limit of length is absolutely necessary.

The thesis is not to exceed, without the prior permission of the Degree Committee, 80,000 words for the PhD degree and 60,000 words for the MSc or MLitt degree, including the summary/abstract.  The table of contents, photographs, diagrams, figure captions, appendices, bibliography and acknowledgements to not count towards the word limit. Footnotes are not included in the word limit where they are a necessary part of the referencing system used.

Earth Sciences:

The thesis is not to exceed, without the prior permission of the Degree Committee, 275 numbered pages of which not more than 225 pages are text, appendices, illustrations and bibliography. A page of text is A4 one-and-a-half-spaced normal size type. The additional 50 pages may comprise tables of data and/or computer programmes reduced in size.

If a candidate's work falls within the social sciences, candidates are expected to observe the limit described in the Department of Geography above; if, however, a candidate's work falls within the natural sciences, a candidate should observe the limit described in the Department of Earth Sciences.

Applications for the limit of length of the thesis to be exceeded must be early — certainly no later than the time when the application for the appointment of examiners and the approval of the title of the thesis is made. Any thesis which, without the prior permission of the Degree Committee, exceeds the permitted limit of length will be referred back to the candidate before being forwarded to the examiners.

The thesis is not to exceed, without the prior permission of the Degree Committee, 60,000 words including tables, footnotes, bibliography and appendices. The Degree Committee points out that some of the best thesis extend to only half this length. Each page of statistical tables, charts or diagrams shall be regarded as equivalent to a page of text of the same size.

The thesis is not to exceed 80,000 words for the PhD and EdD degrees and 60,000 words for the MSc and MLitt degrees, in all cases excluding appendices, footnotes, reference list or bibliography. Only in the most exceptional circumstances will permission be given to exceed the stated limits. In such cases, you must make an application to the Degree Committee as early as possible -and no later than three months before it is proposed to submit the thesis, having regard to the dates of the Degree Committee meetings. Your application should (a) explain in detail the reasons why you are seeking the extension and (b) be accompanied by a full supporting statement from your supervisor showing that the extension is absolutely necessary in the interests of the total presentation of the subject.

For the PhD degree, not to exceed, without prior permission of the Degree Committee, 65,000 words, including appendices, footnotes, tables and equations not to contain more than 150 figures, but excluding the bibliography. A candidate must submit with their thesis a statement signed by the candidate themself giving the length of the thesis and the number of figures. Any thesis which, without the prior permission of the Degree Committee, exceeds the permitted limit will be referred back to the candidate before being forwarded to the examiners.

The thesis is not to exceed 80,000 words or go below 60,000 words for the PhD degree and not to exceed 60,000 words or go below 45,000 words for the MLitt degree, both including all notes and appendices but excluding the bibliography. A candidate must add to the preface of the thesis the following signed statement: 'The thesis does not exceed the regulation length, including footnotes, references and appendices but excluding the bibliography.'

In exceptional cases (when, for example, a candidate's thesis largely consists of an edition of a text) the Degree Committee may grant permission to exceed these limits but in such instances (a) a candidate must apply to exceed the length at least three months before the date on which a candidate proposes to submit their thesis and (b) the application must be supported by a letter from a candidate's supervisor certifying that such exemption from the prescribed limit of length is absolutely necessary.

It is a requirement of the Degree Committee for the Faculty of English that thesis must conform to either the MHRA Style Book or the MLA Handbook for the Writers of Research papers, available from major bookshops. There is one proviso, however, to the use of these manuals: the Faculty does not normally recommend that students use the author/date form of citation and recommends that footnotes rather than endnotes be used. Bibliographies and references in thesis presented by candidates in ASNaC should conform with either of the above or to the practice specified in Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England.

Thesis presented by candidates in the Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics must follow as closely as possible the printed style of the journal Applied Linguistics and referencing and spelling conventions should be consistent.

A signed declaration of the style-sheet used (and the edition, if relevant) must be made in the preliminary pages of the thesis.

PhD theses MUST NOT exceed 80,000 words, and will normally be near that length.

A minimum word length exists for PhD theses: 70,000 words (50,000 for MLitt theses)

The word limit includes appendices and the contents page but excludes the abstract, acknowledgments, footnotes, references, notes on transliteration, bibliography, abbreviations and glossary.  The Contents Page should be included in the word limit. Statistical tables should be counted as 150 words per table. Maps, illustrations and other pictorial images count as 0 words. Graphs, if they are the only representation of the data being presented, are to be counted as 150 words. However, if graphs are used as an illustration of statistical data that is also presented elsewhere within the thesis (as a table for instance), then the graphs count as 0 words.

Only under exceptional circumstances will permission be granted to exceed this limit. Applications for permission are made via CamSIS self-service pages. Applications must be made at least four months before the thesis is bound. Exceptions are granted when a compelling intellectual case is made.

The thesis is not to exceed 80,000 words for the PhD degree and 60,000 words for the MLitt degree, in all cases including footnotes and appendices but excluding bibliography. Permission to submit a thesis falling outside these limits, or to submit an appendix which does not count towards the word limit, must be obtained in advance from the Degree Committee.

The thesis is not to exceed 80,000 for the PhD degree and 60,000 words for the MSc or MLitt degree, both including footnotes, references and appendices but excluding bibliographies. One A4 page consisting largely of statistics, symbols or figures shall be regarded as the equivalent of 250 words. A candidate must add to the preface of their thesis the following signed statement: 'This thesis does not exceed the regulation length, including footnotes, references and appendices.'

For the PhD degree the thesis is not to exceed 80,000 words (exclusive of footnotes, appendices and bibliography) but subject to an overall word limit of 100,000 words (exclusive of bibliography, table of contents and any other preliminary matter). Figures, tables, images etc should be counted as the equivalent of 200 words for each A4 page, or part of an A4 page, that they occupy. For the MLitt degree the thesis is not to exceed 60,000 words inclusive of footnotes but exclusive of bibliography, appendices, table of contents and any other preliminary matter. Figures, tables, images etc should be counted as the equivalent of 200 words for each A4 page, or part of an A4 page, that they occupy.

Criminology:

For the PhD degree submission of a thesis between 55,000 and 80,000 words (exclusive of footnotes, appendices and bibliography) but subject to an overall word limit of 100,000 words (exclusive of bibliography, table of contents and any other preliminary matter). Figures, tables, images etc should be counted as the equivalent of 200 words for each A4 page, or part of an A4 page, that they occupy. For the MLitt degree the thesis is not to exceed 60,000 words inclusive of footnotes but exclusive of bibliography, appendices, table of contents and any other preliminary matter. Figures, tables, images etc should be counted as the equivalent of 200 words for each A4 page, or part of an A4 page, that they occupy.

There is no standard format for the thesis in Mathematics.  Candidates should discuss the format appropriate to their topic with their supervisor.

The thesis is not to exceed 80,000 words for the PhD degree and 60,000 words for the MLitt degree, including footnotes and appendices but excluding the abstract, any acknowledgements, contents page(s), abbreviations, notes on transliteration, figures, tables and bibliography. Brief labels accompanying illustrations, figures and tables are also excluded from the word count. The Degree Committee point out that some very successful doctoral theses have been submitted which extend to no more than three-quarters of the maximum permitted length.

In linguistics, where examples are cited in a language other than Modern English, only the examples themselves will be taken into account for the purposes of the word limit. Any English translations and associated linguistic glosses will be excluded from the word count.

In theses written under the aegis of any of the language sections, all sources in the language(s) of the primary area(s) of research of the thesis will normally be in the original language. An English translation should be provided only where reading the original language is likely to fall outside the expertise of the examiners. Where such an English translation is given it will not be included in the word count. In fields where the normal practice is to quote in English in the main text, candidates should follow that practice. If the original text needs to be supplied, it should be placed in a footnote. These fields include, but are not limited to, general linguistics and film and screen studies.

Since appendices are included in the word limit, in some fields it may be necessary to apply to exceed the limit in order to include primary data or other materials which should be available to the examiners. Only under the most exceptional circumstances will permission be granted to exceed the limit in other cases. In all cases (a) a candidate must apply to exceed the prescribed maximum length at least three months before the date on which a candidate proposes to submit their thesis and (b) the application must be accompanied by a full supporting statement from the candidate's supervisor showing that such exemption from the prescribed limit of length is absolutely necessary.

It is a requirement within all language sections of MMLL, and also for Film, that dissertations must conform with the advice concerning abbreviations, quotations, footnotes, references etc published in the Style Book of the Modern Humanities Research Association (Notes for Authors and Editors). For linguistics, dissertations must conform with one of the widely accepted style formats in their field of research, for example the style format of the Journal of Linguistics (Linguistic Association of Great Britain), or of Language Linguistic Society of America) or the APA format (American Psychology Association). If in doubt, linguistics students should discuss this with their supervisor and the PhD Coordinator.

The thesis is not to exceed 80,000 words for the PhD degree and 60,000 words for the MLitt degree, both excluding notes, appendices, and bibliographies, musical transcriptions and examples, unless a candidate make a special case for greater length to the satisfaction of the Degree Committee. Candidates whose work is practice-based may include as part of the doctoral submission either a portfolio of substantial musical compositions, or one or more recordings of their own musical performance(s).

PhD (MLitt) theses in Philosophy must not be more than 80,000 (60,000) words, including appendices and footnotes but excluding bibliography.

Institute of Astronomy, Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy, Department of Physics:

The thesis is not to exceed, without prior permission of the Degree Committee, 60,000 words, including summary/abstract, tables, footnotes and appendices, but excluding table of contents, photographs, diagrams, figure captions, list of figures/diagrams, list of abbreviations/acronyms, bibliography and acknowledgements.

Department of Chemistry:

The thesis is not to exceed, without prior permission of the Degree Committee, 60,000 words, including summary/abstract, tables, and footnotes, but excluding table of contents, photographs, diagrams, figure captions, list of figures/diagrams, list of abbreviations/acronyms, bibliography, appendices and acknowledgements. Appendices are relevant to the material contained within the thesis but do not form part of the connected argument. Specifically, they may include derivations, code and spectra, as well as experimental information (compound name, structure, method of formation and data) for non-key molecules made during the PhD studies.

Applicable to the PhDs in Politics & International Studies, Latin American Studies, Multi-disciplinary Studies and Development Studies for all submissions from candidates admitted prior to and including October 2017.

A PhD thesis must not exceed 80,000 words, and will normally be near that length. The word limit includes appendices but excludes footnotes, references and bibliography. Footnotes should not exceed 20% of the thesis. Discursive footnotes are generally discouraged, and under no circumstances should footnotes be used to include material that would normally be in the main text, and thus to circumvent the word limits. Statistical tables should be counted as 150 words per table. Only under exceptional circumstances, and after prior application, will the Degree Committee allow a student to exceed these limits. A candidate must submit, with the thesis, a statement signed by her or himself attesting to the length of the thesis. Any thesis that exceeds the limit will be referred back to candidate for revision before being forwarded to the examiners.

Applicable to the PhDs in Politics & International Studies, Latin American Studies, Multi-disciplinary Studies and Development Studies for all submissions from candidates admitted after October 2017.

A PhD thesis must not exceed 80,000 words, including footnotes. The word limit includes appendices but excludes the bibliography. Discursive footnotes are generally discouraged, and under no circumstances should footnotes be used to include material that would normally be in the main text. Statistical tables should be counted as 150 words per table. Only under exceptional circumstances, and after prior application, will the Degree Committee allow a student to exceed these limits. A candidate must submit, with the thesis, a statement signed by her or himself attesting to the length of the thesis. Any thesis that exceeds the limit will be referred back to candidate for revision before being forwarded to the examiners.

Only applicable to students registered for the degree prior to 1 August 2012; all other students should consult the guidance of the Faculty of Biological Sciences.

Applicable to the PhD in Psychology (former SDP students only) for all submissions made before 30 November 2013

A PhD thesis must not exceed 80,000 words, and will normally be near that length. The word limit includes appendices but excludes footnotes, references and bibliography. Footnotes should not exceed 20% of the thesis. Discursive footnotes are generally discouraged, and under no circumstances should footnotes be used to include material that would normally be in the main text, and thus to circumvent the word limits. Statistical tables should be counted as 150 words per table. Only under exceptional circumstances, and after prior application, will the Degree Committee allow a student to exceed these limits. A candidate must submit, with the thesis, a statement signed by her or himself attesting to the length of the thesis. Any thesis that exceeds the limit will be referred back to candidate for revision before being forwarded to the examiners.

Applicable to the PhD in Psychology (former SDP students only) for all submissions from 30 November 2013

A PhD thesis must not exceed 80,000 words, and will normally be near that length. The word limit includes appendices but excludes footnotes, references and bibliography. Footnotes should not exceed 20% of the thesis. Discursive footnotes are generally discouraged, and under no circumstances should footnotes be used to include material that would normally be in the main text, and thus to circumvent the word limits. Statistical tables should be counted as 150 words per table. Only under exceptional circumstances, and after prior application, will the Degree Committee allow a student to exceed these limits. Applications should be made in good time before the date on which a candidate proposes to submit the thesis, made to the Graduate Committee. A candidate must submit, with the thesis, a statement signed by her or himself attesting to the length of the thesis. Any thesis that exceeds the limit will be referred back to candidate for revision before being forwarded to the examiners.

A PhD thesis must not exceed 80,000 words, and will normally be over 60,000 words. This word limit includes footnotes and endnotes, but excludes appendices and reference list / bibliography. Figures, tables, images etc should be counted as the equivalent of 150 words for each page, or part of a page, that they occupy. Other media may form part of the thesis by prior arrangement with the Degree Committee. Students may apply to the Degree Committee for permission to exceed the word limit, but such applications are granted only rarely. Candidates must submit, with the thesis, a signed statement attesting to the length of the thesis.

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Home » Blog » Dissertation » Structure » Dissertation Word Count Breakdown Structure With Calculator

what is the average word count for a thesis

Dissertation Word Count Breakdown Structure With Calculator

By Adam Oct 15, 2023 in Dissertation , Structure | No Comments

Dissertation writing is no simple feat. It’s a lengthy process that usually lasts for months. To understand how to structure a dissertation is one of the most important questions. If you know, let’s say, a 10000 word dissertation breakdown into its chapters, you’ve got a major problem solved.

10000 word dissertation breakdown

Dissertation writing in UK is no simple feat. It’s a lengthy process that usually lasts for months and novice students have a lot of trouble adjusting to its many needs, some of which are unexpected. In that manner, understanding how to structure a dissertation and dissertation word count breakdown becomes one of the most important questions. If you know, let’s say, a 10000-word dissertation breakdown into its chapters, you’ve got the first problem solved.

Yes, you have. You see? Knowing your dissertation word count breakdown structure sorts out so many problems for you. Once you have that sorted, you can move on to focusing on what to write in each of the chapters and structure them properly without having to worry about crossing your word limit because now you know how many words go per section in the dissertation.

And that’s what we’re here to do: to calculate your dissertation breakdown .

If you are still finding it difficult to allocate the word count or are unsure about the writing of your dissertation, you can click here to hire a dissertation writer to write your dissertation and help you claim your degree with flying colors. However, it's not just the writer's job to do all the efforts. Your involvement in the process is key to success.

Knowing Dissertation Word Count Breakdown In Chapters

Let’s begin with what the usual number of chapters is in a dissertation. Before you read the rest of this section, though, let me tell you the most important thing here is to follow your university’s/college’s guidelines. If they have given you a particular structure to follow, do exactly that.

In case you’ve been thrown in the arena to battle with the dissertation dragon (that sounds so corny) without much help, you need to figure out how to overcome the beast.

Out of the usual options for dissertation breakdown, a 5-chapter structure is more convenient for this discussion.

I just noticed you looking suspiciously at the word convenient .

Well, I didn’t mean we were going to miss anything. Of course, we can’t leave anything important undiscussed. I just don’t want to make this discussion complicated for you.

So, have faith.

This is the chapters of dissertation word count breakdown I want you to consider:

Chapters of dissertation breakdown pyramid

A simple 5-chapter dissertation structure.

The chapters are listed in the pyramid in order of sequence. Do not think the size of a chunk is connected to the chapter’s word count percentage.

Important Reminder: Your 10000 Word Dissertation is a 10000 Word Essay

Another thing you should remember about your dissertation.

It’s an essay.

Or a book of interconnected essays, since every chapter is itself an essay as well. With quite a few sub-sections.

So, when you’re working on your dissertation structure, remember to write it like an essay.

How Many Words Go Per Section in My Dissertation?

It’s all about the ratio. Each chapter of the dissertation is expected to have a particular chunk of the report in terms of the number of words allowed.

Let me give you the percentage ratio I use for calculating each chapter’s word count for our customers at Dissertation Sage. I’ll be using a 10000 word dissertation word count breakdown for simpler calculations.

Doughnut chart representation of chapters of dissertation breakdown

NOTE: This is a tentative dissertation breakdown. Some university guidelines will ask for a different number of words for a chapter and some other places will ask for a different set of chapter titles. So, again, stick to your university’s given guidelines. What I have done here is a convenient breakdown for you to understand how much of your dissertation’s word count should go into its main sections.

Final Year Dissertation Breakdown Calculator

Now that you know what percentage of words goes into which section of your dissertation, you can easily calculate your dissertation breakdown on your own.

But we’ll make it even easier. You don’t have to leave this page without getting the actual numbers for your dissertation chapters, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a 10000-word dissertation or a 12000-word dissertation word count breakdown (or more) because it’s the ratio that matters.

Here’s your dissertation word count breakdown calculator. Just put in your total word count and the calculator will give you the numbers in a tick.

There you go. Let us know if you have any comments or suggestions for our topics related blog posts for the future or looking to get help with dissertation writing , send us an email at [email protected] .

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what is the average word count for a thesis

Dissertation Word Count Breakdown

Dissertation Word Count and Breakdown– How To Follow The Assigned Word Limit Easily? Underwriting or overwriting; are two of the most common errors that students make while composing their dissertations. That is why it is important to know from the beginning how much the dissertation word count of each of the chapters should be. After […]

Dissertation Word Count

Table of Contents

Dissertation Word Count and Breakdown– How To Follow The Assigned Word Limit Easily?

Underwriting or overwriting; are two of the most common errors that students make while composing their dissertations..

That is why it is important to know from the beginning how much the dissertation word count of each of the chapters should be. After you have the details of the word count of each of the sections, you can then design your schedule accordingly.

The dissertation word limit is allotted by the university where you study and the Master’s Dissertation word count may vary from the undergraduate dissertation word count or the Ph.D. dissertation word count.

Mostly the dissertation word length is between 10,000 words to 15,000 words but some may even go up to the level of 30,000 words.

dissertation word count breakdown

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But despite the total dissertation word count allotted, the main problem begins when students have to break down that word ratio into the headings of the dissertation . Here they make the common error of writing more words for a section that can be explained in less count and less count for a section that deserves more words.

So what is the solution to that problem?

Well, there are many online dissertation word count breakdown calculator websites available that can help you in that aspect. One advantage that they have is that they give an option to select degree level and word count is given accordingly.

However, a disadvantage that they serve is that not all of those calculators may be accurate.

So what to do now?

Navigating the complexity of dissertation word count.

If you’re wrestling with the intricacies of managing your dissertation word count, you’re not alone. Online tools and calculators, such as our dissertation word count breakdown calculator, aim to simplify this process. However, the accuracy of these tools can vary, underscoring the importance of choosing a reliable platform.

Choosing Accuracy for Your Dissertation Word Count

When exploring solutions for your dissertation word count, it’s essential to prioritize accuracy. Our online calculator stands out by allowing you to select your degree level, offering a tailored and more precise estimation of your word count.

Understanding the Dissertation Word Count Breakdown

For a more detailed breakdown based on a 10,000-word limit, let’s delve deeper into the word count allocation for each section of your dissertation:

Introduction (10% – 1000 words):

The introduction lays the groundwork for your dissertation, addressing the ‘whys’ behind your research. Dedicate 10% of your word count, equivalent to 1000 words, to this crucial section.

Literature Review (25% – 2500 words):

Analyzing past issues, the literature review is a substantial component, constituting 25% of your total word count, translating to 2500 words.

Methodology (15-20% – 1500 to 2000 words):

Answering the ‘how’ of your research, the methodology section encompasses 15-20% of your word count, ranging from 1500 to 2000 words.

Data Presentation (15% – 1500 words):

Presenting collected data, this section occupies 15% of your word count, totaling 1500 words.

Discussion, Analysis, And Data Interpretation (15-20% – 1500 to 2000 words):

Offering insights into your findings, this segment covers 15-20% of your word count, spanning from 1500 to 2000 words.

Summary, Conclusion, And Recommendations (15% – 1500 words):

Concluding your dissertation, this final section constitutes 15% of your entire dissertation or 1500 words.

Strategizing Your Dissertation Word Count

By adhering to the prescribed word count percentages for each section, you can efficiently manage your dissertation. This structured approach ensures that you allocate the appropriate word count to each vital component, facilitating a well-organized and coherent dissertation.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

If you’re ready to streamline your dissertation word count management, consider using our dissertation word count breakdown calculator. For personalized assistance, feel free to reach out to our expert team . We’re here to help you navigate the challenges of dissertation writing and ensure your success. Don’t let the word count complexities hold you back—empower your dissertation journey today!

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COMMENTS

  1. How Long Is a PhD Thesis?

    However, from the analysis of over 100 PhD theses, the average thesis length is between 80,000 and 100,000 words. A further analysis of 1000 PhD thesis shows the average number of pages to be 204. In reality, the actual word count for each PhD thesis will depend on the specific subject and the university it is being hosted by.

  2. What's a Good Word Count for a Thesis Statement?

    You want to aim for the most clear and concise thesis statementyou can make. If you have a more complex idea, naturally your word count will be higher than if you are expressing a more basic argument. Like I mentioned above, the range can be anywhere between 20-50 words depending on the subject you're writing about.

  3. How long is a PhD dissertation? [Data by field]

    A PhD can be anywhere from 50 pages to over 450 pages long. This equates to between about 20,000 words to 100,000 words. Most PhD theses are between 60,000 and 80,000 words long excluding contents, citations and references. A PhD thesis contains different sections including an introduction, methods, results and discussion, conclusions, further ...

  4. How long is a dissertation?

    An undergraduate dissertation is typically 8,000-15,000 words. A master's dissertation is typically 12,000-50,000 words. A PhD thesis is typically book-length: 70,000-100,000 words. However, none of these are strict guidelines - your word count may be lower or higher than the numbers stated here. Always check the guidelines provided ...

  5. Senior Thesis Formatting Guidelines

    Contents and Form Length: The required length is between 10,000 and 20,000 words, not counting notes, bibliography, and appendices.The precise length of the main body text must be indicated on the word count page immediately following the title page.If a student expects the thesis to exceed 20,000 words, the student's tutor should consult the Director of Studies.

  6. How Long is an Essay? Guidelines for Different Types of Essay

    Essay length guidelines. Type of essay. Average word count range. Essay content. High school essay. 300-1000 words. In high school you are often asked to write a 5-paragraph essay, composed of an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. College admission essay. 200-650 words.

  7. Average word count of a dissertation

    Average word count of a dissertation. For some reason, I always thought a doctoral thesis is about 100,000 words in length (and I've taken that number as a reference for my book as well). However, I wanted to test this assumption, so I ran a poll about the topic. From the comments, I learned that word count limits are common in the UK (mostly ...

  8. Preparing a thesis

    Science: 40,000 words (MPhil); 80,000 words (PhD) Social Sciences: 40,000 words (MPhil); 75,000-100,000 words (PhD) The above word counts exclude footnotes, bibliography and appendices. Where there are no guidelines, students should consult the supervisor as to the length of thesis appropriate to the particular topic of research.

  9. Thesis word count and format

    It is desirable to leave 2.5cm margins at the top and bottom of the page. The best position for the page number is at the top right 1.3cm below the top edge. The fonts of Arial or Times New Roman should be used throughout the main body of the thesis, in the size of no less than 12 and no greater than 14.

  10. How Many Words In A Dissertation? [A Word Count Guide]

    Results: 500 Words. A dissertation's results or findings chapter makes up 5% of the entire document. The conclusions or results part of a 10,000 word dissertation is 500 words long. A student's analysis of a dissertation's findings must go into great detail in these 500 words.

  11. Formatting Your Dissertation

    The abstract will appear in the online and bound versions of the dissertation and will be published by ProQuest. There is no maximum word count for the abstract. The abstract text should be: double-spaced; left-justified; indented on the first line of each paragraph; The top of the abstract page should include: The author's name, right justified

  12. What is the minimum number of words for your thesis in your ...

    SephirothNoMasamune. • 2 yr. ago. For my masters (languages), the minimum was 16,000 and the maximum 24,000. For my PhD (languages), my minimum is 80,000 and my maximum is 100,000. It's fairly standard for my discipline I think, though I might be wrong! In my first year I'm expected to write ~20k words for a literature review, so I ...

  13. Researching and Writing a Masters Dissertation

    It can be helpful to think of your Masters dissertation as a series of closely interlinked essays, rather than one overwhelming paper. The size of this section will depend on the overall word count for your dissertation. However, to give you a rough idea for a 15,000-word dissertation, the discussion part will generally be about 12,000 words long.

  14. PDF Research Dissertation Guidelines

    Your title page should include a total word-count value for the main body of the dissertation (i.e. not including legends, tables, appendices and references). In your writing, try to be concise while explaining your thoughts clearly: quality is more important than quantity. A target of 10,000 words should allow you plenty of

  15. Consideration 1: Word count issues in your dissertation write-up

    Word count issues. Most students run out of words when writing up. At the start of the process, especially if you're an undergraduate doing a dissertation for the first time, 10,000, 12,000, or 15,000 words (and up) sound like a lot, but they soon get eaten up. Worst still, they get eaten up in the wrong places, so you have a lop-sided ...

  16. Is there a standard word limit/ page limit for a Masters thesis?

    The internationally accepted length of a Masters thesis is within the range of 40,000 to 60,000 words, mean being 50,000 words ( A page can accommodate 250 words (double space) or 500 words ...

  17. How Many Words is a University Dissertation?

    The dissertation word count for most university programmes is between 15,000 and 20,000 words, however, these can alternate significantly solely based upon the course and what university you are attending. Whilst this can be used as a guide, dissertation lengths will depend on the subject you are researching and the depth that the subject area ...

  18. Word limits and requirements of your Degree Committee

    Maps, illustrations and other pictorial images count as 0 words. Graphs, if they are the only representation of the data being presented, are to be counted as 150 words. However, if graphs are used as an illustration of statistical data that is also presented elsewhere within the thesis (as a table for instance), then the graphs count as 0 words.

  19. Dissertation Word Count Breakdown Structure With Calculator

    I'll be using a 10000 word dissertation word count breakdown for simpler calculations. NOTE: This is a tentative dissertation breakdown. Some university guidelines will ask for a different number of words for a chapter and some other places will ask for a different set of chapter titles. So, again, stick to your university's given guidelines.

  20. Average length of PhD dissertations by major : r/dataisbeautiful

    Many dissertations are as long as a standard book. 900 pages is larger than most books. Reply reply More replies. 3.2K votes, 760 comments. 21M subscribers in the dataisbeautiful community. DataIsBeautiful is for visualizations that effectively convey….

  21. A General Guide to PhD Dissertation Word Count And Structure

    After preparing the preliminary pages of the dissertation, you have to compose the introductory section of the dissertation. The length of the introductory section of the dissertation is 10% of the length of the whole dissertation. It means that in 10,000 words dissertation, the word count for the introductory section should be 1000 words.

  22. Dissertation Word Count Breakdown

    The dissertation word limit is allotted by the university where you study and the Master's Dissertation word count may vary from the undergraduate dissertation word count or the Ph.D. dissertation word count. Mostly the dissertation word length is between 10,000 words to 15,000 words but some may even go up to the level of 30,000 words.

  23. Breakdown of Number of Words in Each Chapter in Dissertation

    25-30% of your total word count. The analysis or discussion chapter of a dissertation consists of 30% of the whole dissertation. In these words, you will have to provide a complete overview of the implications of the results which are relevant to the main theme of your dissertation. The main purpose of this chapter is to sort out where and how ...