How long should an average PhD thesis be? - PhDData

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How long should an average PhD thesis be?

September 2022

As the conclusion of four or five years of full-time labor, the PhD thesis is the most significant component of a doctorate research degree. For this reason, the thought of preparing and presenting your PhD dissertation at a viva may seem like an insurmountable obstacle. It’s common knowledge that the dissertation or thesis required for a doctoral degree is a significant time commitment. And thus the question arises: how lengthy should a thesis be, exactly?

PhD dissertations may be much lengthier than those required for a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, however this difference is not universal. Most dissertations clock in at roughly 80,000 words, although your institution will likely impose a maximum word count of anywhere between 70,000 and 100,000.

In general, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) theses tend to be shorter than their counterparts in the humanities and social sciences. You should make sure what is required of you in terms of word count, since regulations vary by university (and sometimes even by individual departments within a university).

Before starting to count words for your dissertation, you should ask your advisor whether you should include the bibliography and appendices. PhD dissertations vary widely in length, depending not only on their content but also on the institution hosting them. This is due to the fact that institutions of higher education choose their own word count standards, with the majority settling on a figure somewhere around 100,000.

Institutional Variation in Word Count

In most cases, a PhD candidate’s thesis will be required to adhere to a word count restriction imposed by their institution. In almost all circumstances, the minimum number of words is not specified, but rather, the limit is set as a maximum number of words. This is because it is up to the student to select what he considers acceptable in order to create a thesis that effectively explains the research he has conducted.

Having said that, it is generally understood by both PhD candidates and their advisors that the lack of a minimum word count does not imply that a thesis may be brief. Your thesis will present the results of years of independent study and will provide new concepts, theories, and ideas. The other parts of your thesis, such as the introduction, methods, findings, and overall discussion, must also be comprehensive.

Your thesis’s length should reflect this, since your examiners will be looking for you to effectively communicate all of the material you’ve gathered. 

Is It Possible to Go Over the Word Limit? 

It’s true that many educational institutions will let you exceed the required word count, but only if you have a compelling reason to do so. In addition, you’ll need approval from your superior. This is to let you know that they have considered your issue and agree that going above the word count restriction is essential.

Having finished your thesis doesn’t mean you’ve finished your degree requirements just yet. After turning in your thesis, you’ll have to be ready for the viva, or thesis defense interview.

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