Dissertation Length

Worried about your degree and dissertation? Well, it is now no secret that one of the most difficult aspects of PhD degree is writing a dissertation. The large volumes of work that go into a dissertation make it a difficult task. It also compels you to think about what the actual dissertation length is. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all answer to this question. The reason is that the length of a dissertation changes with changing the level of qualification. It also depends on the university requirements in which you are studying.

I know that you want to know how much the length of a dissertation actually is. Keeping this in mind, today’s article is here to break down the length of undergraduate, Master, and PhD dissertations. There will be a description of the dissertation length chapter by chapter for each level of qualification. So, let’s start with the following question.

How lengthy is an undergraduate, Master, and PhD thesis, generally?

A dissertation is a research project completed to get a degree. Typically, a dissertation is the longest piece of writing a student is asked to compose as part of his higher studies. The length of the dissertation varies with the level of study. A general idea of the word count for the three levels is as follows:

  • Undergraduate dissertation: Word count ranges from 8000 to 10,000 words.
  • Master dissertation: The dissertation length ranges from 15,000 to 20,000 words.
  • PhD dissertation: In the UK, the word count for a PhD thesis is between 70,000 to 100,000 words. Getting PhD dissertation help can make the write-up successful.

Chapter by chapter breakdown of the word count of each level dissertation

From the discussion above, you have got a complete idea of the lengths of undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctorate dissertations. It is important to note here that the above-mentioned lengths are just an estimate. The word count can go up and down as per your university requirements. So, just take them as an educated guess which I have made after visiting the websites of different universities and analysing over 1000 dissertations on different subjects for each level of study. However, a brief description of the total word count breakdown chapter by chapter is as follows:

1. Introduction – the opening chapter of the dissertation

The introduction is the first and the most important chapter of a dissertation of any level. This is the chapter which sets the base of your upcoming chapters and discussions on the research topic. Basically, in this chapter, you provide an overview of the problem in the context of past knowledge and provide the research background. So, this chapter is normally 10% of the whole dissertation word count. According to this formula and keeping in view, the word count mentioned above, the introduction section of an undergraduate thesis should be no more than 1000 words in length.

Keeping the same formula in mind, the word count for the Master’s dissertation comes out to be 1500 to 2000 for the introduction chapter. Being original research, you have to write a 7000 to 10,000 words introduction in the case of a PhD thesis.

2. Literature Review – the backbone of a dissertation

A literature review is termed the backbone of any dissertation. It is the chapter in which you take a survey of the scholarly articles and research papers published in your field of study. This survey lets you identify the research gaps and formulate your research on that gaps. Based on my analysis of 1000 theses and university’s websites, this chapter should be 30% of the whole dissertation length. According to this equation, the literature review chapter for an undergraduate thesis should be about 3000 words in length, and for a Master’s, this word count jumps to 6000. In the case of a PhD thesis, 30,000 is the word count of this chapter.

3. Research Methodology – the most important chapter

Most professors in the UK say that the research methodology chapter is the most important chapter. The reason is that it is the chapter in which you talk about your approach to the research problem. You talk about why you selected a particular approach to the research problem. So, these things make it important. However, the word count for this chapter should not be more than 15% of the total dissertation length. It means that this chapter for an undergraduate dissertation should be 1500 words long, and for a Master’s, it should be 3000 words in length. A phD thesis being the lengthiest should contain about 15000 words in this chapter.

4. Findings and Results – the crux of the research process

The 4th chapter of a dissertation is the findings and results chapter. In this chapter, you present all your research findings and explain how your results answer the research questions. The results interpretation is also part of this chapter. As a rough estimate, the total length of this chapter in a dissertation is about 25%. So, it means that an undergraduate dissertation should contain 2500 words on results and 5000 words are the limit for a Master’s thesis. However, for Phd thesis, this word count jumps to 25,000 words.

5. Discussion and conclusion – a formal end to your dissertation

These two chapters put a formal end to your dissertation. In the discussion chapter, you discuss your results in the context of research questions and explain how your dissertation has achieved its objectives. Based on my analysis of the previous dissertations, this chapter should contain 20% of the words of the whole dissertation length. So, the discussion and conclusion of an undergraduate dissertation should be around 2000 words and 4000 words for a Master’s thesis. If we talk about a PhD dissertation, the word count takes a big leap and goes up to 20,000 words. It is quite a huge number.


Conclusively, dissertation length varies with respect to your education or degree level. For an undergraduate degree, the word count requirements are not so hard, and you can get the degree by writing 8000 to 10,000 words. A complete breakdown of the word count of master’s and PhD dissertations is also up there. So, read the article and craft your dissertation according to the word count criteria said above.

By Williumson

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