How long is a dissertation? A guide to planning your writing

How long is a dissertation? A guide to planning your writing

Have you started doing a Ph.D. yet? And now you wonder what it takes to write a dissertation. How long is it supposed to be? How much time will you need to complete it? What is the best way to approach a dissertation? Let us try to answer the most common questions associated with academic research on a doctoral program.

How long should a dissertation be?

There is no certain answer to the question. Several factors determine the length of the research paper. First and foremost, it is the discipline of the Ph.D. Papers in humanities tend to be longer than in sciences. Secondly, it is the institutional guidelines. Universities and schools have their motives and visions. And it is vital to study all the handbooks available. There may also be a committee member assigned to you who will give some useful pieces of advice and insights into your work. All of this will create a picture in your head with the requirements and expectations; thus, you will find it easier to structure work and organize ideas.

     What are the types of dissertations?

Another important factor is the type of dissertation. The choice of it depends on the approach a student is going to take to research the subject matter. Here are the most common types and their brief descriptions:

     1. Empirical dissertation

    Empirical dissertations are the ones that rely on some practical / hands-on study. The research findings are based on some experiment, survey, investigation conducted by a postgraduate student. For example, it may be a survey in a nursing home aiming to determine the effects of some entertaining activities on the residents.

     2. Non-empirical dissertation

  Non-empirical or theoretical dissertations are the ones that involve analysis of the existing research, its critiquing, or reconsideration. In other words, one is to collect primary and secondary sources, evaluate and interpret them, for instance, some literary work, its interpretation and theories that can be applied to it.

     3. Narrative dissertation

  Narrative dissertations (the least frequent type) are the ones that rely on the information drawn from an experiment presented in the form of a story. It could be a laboratory experiment described in detail starting with its preparation, through its carrying out to final analysis.

What are the dissertation components?

Before getting down to writing a dissertation, it is necessary to plan it all out. A postgraduate student should understand what components or chapters a dissertation has got to divide their time and efforts. Besides, some parts should be written first and cannot be written last, and vice versa. Thus, preparation is critical.

Even though the dissertation components may vary, the main ones remain the same. And they are as follows:

  •  Proposal
  •  Abstract
  •  Introduction
  •  Literature Review
  •  Methodology
  •  Results
  •  Discussion

What is an average dissertation length? Common length of each part

Let us consider the main dissertation components and their approximate length. Again, there are no certain limits here, just approximations, to give you a general overview.

a man's face among the books

    1. How long should a dissertation proposal be?

Dissertation writing starts with a preliminary task of narrowing down the topic and choosing a specific research question. As you understand, it requires thorough research of the topic to identify the gaps. In general, the proposal includes, but is not limited to: abstract (100-350 words), introduction / background (up to 1 page), statement of the problem (up to 1 page), rationale / research questions (up to 1 page), review of literature (about 7 pages), methodology (about 3 pages), significance / implications (1 page), timeline (1 page).

    2. Dissertation abstract length

The first part of the dissertation itself is an abstract, which is recommended to write last. It is a brief summary of the research undertaken to inform the reader about the objectives and outcomes. As a rule, there is a strict word limit, which is about 200-300 words.

    3. What is the length of dissertation introduction?

The next chapter is an introduction that provides some background information and presents the relevance / significance of the research. The main task here is to identify problems and gaps, formulate research questions. The introduction usually takes 10% of the whole paper word count; thus, the average length is about 15 pages.

    4. How long should a dissertation literature review chapter be?

The literature review seeks to present the previous research findings. It serves as the foundation for your further work. It is crucial to investigate all the details. On average, the length of this chapter turns out to be 30 – 40 pages. Check out some more information about a literature review.

    5. Dissertation methodology chapter length

The next step is to explain the approach and all the methods used in the research. You will need to describe them all and justify their usage. The expected length is about 10 pages.

    6. Dissertation results section

Afterward, you should present the research findings (like surveys, tables, interviews, etc.). They all have to be relevant. The chapter will probably take about 5% of the total word count or about 7-8 pages.

    7. Dissertation discussion section

Next, you should interpret the findings, their implications and limitations. It is the most important part of the work. As such, it takes about 40% of the word count.

    8. How long should a dissertation conclusion be?

Finally, you should summarize the whole research in the conclusion. It takes about 5-7% of the total word count. More detailed information about writing a conclusion and discussion is presented here.

How long does it take to write a dissertation?

It varies from person to person. The amount of time needed depends on your speed and manner of work, some external factors (e.g. arranging interviews for the experiment), your availability and involvement. On average, the whole process takes about 18 months.

Can you write a dissertation in two weeks?

I do not want to discourage anyone, but this task seems to be impossible. No thorough research can be done so fast unless you have covered the ground in advance, and all that is left is to put it down to paper. Keep in mind that it will be a huge challenge!

Need help with your dissertation?

However, there is always an alternative available for you. If you are pressed by time, seek some writing assistance from a professional. Experts in different areas are ready to tackle the challenge with their in-depth knowledge.

Undoubtedly, every graduate student can write a dissertation. It is just a matter of time and effort. Plan out all the steps, organize your work efficiently and be ready to work hard. And in a year or two, you will see the results of your work.