thesis word count

  • 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.

Finding a PhD has never been this easy – search for a PhD by keyword, location or academic area of interest.

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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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 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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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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Sample Title Page

Sample Title Page

Sample Word Count Page

Word count page

Thesis Format Template

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  • Thesis and Examination: The Code of Practice

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

Frequently asked questions

How long is a dissertation.

Dissertation word counts vary widely across different fields, institutions, and levels of education:

  • 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 by your university to determine how long your own dissertation should be.

Frequently asked questions: Dissertation

A dissertation prospectus or proposal describes what or who you plan to research for your dissertation. It delves into why, when, where, and how you will do your research, as well as helps you choose a type of research to pursue. You should also determine whether you plan to pursue qualitative or quantitative methods and what your research design will look like.

It should outline all of the decisions you have taken about your project, from your dissertation topic to your hypotheses and research objectives , ready to be approved by your supervisor or committee.

Note that some departments require a defense component, where you present your prospectus to your committee orally.

A thesis is typically written by students finishing up a bachelor’s or Master’s degree. Some educational institutions, particularly in the liberal arts, have mandatory theses, but they are often not mandatory to graduate from bachelor’s degrees. It is more common for a thesis to be a graduation requirement from a Master’s degree.

Even if not mandatory, you may want to consider writing a thesis if you:

  • Plan to attend graduate school soon
  • Have a particular topic you’d like to study more in-depth
  • Are considering a career in research
  • Would like a capstone experience to tie up your academic experience

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation should include the following:

  • A restatement of your research question
  • A summary of your key arguments and/or results
  • A short discussion of the implications of your research

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5–7% of your overall word count.

For a stronger dissertation conclusion , avoid including:

  • Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the discussion section and results section
  • Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion …”)
  • Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g., “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)

Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.

While it may be tempting to present new arguments or evidence in your thesis or disseration conclusion , especially if you have a particularly striking argument you’d like to finish your analysis with, you shouldn’t. Theses and dissertations follow a more formal structure than this.

All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the discussion section and results section .) The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.

A theoretical framework can sometimes be integrated into a  literature review chapter , but it can also be included as its own chapter or section in your dissertation . As a rule of thumb, if your research involves dealing with a lot of complex theories, it’s a good idea to include a separate theoretical framework chapter.

A literature review and a theoretical framework are not the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably. While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work, a literature review critically evaluates existing research relating to your topic. You’ll likely need both in your dissertation .

While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work based on existing research, a conceptual framework allows you to draw your own conclusions, mapping out the variables you may use in your study and the interplay between them.

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review , research methods , avenues for future research, etc.)

When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .

In most styles, the title page is used purely to provide information and doesn’t include any images. Ask your supervisor if you are allowed to include an image on the title page before doing so. If you do decide to include one, make sure to check whether you need permission from the creator of the image.

Include a note directly beneath the image acknowledging where it comes from, beginning with the word “ Note .” (italicized and followed by a period). Include a citation and copyright attribution . Don’t title, number, or label the image as a figure , since it doesn’t appear in your main text.

Definitional terms often fall into the category of common knowledge , meaning that they don’t necessarily have to be cited. This guidance can apply to your thesis or dissertation glossary as well.

However, if you’d prefer to cite your sources , you can follow guidance for citing dictionary entries in MLA or APA style for your glossary.

A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. In contrast, an index is a list of the contents of your work organized by page number.

The title page of your thesis or dissertation goes first, before all other content or lists that you may choose to include.

The title page of your thesis or dissertation should include your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date.

Glossaries are not mandatory, but if you use a lot of technical or field-specific terms, it may improve readability to add one to your thesis or dissertation. Your educational institution may also require them, so be sure to check their specific guidelines.

A glossary or “glossary of terms” is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. Your glossary only needs to include terms that your reader may not be familiar with, and is intended to enhance their understanding of your work.

A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. In contrast, dictionaries are more general collections of words.

An abbreviation is a shortened version of an existing word, such as Dr. for Doctor. In contrast, an acronym uses the first letter of each word to create a wholly new word, such as UNESCO (an acronym for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

As a rule of thumb, write the explanation in full the first time you use an acronym or abbreviation. You can then proceed with the shortened version. However, if the abbreviation is very common (like PC, USA, or DNA), then you can use the abbreviated version from the get-go.

Be sure to add each abbreviation in your list of abbreviations !

If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation , you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations .

If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimizing confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.

A list of abbreviations is a list of all the abbreviations that you used in your thesis or dissertation. It should appear at the beginning of your document, with items in alphabetical order, just after your table of contents .

Your list of tables and figures should go directly after your table of contents in your thesis or dissertation.

Lists of figures and tables are often not required, and aren’t particularly common. They specifically aren’t required for APA-Style, though you should be careful to follow their other guidelines for figures and tables .

If you have many figures and tables in your thesis or dissertation, include one may help you stay organized. Your educational institution may require them, so be sure to check their guidelines.

A list of figures and tables compiles all of the figures and tables that you used in your thesis or dissertation and displays them with the page number where they can be found.

The table of contents in a thesis or dissertation always goes between your abstract and your introduction .

You may acknowledge God in your dissertation acknowledgements , but be sure to follow academic convention by also thanking the members of academia, as well as family, colleagues, and friends who helped you.

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

In a thesis or dissertation, the discussion is an in-depth exploration of the results, going into detail about the meaning of your findings and citing relevant sources to put them in context.

The conclusion is more shorter and more general: it concisely answers your main research question and makes recommendations based on your overall findings.

In the discussion , you explore the meaning and relevance of your research results , explaining how they fit with existing research and theory. Discuss:

  • Your  interpretations : what do the results tell us?
  • The  implications : why do the results matter?
  • The  limitation s : what can’t the results tell us?

The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.

In qualitative research , results and discussion are sometimes combined. But in quantitative research , it’s considered important to separate the objective results from your interpretation of them.

Results are usually written in the past tense , because they are describing the outcome of completed actions.

The results chapter of a thesis or dissertation presents your research results concisely and objectively.

In quantitative research , for each question or hypothesis , state:

  • The type of analysis used
  • Relevant results in the form of descriptive and inferential statistics
  • Whether or not the alternative hypothesis was supported

In qualitative research , for each question or theme, describe:

  • Recurring patterns
  • Significant or representative individual responses
  • Relevant quotations from the data

Don’t interpret or speculate in the results chapter.

To automatically insert a table of contents in Microsoft Word, follow these steps:

  • Apply heading styles throughout the document.
  • In the references section in the ribbon, locate the Table of Contents group.
  • Click the arrow next to the Table of Contents icon and select Custom Table of Contents.
  • Select which levels of headings you would like to include in the table of contents.

Make sure to update your table of contents if you move text or change headings. To update, simply right click and select Update Field.

All level 1 and 2 headings should be included in your table of contents . That means the titles of your chapters and the main sections within them.

The contents should also include all appendices and the lists of tables and figures, if applicable, as well as your reference list .

Do not include the acknowledgements or abstract in the table of contents.

The abstract appears on its own page in the thesis or dissertation , after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

An abstract for a thesis or dissertation is usually around 200–300 words. There’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check your university’s requirements.

In a thesis or dissertation, the acknowledgements should usually be no longer than one page. There is no minimum length.

The acknowledgements are generally included at the very beginning of your thesis , directly after the title page and before the abstract .

Yes, it’s important to thank your supervisor(s) in the acknowledgements section of your thesis or dissertation .

Even if you feel your supervisor did not contribute greatly to the final product, you must acknowledge them, if only for a very brief thank you. If you do not include your supervisor, it may be seen as a snub.

In the acknowledgements of your thesis or dissertation, you should first thank those who helped you academically or professionally, such as your supervisor, funders, and other academics.

Then you can include personal thanks to friends, family members, or anyone else who supported you during the process.

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  • Thesis Format

Format of thesis and Binding

  • Title page – including the thesis title, the student's full name and the degree for which it is submitted
  • Abstract - of up to 5,000 words
  • Table of contents – including any material not bound in the book, and a list of tables, photographs and any other materials

Word limits

  • PhD - not to exceed 100,000 words
  • MPhil - not to exceed 60,000 words
  • MD(Res) - not to exceed 50,000 words
  • MPhilStud - not to exceed 30,000 words
  • Professional Doctorates - at least 25,000 words and not to exceed 55,000 words

Thesis word limit inclusions and exclusions The thesis word count includes everything from the start of chapter 1 up to the end of the last chapter. This means: Including all words included within:

  • Footnotes/Endnotes
  • Table/figure legends
  • Tables of contents/of figures/of tables/ of acronyms
  • Acknowledgements/dedications
  • References/Bibliography
  • 'Editions of texts (except where the edition or editions themselves constitute the thesis under examination)'
  • Students are only required to submit an electronic thesis for their examiners, in PDF format, this should be emailed to [email protected] no later than your deadline
  • If examiners have requested a printed copy  a member of the Research Degrees Examinations team will get in touch with you
  • Margins - as we no longer require printed copies of the thesis, the margin edge is at the student's discretion, however bear in mind if  examiners prefer a printed copy then it may need to be spiral bound
  • Spacing - Double or 1.5 spacing (except for indented quotations or footnotes which can be single spaced)
  • Font size - It is recommended to use font size 12 to ensure examiners are able to read it
  • Page numbering - All pages must be numbered in one continuous sequence, i.e. from the title page of the first volume to the last page of type, from 1 onwards. This sequence must include everything in the volume, including maps, diagrams, blank pages, etc.

Illustrative materials -  May include: audio recordings and photographic slides, these can be emailed to  [email protected]

  • Additional material - Any material which cannot be included in the PDF thesis maybe emailed separately to the [email protected]  

Some examiners may prefer to work from a printed version of the student's thesis rather than the PDF, if this is the case:

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  • It is the students' responsibility to get their thesis printed and bound if examiners require a copy. Students may only claim back postage costs.

PRINT COPIES MUST NOT BE POSTED PRIOR TO OFFICIAL DISPATCH BY THE RESEARCH DEGREES EXAMINATION TEAM

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As stated in the  Student Registry PhD format requirements , a PhD thesis in the Department of Computer Science and Technology “is not to exceed [...] 60,000 words including tables and footnotes, but excluding appendices, bibliography, photographs and diagrams.”

Candidates abusing these rules mostly risk annoying their examiners. Of particular concern is the misconception that tables and equations do not count as words, while they actually take significantly longer to read than mere text. The words “photographs and diagrams” refer to entities that can be taken in with a single glance rather than a page of detailed equations. Tables, equations and the like are best counted as having the number of words that text occupying the same area would have. The safest way to justify being under the 60,000 word limit is to count the words on a page with most plain text, and divide 60,000 by that to give a page limit. Another way of getting an estimate of the effective word count is

If the main body of your thesis (from first page to last page before the bibliography) is 150 pages or more then you have probably exceeded the size limit – and your thesis risks summary rejection. Remember that it is not necessary to write 59,995 words; as noted in the regulations for Physics and Chemistry: “[the] Degree committee points out that some of the best dissertations extend to only half this length”.

Sometimes candidates would like a bigger word-count limit. This is often a sign they have done too much work; a good thesis selects from the work done rather than slavishly including every minor result. There are three reasons not to do too much work on a thesis: poverty after your funding expires, scoring black marks for the department by submitting four years after starting, and having to leave out research results from your thesis!

The Degree Committee for the Faculty of Computer Science and Technology agreed, at its meeting of July 2nd 2009, that the word limit will remain at 60,000 words and, furthermore, emphasized that should students exceed 175 pages, students and their supervisors will be asked to explain.

The Degree Committee for the Faculty of Computer Science and Technology agreed, at its meeting on 23 November 2021, that while the word limit will remain at 60,000 words, the Committee recognises some theses are interdisciplinary. An application for an extension to the word counts where there is a compelling case - such as an interdiscipinary thesis - will be considered. Students should apply for an extension to the thesis word count via CamSIS Change of Circumstances.

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  • Word limits and requirements of your Degree Committee

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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.

How to Write Essay Titles and Headers

Don’t overlook the title and section headers when putting together your next writing assignment. Follow these pointers for keeping your writing organized and effective.

101 Standout Argumentative Essay Topic Ideas

Need a topic for your upcoming argumentative essay? We've got 100 helpful prompts to help you get kickstarted on your next writing assignment.

Writing a Standout College Admissions Essay

Your personal statement is arguably the most important part of your college application. Follow these guidelines for an exceptional admissions essay.

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Prepare your thesis

Throughout your research candidature you will work toward producing your final thesis. There are some key points to keep in mind when you start this process.

Your thesis must be a coherent and cohesive whole. You can submit a thesis including publications but we don't accept thesis by publication. Refer to the relevant Thesis and Examination policy (pdf, 392KB) and discuss this with your supervisor.

There are also certain formatting and referencing requirements that are outlined below.

You can also find more general information on research skills, planning and writing your thesis in the research skills for HDR students page. This includes literature reviews, writing up results and theses including publications.

Proofreading and editing

You can use an editor to prepare your thesis for submission. Make sure you discuss your plans with your supervisor and provide your editor with a copy of the University’s Thesis Submission and Examination Procedures (pdf, 180KB) .

When you use an editor:

  • include the editor’s name and a brief description of the service provided in your list of acknowledgements at the front of your thesis. For creative work, make sure this information is included when it's presented for examination.
  • you need to state the editor’s current or former area of academic specialisation if this is similar to your own.

Composition

You will find information on word limits in the below policies and procedures, or in your faculty or school handbook.

Word limits include footnotes and all material in the main body of the thesis. Bibliographies and appendices are not included in the overall word count.

  • University of Sydney (Higher Degree by Research) Rule (pdf, 877KB)
  • Thesis and Examination of Higher Degrees by Research Policy (pdf, 194KB)
  • Thesis and Examination of Higher Degrees by Research Procedures (pdf, 180KB)

If you have questions about formatting, you can speak to your supervisor or postgraduate coordinator.

Thesis frontispiece sections

The frontispiece includes the parts of your thesis before the main content.

Thesis title and abstract

The following upper limits apply to your title and abstract content submitted on RECS for the final lodgement:

  • thesis title: maximum 250 characters including spaces, in title case not uppercase.
  • thesis abstract: maximum 2000 characters including spaces.

Login to Sydney Student (go to ‘My studies’, then 'Research details') to update and maintain your thesis title and thesis abstract.

Note that there are no characters limits for the title and abstract in the actual pdf of the thesis. 

Your thesis title page should state:

  • title of the thesis
  • faculty name
  • the University’s full name – The University of Sydney
  • for theses only: A thesis submitted to fulfil requirements for the degree of Doctor/Master of Philosophy (or other higher degree by research)
  • for theses with a creative component: A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Doctor/Master of Philosophy (or other higher degree by research).
  • a statement if you have been in receipt of a Research Training Program scholarship: "This research reported in this thesis was supported by the award of a Research Training Program scholarship to the PhD Candidate."

Statement of originality

You need to include a statement of originality, usually placed after the title page, for example:

This is to certify that to the best of my knowledge, the content of this thesis is my own work. This thesis has not been submitted for any degree or other purposes.

I certify that the intellectual content of this thesis is the product of my own work and that all the assistance received in preparing this thesis and sources have been acknowledged.

Signature* Name

*you should only include the signature in the copy you submit for examination, not the library copy.

Authorship attribution statement

If your thesis contains material you have previously published, you need to discuss an authorship attribution statement with your supervisor and submit this statement as part of your final thesis submission. It should indicate the name and publication details of the published work, as well as specify your contribution.

Such a statement typically appears in the frontispiece of your thesis.

If the publication in which your work has previously appeared has a convention about author order, then you need to include this information after each relevant attribution statement (for example,  Journal of XXXX  requires that the lead author must be corresponding author).

This only applies where you have made a substantial contribution to the paper. You cannot present minor contributions to published works in the main body of your thesis – these can only be included as appendices.

Example: Chapters published as papers/edited book chapters

Chapter x of this thesis is published as [citation]. I designed the study, analysed the data and wrote the drafts of the MS.

Chapter y of this thesis is published as [citation]. I designed the study, extracted the data and wrote the drafts of the MS.

Chapter z of this thesis is published as [citation]. I co-designed the study with the co-authors, interpreted the analysis done by A.N. Other and wrote the drafts of the MS.

Example: Published material distributed through the thesis

This thesis contains material published in [citation]. This is section x.y; figure s.t, and pages p-q of section y.z. I did... [describe your role].

Attesting your authorship attribution statement

You and your supervisor need to attest to an authorship attribution statement under the  Thesis and Examination Policy and Procedures (pdf, 185KB) . The following are suggested:

In addition to the statements above, in cases where I am not the corresponding author of a published item, permission to include the published material has been granted by the corresponding author.

Student Name, Signature, Date

As supervisor for the candidature upon which this thesis is based, I can confirm that the authorship attribution statements above are correct.

Supervisor Name, Signature, Date

You should refer to the Thesis and Examination of Higher Degrees by Research Procedures (pdf, 180KB) for information about the inclusion of published material you wrote, or contributed to as an author. This includes use of citations and quotations.

If your thesis contains material you have previously published, an authorship attribution statement, outlined above, may be included.

More information can be found in the Thesis and Examination of Higher Degrees by Research Policy (pdf, 194KB) and the University of Sydney (Higher Degree by Research) Rule (pdf, 877KB) .

The responsibilities of all researchers, academic staff and students are outlined in our Research Code of Conduct (pdf, 484KB) . This defines research misconduct and breaches of the Code related to plagiarism.

File type for submission

You need to submit your thesis as a pdf file. This is the required format for us to submit your thesis into Turnitin for similarity detection. If we receive a file in another format, then the conversion to pdf will not be controlled by you and may result in unacceptable or undesirable formatting changes. Be aware, once a thesis file is submitted for examination, it is not possible to withdraw it for revisions unless under the provisions of the Thesis and Examination of Higher Degree by Research Students Policy .

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Ask - /faq/3267/phd-thesis-word-limit/

Phd thesis word limit, what is the word limit for a phd thesis.

You should aim to write a thesis of 80,000 words. The word limit is exclusive of words in tables, maps, bibliographies and appendices. Footnotes are included as part of the word limit.

If you need to exceed 100,000 words, you must submit a request to the Chair of the Higher Degrees Research Comittee via the Graduate Research Examinations Office before you submit your thesis. This must include:

  • your justification for the request
  • the expected length of your thesis
  • support by your supervisor(s) and Head of Department, who must also certify that the proposed examiners do not object to examining a longer thesis

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Last updated: Dec. 10, 2021, 5:58 p.m.

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

thesis word count

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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You will get the topics first as per the given requirements, and then the brief which includes;

  • An explanation why we choose this topic.
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The length of introductions vary depending on your disciplinary area and the nature of your project so before writing one, it may be wise to discuss length and expectations of content with your supervisor. It is also worth taking a look at a range of past theses in your area to see what is expected in your field.

The introduction to the whole thesis can make up roughly 10 per cent of the total word count. So if you are doing a PhD of 80,000 - 100,000 words, you may have a 8,000 - 10,000 word introduction. And if you are writing a Masters thesis of 15,000 - 20,000 words, your introduction could be 1,500 - 2,000 words long. Exegeses tend to be anywhere between seven to 12 pages in length (1.5 cm spacing) and include images and/or diagrams.

Theses that generally have longer introductions do so because they incorporate more substantial background information and/or an extended literature review section.

Theses that have shorter introductions, say eight to ten pages (1.5 spacing) or about 4000 words for a PhD, do so in order to give a broad overview of the research project which is typically followed by a longer background or literature review chapter. 

Regardless of the type of project you are doing or thesis you are writing, the introduction to the thesis or exegesis should give a broad overview of the project, as discussed in the page on introductions. 

Individual chapters should also have introductions. An introduction to a chapter that is 10,000 words long could be about two to three pages long, whereas in shorter theses the chapter introductions may only be a page or two, or even just a paragraph or two. The length varies depending on how much you need to establish for your reader to understand how the chapter contributes to your research and argument. 

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A General Guide to PhD Dissertation Word Count And Structure

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  1. How Long Is a PhD Thesis?

    Learn how long a PhD thesis is expected to be, how it differs by university, subject and format, and how to exceed the word count limit if needed. Find out the average thesis length from analysis of over 1000 PhDs and compare it with a Masters dissertation.

  2. Thesis word count and format

    Learn how to format and submit your thesis in PDF, with the maximum word counts for different levels of award. Find out what is excluded from the word count and how to present illustrations, title page and abstract.

  3. 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.

  4. PDF Introduction to Thesis Formatting Guidelines

    Word Count A Phd thesis should not normally exceed 100,000 words of text (including your appendices and additional material). However, the PGR Committee of the College of Social Sciences suggest the following limits: PhD: 70,000 to 100,000 words. (Allowing 250 words per page, this means between about 280 and 360 pages.)

  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. APA Style 6th Edition Blog: You Can Word Count on This

    Counting the number of words in an APA Style paper is easy: Count all the words in the entire paper to get the total word count. That includes the title page, abstract, main text, quotations, headings, citations, footnotes, reference list, tables, figure captions, and appendices—everything. This gives an accurate representation of the overall ...

  7. 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.

  8. How long is a dissertation?

    Learn how long a dissertation should be depending on your degree program and academic discipline. Find out the typical ranges for undergraduate, master's, and PhD dissertations, and get tips on how to check your word count.

  9. King's College London

    Word limits. PhD - not to exceed 100,000 words; MPhil - not to exceed 60,000 words; MD(Res) - not to exceed 50,000 words MPhilStud - not to exceed 30,000 words; Professional Doctorates - at least 25,000 words and not to exceed 55,000 words; Thesis word limit inclusions and exclusions The thesis word count includes everything from the start of chapter 1 up to the end of the last chapter.

  10. Writing up and word count

    The safest way to justify being under the 60,000 word limit is to count the words on a page with most plain text, and divide 60,000 by that to give a page limit. Another way of getting an estimate of the effective word count is $ ps2ascii thesis.pdf | wc -w

  11. A complete guide to writing a master's thesis

    Plan to start writing early, and budget for, say, 1000-2000 words every day. Not only will you then reach the full word count of your master's thesis quickly, but you'll leave yourself plenty of time to edit it, remove sections that aren't working, and add more words that strengthen the overall assignment, all long before the deadline ...

  12. PDF Thesis and Dissertation Formatting Guidelines

    University Dissertation and Thesis Services does not have parameters for document length or word count; that aspect is left entirely to the judgment of students and their committees. Portrait v. Landscape While the majority of your document should be set in portrait orientation, you are

  13. PDF Guidance on Thesis Word Count

    Guidance on Thesis Word Count . Please note the University of London and Royal Holloway Research Degree Regulations for the Degrees of MPhil and PhD state that the that the thesis will comprise a piece of scholarly writing of not more than 60,000 words for the MPhil degree and 100,000 words for the PhD degree. In both

  14. PDF Guidance on word counts for final Thesis / Portfolio

    the word limits 2. Examiners may request that the thesis is shortened as part of their post-viva recommendations (but may not return a submitted thesis with an excessive word count - see regulation 16 'A viva voce examination is mandatory once a … candidate has submitted a thesis.'). 70,000 words PDHealth 45,000 words write 45,000 words for

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

    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.

  16. How to Increase or Decrease Your Paper's Word Count

    Word count is the number of words in a writing sample or document. Word counts exist for many reasons—print publications, for example, have them to ensure stories can fit in a defined space in a newspaper, magazine, or book. ... 2 Explore all angles of your paper's thesis. Check to see if you've explored all angles of your thesis ...

  17. Prepare your thesis

    You will find information on word limits in the below policies and procedures, or in your faculty or school handbook. Word limits include footnotes and all material in the main body of the thesis. Bibliographies and appendices are not included in the overall word count. University of Sydney (Higher Degree by Research) Rule (pdf, 877KB)

  18. ask.unimelb: FAQ / PhD Thesis Word Limit

    You should aim to write a thesis of 80,000 words. The word limit is exclusive of words in tables, maps, bibliographies and appendices. Footnotes are included as part of the word limit. If you need to exceed 100,000 words, you must submit a request to the Chair of the Higher Degrees Research Comittee via the Graduate Research Examinations Office ...

  19. Distribution of words in a 20,000 words thesis?

    I was not provided with any word limit per section, but what I found online was. Introduction & rationale = 1000 words. Literature review = 4000. Methodology = 3000. Data gathering and analysis ...

  20. Dissertation Word Count Breakdown Structure With Calculator

    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. Chapters. Word Count (%) Word Count (Nos) Word Count. =>. Introduction. 10%.

  21. Length

    The introduction to the whole thesis can make up roughly 10 per cent of the total word count. So if you are doing a PhD of 80,000 - 100,000 words, you may have a 8,000 - 10,000 word introduction. And if you are writing a Masters thesis of 15,000 - 20,000 words, your introduction could be 1,500 - 2,000 words long.

  22. 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.

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

    It allows people to write the actual body of their papers/thesis without getting bogged down in LaTeX's verbose syntax, while simultaneously taking advantage of its strength in parsing equations. YMMV of course, but this is my personal observation at least in my particular subdiscipline of Aerospace Engineering.

  24. Data Minders Student Services on Instagram: "Your school's word count

    0 likes, 0 comments - data.minders.students on December 15, 2023: "Your school's word count for your thesis is very important. It impacts so many factors when it ..." Data Minders Student Services on Instagram: "Your school's word count for your thesis is very important.