Chapter length/word-count issues


Hey all, I'm a little concerned about the word count/length of my chapters. I'm writing a 95-100k thesis, and have 8 chapters, and they are very different lengths (7,000 to over 30,000).

I'm a little concerned about the 30,000 word chapter (which may end up around 35,000 words) - in my opinion, it's simply to long, and may annoy the examiners.

I could make the first 4,500 words into a neat separate chapter, so I'd have 4,500 and then 20-25,000.

But would 4,500 words be too short for a chapter in a 100,000 thesis?


======= Date Modified 02 Jul 2009 22:48:14 =======
Hi missspacey,

most of my chapters are only 2500-5000 words in length. However, our regulations may be different to yours. I am doing a medical sciences based research thesis and have been told time and again that the word count does not matter for us, it's the content that matters. Similarly our PhD regulations do not give a minimum/maximum wordcount. It rather says that it is expected to have an introduction, couple of chapters detailing experiments, discussion/conclusion and bibliography.

So, personally I would say a 4500 word chapter should be absolutely fine but it really depends on what the convention for PhD theses is at your uni.

Best of luck! ;-)



What's your discipline? Dunleavy has some things to say about chapter numbers and lengths in his book about writing a PhD thesis, though he seems to be leaning more towards the humanities and social sciences side of things. For a 80,000 word thesis he recommends 8 chapters about 10,000 words each. Much longer than that becomes hard for you to structure effectively, and hard for the readers to read.


I think it really depends on what the chapter is about and how it is structured. I'm in the humanities (education) and am working on an 80,000 word thesis. I also have a chapter which is about 30,000 words, but (in my opinion!) it is well-structured, and broken up into lots of smaller chunks so it is is easy to follow. The chapter presents the results of four separate case studies, so theoretically I could split it into four, but I think it works fine as it is. They are all results so they all belong in the results chapter.

What does your supervisor think?


Thanks for the replies. My discipline is law, so veers to humanities/soc. science conventions.

My supervisor has not passed comment on the length, but it is very dense and descriptive with info.


Hello...I am just writing up a couple of chapters now, and am interested in the other end of the spectrum. What about having quite short chapters?

I am doing a science PhD and as things stand I seem to be having 3000-5000 word chapters (apart from my lit review chapter: 10000words). My structure is of a 'lit review', methods chapter and then a series of results & discussion chapters (4 at the moment), a 'discussion of common themes chapter' and then a conclusion.

Is the chapter length too short? Or would that be OK? The thesis limit is of 90000, but it states that science theses are commonly shorter.

Thank you