chapter length


As I am writing up my thesis, I have seen that my chapters are quite small.
I have two literature chapters (7 and 8.000 words), a methodology of 5.000 words and an analysis of 8.000 words. plan on having 3 more analysis chapters and a discussion one (of course introduction and conclusion).
I know it is so early to worry about length, but following this pattern I will have a thesis of about 60.000 words and I guess it is so small...
I should add that my uni's regulations say that a PhD thesis should be up to 80.000 words.
My supervisors don't seem to worry yet, but I am getting anxious.......

Sorry about the rant :p


If your supervisors are not worried, well they probably know best. Having said that 60,000 is 20,000 shy of the recommended length which does seem quite a bit shorter than uni regulations. My format is super traditional and at the moment my introduction which I have done but constantly add/take words to and from is 8,000, my literature review is c16,500 and my methodology is 15,000. My uni regulations are 80-100,000 words so I am working towards being in the 78-82,000 length realm. Really long theses are frowned on but I'm not sure about theses which are shorter.

I suppose it all depends. Have you seen other theses in your area - what are they like?


I guess I will have to wait and see after I finish my first full draft. Then I would probably have to write more...
Other thesis in my field are quite longer, but they are from universities that have a word limit of 100.000..... And other thesis from my country are much shorter, but I know I shouldn't compare to them, as the system is different here....


Emmaki, have you checked what is included in this word limit? For example my uni has a 40,000 word limit for science but that is just the main text and abstract so does not include contents pages, reference pages, appendices etc. If your word limit is for the whole thesis you will find alot more words in the 'other' parts of the thesis - mine has an additon 10,000 words not within the chapters.

Once the chapters are written and put together you may find yourself adding linking paragraphs or adding clarification/consistency which will bulk it out more. I would imagine the examiners being very pleased to read a shorter, concise thesis over an overworded, waffly one!!


I wouldn't worry if you're looking at around 60,000 words at present. As has been said, the extras will bump it up quite a bit - footnotes, bibliography, appendix etc. My supervisor always says that a shorter thesis is immeasurably better than a long, wordy one, unless that long one is packed full of wonderful stuff ;-) Our word limit is also 80,000 - he has told me that anything between 60k and 85k will be acceptable.

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i have a general number of about 10,000 per chapter. BUt now I'm getting freaked, because I'm about to finish my methods chapter which will be more like 7,000. I've also written my 3 studies up for publication, so they're under journal limits (typically 6,000). I talked to sup about how I should lengthen them and she said I shouldn't - so I'm very very confused. However, I think she only said don't lengthen them because she wants to see it all together before I do.

I reckon I'll be looking at 60-70k words overall though (have NO idea what our uni limit is! seems like a stupid thing to have a word limit - surely its contribution to the field that counts??)

Hubby's thesis is in a maths-related area and will be about 30k in total, excluding references etc.


That's actually good to know - are you guys saying that appendices etc are included in your word count? In my uni I'm 99% certain that they're not. I know someone who's initial final draft was 58,000 and she was told that she had to at least get it up to 75,000! I was worried myself about reaching the upper limit - maybe I don't have to. I must check it out - Thanks :-)


At my uni appendices don't count towards the word count.

My chapters were on average 10,000 words long. Dunleavy in his book says that's a good length - not too long, not too short, and good for comprehension - though it depends on your content as to what length they come in at.

My final thesis was too short though. Mine was 70K, and my department expects 80-100K. I asked for advice about whether I should try to lengthen it. I was told no, but it was recommended that I make it look a bit more weighty by including electronic appendices on CD.

And I passed. My examiners never commented on the length. But I was 10K below what would normally be expected in my department. My supervisor said that was better than the opposite problem of being way too long.


Hi Emmaki.

I'm sure there will be conventions but i went with what seemed to work. Don't know if i has yet, viva in a few weeks but my thesis was just 5 chapters.  going something like 1-8k, 2-20k, 3-19k, 4-23k, 5-10k.
Reading that it looks well odd ;-)  but tough!  

Qualitative data in 4, hence word count and it looks quite pretty and is well divided within the chapter.. and , more importantly, it represented my thesis in the most suitable way.

Do what you need to do to be comfortable with what you've done.

If it works with 7-8k .. and you're happy, then go for it. All the best.



I feel like I'm butting in here Chuff but your format sounds exactly what I will end up with :-)

Best of luck with your viva (up)

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I've just checked our uni's (although it took so long to track this info down I doubt any examiner will realise it exists!) it says it should be "not exceed 100,000 words or 20,000 words for the award of PhD through the submission of publications"

So I take that as - word count = any you can decide on haha!

I haven't even upgraded yet and no one seems to in my department, I've spoken to 4 people who are now Drs. and they never did, so its so shambolic, I'd doubt they'd notice if I submitted a one page abstract of the overall theme!


This thread is very reassuring to read. I expect my thesis to be short, although I'm in the social sciences, and am thinking it may come in at around 60,000. I'm pretty sure I'd need to submit at least that and I think if it was much longer it would just be full of waffle. My hope is to submit a quality over quantity thesis and I sincerely believe as long as I've got everything covered and well explained then the word count shouldn't be a problem.


It's reasuring to see that I am not the only one with a short thesis!!!!
Thank you all!!!!!


I'm in science and the word limit at my uni was 70000 word. My thesis only had 37500 word (not including index etc, references and appendices) and I passed. My supervisor said it was much better with a short concise thesis than a long one, which I can appreciate after marking undergrad essays!!

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thanks little star, my hubs will be pleased to hear that - his is 31k and counting (he's writing the discussion this weekend, but will only be 2-3k words I suspect) and he was panicking, but short of putting in a load of waffle, there's nothing to add. His is very mathematical though, and he's made a huge contribution to the field, so we think he'll be ok.