Chapter Word Counts


Hello everyone!

I've just finished a literature review for my PhD which is 10,000 words long, a length requested by my supervisor.

I've found a useful chapter structure which I shall be sticking close to:

Chapter 1 – Literature review
Chapter 2 – Aims of the study
Chapter 3 - Methodology
Chapter 4 - Analysis
Chapter 5 - Findings
Chapter 6 – Discussion of findings
Chapter 7 - Conclusions
Chapter 8 – Applications and limitations

I've now moved onto the 'aims of the study' section and I was wondering if anyone could offer me some advice on how long they think this section should be. I always find it helpful to have a rough idea of word lengths before starting a new chapter.

Many thanks for your time,



If I were you, I'd put 2 as an Intro ahead of 1 Lit Review. That's the way it works conventionally.


Chapter lengths vary a lot by discipline. What is your discipline? Also what are the expected total word counts in your department? From the total word count you should be able to work back to estimates for individual chapters.

I had 7 chapters and they were about 10,000 words on average each, though some were longer, and some shorter. I was a humanities student. I had a combined intro / lit review / methodology chapter, then chapters 2-6 were core theme/topic/discussion ones containing my new findings, and 7 my wrap-up-everything conclusions chapter.

Dunleavy in his book on PhD theses recommends 10,000 words as a good length for chapters. Much longer and it can become unwieldy for examiners to read. Much shorter also not so good.

Avatar for sneaks

I've just finished my first three chapters.

Chapter 1 = 2000 (just an intro)
Chapter 2 = 13000 (lit review)
Chapter 3 = 8-9000 (method)

I think 10,000 is a good rule of thumb, I'm going to have to be careful that the front of my thesis isn't heavier/bigger than the actual studies - I think as long as its balanced its fine.

My lit review is the first proper draft (i.e. the actual thesis version), so i think it will be cut down a lot - it looks too long at the mo and as I read it, its hard to keep a grasp of the key arguments, but just about to send off to sup cos I'm at the point where I can't see the wood for the trees with it, so will let her have a go.


======= Date Modified 13 Jun 2011 08:07:46 =======
Hi Lyle,

I agree with Sneaks, 10,000 per chapter does seem to be the guide.
But as with all these things life's not like that, you'll find that you'll flex and your PhD will end up being what it needs to be to tell your story. It is so dependent on your field.

Mine PhD - qualitative, social sciences was 6 chapters and went a bit like this = 8k - intro, 20k - lit rev, 18k - method (incl method dev.), 15k - findings, 15k - discuss, 6k - conc.

That said, I would put your chapter 2 before your chapter 1, as someone said earlier, the aims are really the introduction to the study - why it's important and what we don't already know. Your chapter 7 and 8 may merge too.

All the best, enjoy it. Chuff