Dissertation Length Guidelines for Perfect Formatting

Dissertation Length Guidelines for Perfect Formatting

If you’re new to graduate school, writing a thesis or a dissertation is a discussion that has undoubtedly crossed your mind. A dissertation is a detailed document that asks and answers several questions from doctoral candidates. Dissertations are an essential part of their academic activities and usually come with specific rules and instructions.

Students must adhere to strict formatting guidelines and a prescribed length range when preparing their dissertations for submission. Typically, a departure from these rules may result in dissertation rejection and subsequent degree delay.

How long is a dissertation? And what formatting guidelines should you follow for writing? These and more will be addressed in this article.

How long is a dissertation?

The length of a dissertation can differ due to institutional and departmental requirements and the research field. Although most universities have guidelines for dissertation length, academic departments have theirs, also. The lengths differ because universities provide departments with flexibility that makes them autonomous in their criteria.

Most departments usually set length instructions for all sections of a dissertation and the entirety of the dissertation – this usually varies. A social science dissertation, for instance, is more voluminous than one in science like chemistry. This is due to the wide range of literature reviews and research methods. Thus, this implies that the length of each section would also be longer compared to that of science dissertations.

Dissertations are mainly for doctoral programs; hence, it’s normal for people to ask, “how long is a PhD dissertation?”

The truth is, there is no one size fits all answer to how long a dissertation should be. Many websites provide answers that are simply incorrect. Dissertations are usually too different to pin down a specific number.

However, there are practical suggestions for PhD dissertation length, which is between 70,000 to 100,00 words for most departments and Universities. But, the actual word counts you eventually get to usually depends on how well you address the requirements of each section and the length of different sections based on research results.

How many pages is a dissertation?

As earlier mentioned, the length of a dissertation isn’t straightforward, and it varies by field of study. Several factors influence it, like the type of analysis and research background.

However, the average dissertation length is between 150 and 300 pages. But, longer dissertations may require more chapters, main divisions, and subdivisions to explain the research in detail and cite many examples and references. Therefore, such dissertations may contain more pages than the average dissertation.

Dissertation outline: what your dissertation outline should look like

A dissertation’s length is the sum of its chapters. Various dissertation chapters have length specifications. Let’s look at a dissertation outline to determine further how long a dissertation should be.

· Chapter 1 – Introduction

The introduction is the very first chapter of a dissertation. Here, you present your research topic and give background information to support your work. A dissertation introduction should be between 12 and 25 pages in length.

· Chapter 2 – Literature review

This chapter’s length varies with discipline. For instance, a dissertation in chemistry may present a relatively small amount of literature to review. On the other hand, a broader research field like psychology or sociology will produce a voluminous literature review. Therefore, your literature review should be around 12 to 19 pages.

· Chapter 3 – Methodology

Whether quantitative or qualitative, you must describe the research methodology in detail in this chapter. The aim is to explain what you did and why you did it. In addition, you should present how you intend to analyze the results. Depending on the level of detail, this chapter could be 20-25 pages long.

· Chapter 4 – Results

This chapter gives the results of your research. It may be lengthy, not because of the number of words, but of the use of charts and graphs to show your findings. The important thing to do is present all your results appropriately.

· Chapter 5 – Discussion

The length of a dissertation paper discussion depends on the volume of data to be analyzed. However, there should be a concise presentation and explanation of the results. The length of this chapter can range from 15 to 25 pages.

· Chapter 6 – Conclusion

Your conclusion should be the research question answers and future solutions to your research. This chapter is usually the smallest in volume.

Generally accepted dissertation formatting guidelines

Here are some pointers that’ll help your dissertation formatting:

  • All text is double spaced
  • Margins are one inch and above on each side.
  • 10 to 12 sized fonts are used, and their color must be black, but figures, tables, and other diagrams may vary.
  • Headings are always centered at the top of tables
  • Every chapter and appendix starts on a new page.
  • Tables, figures, and illustrations must have standard numbering
  • Original illustrations and prints are centered on a page with no text above or below.
  • Page numbers must be centered at the top or bottom of the page.


Dissertations are often of varying lengths depending on the research field and method of analysis used. However, they should explain all the necessary parameters for your research. Finding a balance is key, and you can do that by following these length and formatting guidelines.

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