How Long Is a Dissertation? Practical Dissertation Length Guide

How long is a dissertation paper? This is a common question for many doctoral students and college students upon receiving an essay assignment. 

To vaguely answer your question, a dissertation should be as long as needed to answer the essay question. However, this vague answer, which is common among professors and some experts, barely guides students in writing their essays. 

Here, we will guide you in analyzing your paper to determine the ideal Ph.D. dissertation length. 

What is the average dissertation length?

Dissertations range between 30-200 pages depending on the level of study, field, and complexity of the topic. However, various institutions will prescribe their preferred length of the dissertation to achieve a standard paper and ensure that each candidate prepares quality work.

It is thus ideal to engage your tutor and other candidates to establish the standard length prescribed by your institution. While many students ruminate over the dissertation length, some experts recommend that you focus less on the word count and focus on covering your study topic in detail. 

From this perspective, your paper should reach the ideal word count if each section is well handled, increasing the chances of acceptance by the examining panel. We however recommend that you strike a balance between the content covered and the recommended word count. 

When determining your essay length, put into consideration the:

  • University guidelines
  • Tutor’s instructions
  • Amount of content required to exhaust a given topic

How Long is a Dissertation Paper? 

From the previous section, we can deduce that institutions serve as guidance on the ideal length of a dissertation. We thus recommend that you analyze your topic and prepare a dissertation outline first before diving into the writing stage.

Submit your outline to your tutor for analysis of how well the paper addresses the topic within the range accommodated by your faculty. This feedback will help you gauge the breadth of your paper, improving the likelihood of acceptance by the examining panel.

Institutional guidelines

Some institutions may offer guidelines e.g. chapter two should range between 35-50 pages. These guidelines ensure that you don’t overburden the faculty and also that you maintain a quality dissertation standard. 

Some institutions may offer a guideline where you can enter the ideas under various sections and determine how your work fits in with the recommended essay length. 

How long is a dissertation chapter?

Establishing the total essay length is usually part of the puzzle for many students. Determining how to allocate these words to various sections can prove a major challenge. 

Here, we will highlight the word count for various sections to help you determine the amount of information you should cover under each section. 


This portion of your essay covers the key idea of your paper and shows the hypothesis, thesis statement, and key argument corroborating your findings. This section usually ranges between 250-350 words and should be written in prose form.

Dissertation introduction length 

This section should usher your reader into the topic under discussion and cover the reasons as to why the topic is important, and the background study of your argument.

As such, your introduction justifies your study and introduces your thesis statement. This section should range between 10-15 pages to capture your readers’ attention without disclosing your argument. The intro should thus serve as a teaser to hook your reader to read your entire paper.

Dissertation paper length: the body 

The body makes the bulk of your doctoral dissertation paper as it includes all essential portions to introduce your argument and analyze various pieces of evidence that support your hypothesis. The body of your paper comprises:

Literature review

This section should analyze your sources for their strengths and weaknesses and their relevance to the topic. The section should range between 20-25 pages.


This is a key section of your doctoral dissertation. The methodology should highlight the methods used to prove/ test your hypothesis and highlight the criteria used to find your sample group. 

Next, outline the procedure for your experiment in a manner that can be easily replicated and includes the challenges encountered and the remedy for these challenges. All this information should be presented in a concise manner and range between 10-15 pages.

Results section

This portion comprises charts and other data that was collected from your experiment. Together with a summary of your findings, the results section should not exceed ten pages. 

Discussion section

The discussion makes the bulk of your paper, with various elements coming together to show your argument and supplement your claims with your sources. This section may range between 15-20 pages depending on the scope of your argument. 

Dissertation conclusion length

As the final section of your paper, the introduction should sum up your argument and cover the implications of your research. You could also cover some counterarguments and highlight how your research dispels these claims. 

Overall, the conclusion should not exceed fifteen pages of your dissertation.

Final take

Determining the ideal dissertation page length often proves a daunting task for students. However, this manual should help you with your paper and guide your research as you work toward a quality paper. 

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