How Long is a Thesis or Dissertation: College, Grad or PhD

How long is a thesis

How long is a thesis

As a graduate student, you may have heard that you must complete a certain comprehensive project, either a thesis or a dissertation. In this guide, we will explore how long a thesis should be, the best length for a dissertation, and the optimal length for each part of the two.

If you read on to the end, we will also explore the difference between the two with a view of understanding how it informs the length of each.

Both terms have distinct meanings, even though they are sometimes used interchangeably and are frequently confused.

Structure-wise, both papers have an introduction, a literature review, a body, a conclusion, a bibliography, and an appendix. That aside, both papers have some differences as we shall see later on in this article.

How Long should a Thesis be

Before discussing how long a thesis is, it’s critical to understand what it is. A thesis is a paper that marks the end of a study program.

Mostly, there is the undergraduate thesis, a project that marks the end of a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s thesis that marks the end of a master’s program.

A thesis should be around 50 pages long for a bachelor’s degree and 60-100 pages for a Master’s degree. However, the optimal length of a thesis project depends on the instructions from the faculty and the expectations of the supervising professor. The length also depends on the topic’s technicalities and the extent of research done.

How long is a thesis

A master’s thesis project is longer because it is a compilation of all of your obtained knowledge in your master’s degree.

It basically allows you to demonstrate your abilities in your chosen field.

Often, graduate schools require students pursuing research-oriented degrees to write a thesis.

This is to demonstrate their practical skills before completing their degrees

In contrast to undergraduate theses, which are shorter in length and area of coverage, which is usually less than 60 pages. A master’s theses are lengthy scholarly works that allow you to research a certain topic deeply.

Then you are required to write, expand the topic, and demonstrate what you have learned throughout the program. This is part of the reason why you have to write a thesis for some undergrad in some of the courses.

A Master’s thesis necessitates a large amount of research, which may include conducting interviews, surveys, and gathering information ( both primary and secondary) depending on the subject and field of study.

For this reason, the master’s thesis has between 60 and 100 pages, without including the bibliography. Mostly, the topic and research approach determine the length of the paper.

This means that there is no definite number of pages required. However, your thesis should be long enough to clearly and concisely present all of the important information.

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How Long should a Dissertation Be?

A dissertation is a complex and in-depth research paper usually written by Ph.D. students. When writing the dissertation, Ph.D. students are required to create their research, formulate a hypothesis, and conduct the study. The length of the

On average, the length of a dissertation should be at least 90 pages to the minimum and 200 pages on the maximum depending on the guidelines of the faculty and the professor. The optimal length for a dissertation also depends on the depth of the research done, the components of the file, and the level of study.

How long is a dissertation

Most Ph.D. dissertations papers are between 120 to 200 pages on average.

However, as we said earlier, it all depends on factors like the field of study, methods of data collection among others.

Unlike a master’s thesis which is about 100 pages, a dissertation is at least twice this length.

This is because you must develop a completely new concept, study it, research it, and defend it.

In your Ph.D. program, a dissertation allows you the opportunity to bring new knowledge, theories, or practices to your field of study.

The Lengths of each Part of a Thesis and dissertation

SectionsDissertation Thesis
Abstract 500 words300 – 500 words
Introduction 10 – 15 pages5- 10 pages
Literature review 30 – 50 pages10 -20 pages
Methodology10 – 15 pages5-10 pages
Result section  (surveys, tables, interviews) 7 to 10 pages5 – 8 pages
Discussion section (findings, their implications, and limitations)80 to 120 pages40 – 60 pages
Conclusion 15 to 30 pages7 – 15 pages

Factors determining the Length of Thesis or Dissertation

As we have seen, there is no definite length of a thesis and dissertation. Most of these two important academic documents average 100 to 400 pages. However, there are several factors that determine their length.

Universities- we all know universities are independent bodies. Also, it’s important to know that each university is different from the other. As a result, the thesis and dissertation length vary depending on the set rules in a certain college or school.

Field of study- some fields of studies have rich information while others have limited information. For example, you may have a lot to write about or discover when it comes to science as compared to history.

As such, if you are to write a thesis or a dissertation in both fields one will definitely be longer than the other. Check about the time it takes to write a thesis or a dissertation to get more points on that.

Other factors that affect the length of a thesis or a dissertation include your writing style and instructor’s specifications. These factors also come into play when it comes to the time taken to defend a thesis or your dissertation.

Tips for the Optimal Length for a Thesis or Dissertation

Instead of writing for length, write for brevity. The goal is to write the smallest document feasible that has all of the material needed to describe the study and back up the interpretation. Ensure to avoid irrelevant tangents and excessive repetitions at all costs.

The only repetition required is the main theme. It is the working hypothesis that seeks to be elaborated and proved in your paper.

The theme is developed in the introduction, expanded in the body, and mentioned in the abstract, and conclusion.

Here are some tips to write the right length of thesis and dissertation:

  1. Remove any interpretation portion which is only tangentially linked to your new findings. 
  2. Use tables to keep track of information that is repeated.
  3. Include only enough background information for the reader to understand point of view
  4. Make good use of figure captions.
  5. Let the table stand on its own. I.e., do not describe the contents of the figures and/or tables one by one in the text. Instead, highlight the most important patterns, objects, or trends in the figures and tables in the text.
  6. Leave out any observation or results in the text that you haven’t provided data.
  7. Do not include conclusions that aren’t backed up by your findings.
  8. Remove all inconclusive interpretation and discussion portions. 
  9. Avoid unnecessary adjectives, prepositional phrases, and adverbs.
  10. Make your sentences shorter – avoid nesting clauses or phrases.
  11. Avoid idioms and instead use words whose meaning can be looked up in a dictionary.

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Difference between a Thesis and Dissertation

The most basic distinction between a thesis and a dissertation is when they are written. While a thesis is a project completed at the conclusion of a master’s program, a dissertation is completed at the end of doctorate studies.

In a thesis, you present the results of your research to demonstrate that you have a thorough understanding of what you have studied during your master’s program.

On the other hand,  a dissertation is your chance to add new knowledge, theories, or practices to your field while pursuing a doctorate. The goal here is to come up with a completely new concept, develop it, and defend it.

A master’s thesis is similar to the types of research papers you’re used to writing in your bachelor’s studies. It involves conducting research on a topic, analyzing it, and then commenting on your findings and how it applies to your research topic.

The purpose of the thesis is to demonstrate your capacity to think critically about a topic and to explain it in depth.

Furthermore, with a thesis, you typically use this time to elaborate on a topic that is most relevant to your professional’s area of specialization that you intend to pursue.

In a dissertation, on the other hand, you use other people’s research as an inspiration to help you come up with and prove your own hypothesis, idea, or concept. The majority of the data in a dissertation is credited to you.

Last but not least, these two major works differ greatly in length. The average length of a master’s thesis is at least 100 pages.

On the other hand, a doctoral dissertation should be substantially longer because it includes a lot of history and research information, as well as every element of your research while explaining how you arrived at the information.

It is a complex piece of scholarly work, and it is likely to be twice or thrice the length of a thesis. To know the difference, check the best length for a thesis paper and see more about it.

Here is a recap of the differences

  • While the thesis is completed at the end of your master’s degree program, a dissertation is written at the end of your doctoral degree program.
  • Both documents also vary in length. A thesis should have at least 100 pages, while a doctoral dissertation is longer (over 200 pages)
  • In the thesis, you conduct original research, while in the dissertation you use existing research to help you come up with your discovery.
  • For a thesis, you have to add analysis in the existing work, while a dissertation is part of the analysis of the existing work
  • In comparison to a thesis, a dissertation requires more thorough study to expand your research in a certain topic.
  • The statements in a thesis and a dissertation are distinct. While a thesis statement explains to readers how you will prove an argument in your research, a dissertation hypothesis defines and clarifies the outcomes you expect from your study. Here, you apply a theory to explore a certain topic.
  • A dissertation allows you to contribute new knowledge to your field of study, while a thesis makes sure you understand what you have studied in your program and how it applies.


A thesis or a dissertation is a difficult document to compile. However, you should not be worried since your school assigns you a dissertation advisor who is a member of the faculty.

These advisors or supervisors help you find resources and ensure that your proposal is on the right track when you get stuck.

Check out my guide on the differences between research paper, proposal and thesis to understand more on these issues.

Josh Jasen
Josh Jasen
When not handling complex essays and academic writing tasks, Josh is busy advising students on how to pass assignments. In spare time, he loves playing football or walking with his dog around the park.