University College London Featured PhD Programmes
University of Warwick Featured PhD Programmes
University College London Featured PhD Programmes
University of Dundee Featured PhD Programmes
Life Science Zurich Graduate School Featured PhD Programmes

PhD Discussion Forum

The following thread is brought to you by our sister Web site If you wish to reply or post your own thread, you will be redirected to this site.

This Category: > PhD Advice / Support


How long do thesis chapters tend to be

User: walminskipeasucker - 03 September 2009 15:52

I'm currently writing chapters for my thesis, as I analyse data. The thing is, my lit review chapter is a hundred pages long and a theoretical framework chapter only 7 pages long. So, I'd just like to ask, for anyone who's writing chapters at the moment, how many words or pages they are tending to be. It might be a silly question really - it's more for reassurance. Thank you.

User: omega_monkey - 03 September 2009 16:08

The chapters in my thesis varies. The shortest was the intro which was 5 pages. My lit review was only 15 pages!! The main three chapters were all 60 pages (about 11,000 words).
What does your supervisor say.
I was worried about my Lit review but my supervisor said it was fine

User: sneaks - 03 September 2009 16:08

I posted on lit review length last week and was shouted at and told mine was too long :-(

My lit review (draft version) will be about 60,000 words, but it looks like my final version will be more like 30-35,000. I have no idea about methods chapters/analyses. I tend to be quite succinct so I can imagine a struggle to expand them with stuff I don't feel is necessary.

User: BilboBaggins - 03 September 2009 16:16

Dunleavy has things to say about this in his "Authoring a PhD" book. Generally he recommends that chapters come in at about 10,000 words. They can be shorter, or longer, but that's about the ideal length he believes, both for the writer to make them properly structured and work well, and for the reader to digest. That's the length all mine came in at, give or take a bit, but that's as much coincidence and happenstance as by design!

User: sneaks - 03 September 2009 16:18

I think it must depend on the subject area though. I guess in the end its what makes it readable - put yourself in the place of the poor external who has to wade through it all. I have a meeting with my sup on monday who will probably tell me my whole summer of writing was a complete waste of time - oh well!

User: walminskipeasucker - 03 September 2009 19:38

Thanks for putting me at ease. I've submitted some of the chapters to my supervisors and they haven't said too much about the lengths of what I have written - just the occasional mumble about how some of it could be two chapters and so forth. At least I'm writing now I suppose, so it'll be there when I actually come to putting my thesis together proper. The thing is, I have so much more 'crap' to write about yet, so there's going to be some SERIOUS editing a little later down the line, there'll have to be. God (not to take the good man's name in vain), I have such a mountain to climb this coming year...

BTW, Sneaks - I'm sure your supervisor won't say anything like that. When I get 'constructive' criticism from mine over my writing, they always say: 'Nothing you write is ever wasted!' Hmm, whatever they mean by that, it doesn't feel like it to me!

User: sneaks - 04 September 2009 09:16

yeah - but I have just written my lit review and I am starting my 3rd year - so I am sure she will just say I need to stop writing rubbish and get on with it lol. Oh well - I only get about 2 sup meetings a year so after that I can hide again until after xmas.

User: rick - 04 September 2009 13:45

Hi Walminski..

to me it seems a lot, a literature review of a hundred pages, do you not think so ? How many pages / words do you think your whole thesis is going to be?Obviously you can always still summarise the review. My gut feeling would be that if your theoretical framework is about 7 pages, that the literature review should be something similar, perhaps 7 - 15 pages?


User: sneaks - 04 September 2009 14:03

how about a simple compromise - 1.5 space it rather than double space :-)

User: joyce - 04 September 2009 20:53

I think the idea is that the chapters should be of similar length so the whole thing reads well. So maybe you could divide the chapter you have into two? Perhaps one is more like an introduction? have you sorted out your overall structure of your thesis and decided what goes where? My thesis is going to have an introduction/lit review chapter but each chapter in the main body will have its own mini review. At least thats what I am aiming for at the moment!

User: walminskipeasucker - 04 September 2009 23:33

Joyce, Sneaks and Rick, thanks for you insights. It's definitely too long at 100 pages, and I think I'm going to divide it up. My work is dastardly mixed methods that integrates a lot of different techniques and that is reflected in the literature review. As Joyce says, I'm going to divide it up into separate chapters - it makes the most sense - and just make sure it flows and reads okay. Somebody below (sorry I've forgotten the poster, but thank you) said that the average chapter length should be 10, 000 words according Dunleavy - but there's no way I can see this happening, because my research just isn't working out like that. Ah well, onwards and upwards... :-)

User: sneaks - 05 September 2009 07:24

Mine is like that - lots of different areas to cover - looks like I might take the same advice and change it in to 2-3 chapters rather than 2 big ones.

User: rubyw - 05 September 2009 08:37

======= Date Modified 05 Sep 2009 08:40:06 =======
======= Date Modified 05 Sep 2009 08:39:00 =======

You might not be always able to divide a long chapter up into two, as it might not work for your argument. I started off intending to have about 10,000 words for each, but when I started writing it up everything changed! One became 14,000 while another was about 6,000. I had to justify why the chapter lengths were variable in my methods chapter, in case it looked a bit dodgy to the examiners. I realised that my actual source material (data) varied a lot in quantity for different chapters because of the methodology I'd used. Plus some chapters were able to answer my main research questions ok in a relatively small wordcount, so after that I was in danger of duplicating what I'd said just to pad it out for equal chapter lengths. If chapter lengths vary because it's necessary to answer your central research questions then it seems justifiable.

Readability is another thing, maybe you could split a long one into two sections if it should logically stay like that - part one and part two - so the reader doesn't lose the thread? Or could you put some material into an appendix?

User: phdbug - 05 September 2009 15:29

Quote From sneaks:

yeah - but I have just written my lit review and I am starting my 3rd year - so I am sure she will just say I need to stop writing rubbish and get on with it lol. Oh well - I only get about 2 sup meetings a year so after that I can hide again until after xmas.
sneaks, are u full time? or even if part time how are u managing with just 2 meetings a year? Isnt it too little?

User: sneaks - 05 September 2009 16:25

Full time bug. But I tend to work very independently. I am have email contact with my sup, and I see her around the department in term time, but an actual meeting to discuss progress etc is about twice a year, once in sep and then once in about march. But I always have plenty to do and it all seems to be in the right direction.

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2019
All rights reserved.