How Long is a PhD Thesis in the UK?

PhD Theses

27th February 2024

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Embarking on a PhD journey means grappling with many academic questions, including the length of your thesis. It’s a topic that’s often discussed among doctoral candidates and academics alike. So, how long should a PhD thesis be if you are pursuing a doctorate in the UK? Let’s discover all the key aspects that contribute to the length of a doctoral thesis. 

Average Length of a PhD Thesis in the UK

In the UK, PhD theses typically range from 70,000 to 100,000 words on average. This word count covers the main body of the thesis, usually excluding sections like appendices, references, and additional materials.

However, it’s important to note that these figures are more like guidelines than strict rules. The actual length of your thesis can vary depending on factors such as your field of study, research methods, and your university’s specific requirements.

Considering the Ideal Length

When it comes to determining the ideal length for your doctoral thesis, there are several things to keep in mind:

  • Disciplinary Differences: Different academic disciplines have different expectations when it comes to thesis length. For example, scientific fields may have longer theses due to the extensive data and analysis involved, while subjects like philosophy or literature might lean towards shorter theses that focus on concise arguments.
  • Complexity of Research: The complexity of your research topic will also play a role in determining the length of your thesis. More complex projects with extensive literature reviews, methodologies, and analyses may naturally result in longer theses.
  • Quality Matters Most: Ultimately, the quality of your thesis is more important than its length. A well-written, concise thesis that presents original research findings and contributes meaningfully to your field is far more valuable than one that simply meets a word count requirement.
  • Institutional Guidelines: Your university or department will likely have specific guidelines regarding thesis length and formatting. It’s important to familiarise yourself with these guidelines and ensure that your thesis meets the institution’s requirements. For example, in the rules for submission of theses for research degrees, the University of Reading states that:

    “The length of a thesis should not normally be greater than 90,000 words for PhD, 60,000 words for MPhil, and 30,000 words for LLM. A thesis may be no more than five percent over the limit. The word count excludes the appendices, the bibliography and any bibliographical material contained within the footnotes. It is acceptable for the length of the thesis to be somewhat shorter for an EngD, EdD, DBA and DAgriFood degree than for a PhD.”

Crafting Your Thesis

As you work on your PhD thesis, here are some tips to help you strike the right balance:

  • Stay Focused: Clearly define your research question and stay focused on it throughout your thesis. This will help you maintain clarity and coherence in your arguments.
  • Edit and Revise: Take the time to edit and revise your thesis carefully. Remove any unnecessary content and ensure that every word serves a purpose in advancing your argument.
  • Seek Feedback: Don’t hesitate to seek feedback from your supervisor, peers, and other experts in your field. Their insights can help you improve the quality and clarity of your thesis.
  • Be Creative: Explore innovative approaches and methodologies in your research. Embrace interdisciplinary perspectives and think creatively about how you can contribute to your field in a meaningful way.

Beyond Word Counts: Crafting a PhD Thesis of Substance

In the end, while the length of your PhD thesis is important, it’s ultimately the depth of your research and the impact of your findings that will define its value. So, focus on producing a high-quality thesis that reflects your scholarly contributions and advances knowledge in your field.

Need help throughout your PhD journey? From refining your research question to comprehensive Viva assistance, our team is committed to supporting you in your academic journey. Learn more about our PhD services.