Dissertation Length Varies
A few years ago, PhD candidate Marcus Beck distracted himself by conducting some research—unrelated to his dissertation—in order to answer some nagging questions he had about the average dissertation. Beck created a computer program that went through his university’s electronic thesis/dissertation database and compiled information on dissertation length.
The graphic above is a representation of what he found. Unsurprisingly, quantitative disciplines like mathematics had the shortest dissertations, some clocking in at fewer than 50 pages. Humanities and social sciences, such as history or anthropology, were much longer, with some dissertations consisting of 400 pages or more.
Dissertation Page Count Probably Doesn’t Measure Much
Aside from the fact that Beck did the research as merely a diversion and sampled information that is obviously unrepresentative of dissertations in general, Beck identified some other important caveats to notice. In the blog post where Beck publicized his data, he makes sure to note that many dissertations are filled with “lots of white space,” such as one-sided pages and double-spacing. Furthermore, the author of a dissertation can fill appendices with any relevant content that she or he wants. Beck estimates that all told, the actual written portion of a dissertation can sometimes account for less than 50% of the total page count. And, of course, quality is always going to be more important than quantity.
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