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Harvard University - The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Harvard University - The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Formatting Your Dissertation

On this page:

Language of the Dissertation

Page and text requirements, body of text, tables, figures, and captions, dissertation acceptance certificate, copyright statement.

Front and Back Matter

Supplemental material, dissertations comprising previously published works, top ten formatting errors, further questions.

Related Contacts and Forms

When preparing the dissertation for submission, students must follow strict formatting requirements. Any deviation from these requirements may lead to rejection of the dissertation and delay in the conferral of the degree.

The language of the dissertation is ordinarily English, although some departments whose subject matter involves foreign languages may accept a dissertation written in a language other than English.

Most dissertations are 100 to 300 pages in length. All dissertations should be divided into appropriate sections, and long dissertations may need chapters, main divisions, and subdivisions.

At least 1 inch for all margins

Body of text: double spacing

Block quotations, footnotes, and bibliographies: single spacing within each entry but double spacing between each entry

Table of contents, list of tables, list of figures or illustrations, and lengthy tables: single spacing may be used


Use 10-12 point size. Fonts must be embedded in the PDF file to ensure all characters display correctly. 

Recommended Fonts

If you are unsure whether your chosen font will display correctly, use one of the following fonts: 

If fonts are not embedded, non-English characters may not appear as intended. Fonts embedded improperly will be published to DASH as-is. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that fonts are embedded properly prior to submission. 

Instructions for Embedding Fonts

To embed your fonts in recent versions of word, follow these instructions from microsoft:.

Click the File tab and then click Options .

In the left column, select the Save tab.

At the bottom, under Preserve fidelity when sharing this document , select the Embed fonts in the file check box.

Clear the Do not embed common system fonts check box.

For reference, below are some instructions from ProQuest UMI for embedding fonts in older file formats:

To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2010:

In the File pull-down menu click on Options .

Choose Save on the left sidebar.

Note that when saving as a PDF, make sure to go to “more options” and save as “PDF/A compliant”

To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2007:

Using Microsoft Word on a Mac:

Microsoft Word 2008 on a Mac OS X computer will automatically embed your fonts while converting your document to a PDF file.

If you are converting to PDF using Acrobat Professional (instructions courtesy of the Graduate Thesis Office at Iowa State University):  

The font used in the body of the text must also be used in headers, page numbers, and footnotes. Exceptions are made only for tables and figures created with different software and inserted into the document.

Tables and figures must be placed as close as possible to their first mention in the text. They may be placed on a page with no text above or below, or they may be placed directly into the text. If a table or a figure is alone on a page (with no narrative), it should be centered within the margins on the page. Tables may take up more than one page as long as they obey all rules about margins. Tables and figures referred to in the text may not be placed at the end of the chapter or at the end of the dissertation.

Given the standards of the discipline, dissertations in the Department of History of Art and Architecture and the Department of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning often place illustrations at the end of the dissertation.

Figure and table numbering must be continuous throughout the dissertation or by chapter (e.g., 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, etc.). Two figures or tables cannot be designated with the same number. If you have repeating images that you need to cite more than once, label them with their number and A, B, etc. 

Headings should be placed at the top of tables. While no specific rules for the format of table headings and figure captions are required, a consistent format must be used throughout the dissertation (contact your department for style manuals appropriate to the field).

Captions should appear at the bottom of any figures. If the figure takes up the entire page, the caption should be placed alone on the preceding page, centered vertically and horizontally within the margins.

Each page receives a separate page number. When a figure or table title is on a preceding page, the second and subsequent pages of the figure or table should say, for example, “Figure 5 (Continued).” In such an instance, the list of figures or tables will list the page number containing the title. The word “figure” should be written in full (not abbreviated), and the “F” should be capitalized (e.g., Figure 5). In instances where the caption continues on a second page, the “(Continued)” notation should appear on the second and any subsequent page. The figure/table and the caption are viewed as one entity and the numbering should show correlation between all pages. Each page must include a header.

Landscape orientation figures and tables must be positioned correctly and bound at the top so that the top of the figure or table will be at the left margin. Figure and table headings/captions are placed with the same orientation as the figure or table when on the same page. When on a separate page, headings/captions are always placed in portrait orientation, regardless of the orientation of the figure or table. Page numbers are always placed as if the figure were vertical on the page.

If a graphic artist does the figures, GSAS will accept lettering done by the artist only within the figure. Figures done with software are acceptable if the figures are clear and legible. Legends and titles done by the same process as the figures will be accepted if they too are clear, legible, and run at least 10 or 12 characters per inch. Otherwise, legends and captions should be printed with the same font used in the text.

Original illustrations, photographs, and fine arts prints may be scanned and included, centered between the margins on a page with no text above or below.

Use of Third-Party Content

In addition to the student's own writing, dissertations often contain third-party content or in-copyright content owned by parties other than you, the student who authored the dissertation. The Office for Scholarly Communication recommends consulting the information below about fair use, which allows individuals to use in-copyright content, on a limited basis and for specific purposes, without seeking permission from copyright holders.

Because your dissertation will be made available for online distribution through DASH , Harvard's open-access repository, it is important that any third-party content in it may be made available in this way.

Fair Use and Copyright 

What is fair use?

Fair use is a provision in copyright law that allows the use of a certain amount of copyrighted material without seeking permission. Fair use is format- and media-agnostic. This means fair use may apply to images (including photographs, illustrations, and paintings), quoting at length from literature, videos, and music regardless of the format. 

How do I determine whether my use of an image or other third-party content in my dissertation is fair use?  

There are four factors you will need to consider when making a fair use claim.

1) For what purpose is your work going to be used?

Nonprofit, educational, scholarly, or research use favors fair use. Commercial, non-educational uses, often do not favor fair use.

A transformative use (repurposing or recontextualizing the in-copyright material) favors fair use. Examining, analyzing, and explicating the material in a meaningful way, so as to enhance a reader's understanding, strengthens your fair use argument. In other words, can you make the point in the thesis without using, for instance, an in-copyright image? Is that image necessary to your dissertation? If not, perhaps, for copyright reasons, you should not include the image.  

2) What is the nature of the work to be used?

Published, fact-based content favors fair use and includes scholarly analysis in published academic venues. 

Creative works, including artistic images, are afforded more protection under copyright, and depending on your use in light of the other factors, may be less likely to favor fair use; however, this does not preclude considerations of fair use for creative content altogether.

3) How much of the work is going to be used?  

Small, or less significant, amounts favor fair use. A good rule of thumb is to use only as much of the in-copyright content as necessary to serve your purpose. Can you use a thumbnail rather than a full-resolution image? Can you use a black-and-white photo instead of color? Can you quote select passages instead of including several pages of the content? These simple changes bolster your fair use of the material.

4) What potential effect on the market for that work may your use have?

If there is a market for licensing this exact use or type of educational material, then this weighs against fair use. If however, there would likely be no effect on the potential commercial market, or if it is not possible to obtain permission to use the work, then this favors fair use. 

For further assistance with fair use, consult the Office for Scholarly Communication's guide, Fair Use: Made for the Harvard Community and the Office of the General Counsel's Copyright and Fair Use: A Guide for the Harvard Community .

What are my options if I don’t have a strong fair use claim? 

Consider the following options if you find you cannot reasonably make a fair use claim for the content you wish to incorporate:

Seek permission from the copyright holder. 

Use openly licensed content as an alternative to the original third-party content you intended to use. Openly-licensed content grants permission up-front for reuse of in-copyright content, provided your use meets the terms of the open license.

Use content in the public domain, as this content is not in-copyright and is therefore free of all copyright restrictions. Whereas third-party content is owned by parties other than you, no one owns content in the public domain; everyone, therefore, has the right to use it.

For use of images in your dissertation, please consult this guide to Finding Public Domain & Creative Commons Media , which is a great resource for finding images without copyright restrictions. 

Who can help me with questions about copyright and fair use?

Contact your Copyright First Responder . Please note, Copyright First Responders assist with questions concerning copyright and fair use, but do not assist with the process of obtaining permission from copyright holders.

Pages should be assigned a number except for the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate . Preliminary pages (abstract, table of contents, list of tables, graphs, illustrations, and preface) should use small Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). All pages must contain text or images.  

Count the title page as page i and the copyright page as page ii, but do not print page numbers on either page .

For the body of text, use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) starting with page 1 on the first page of text. Page numbers must be centered throughout the manuscript at the top or bottom. Every numbered page must be consecutively ordered, including tables, graphs, illustrations, and bibliography/index (if included); letter suffixes (such as 10a, 10b, etc.) are not allowed. It is customary not to have a page number on the page containing a chapter heading.

Check pagination carefully. Account for all pages.

A copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC) should appear as the first page. This page should not be counted or numbered. The DAC will appear in the online version of the published dissertation.

The dissertation begins with the title page; the title should be as concise as possible and should provide an accurate description of the dissertation.

A copyright notice should appear on a separate page immediately following the title page and include the copyright symbol ©, the year of first publication of the work, and the name of the author:

© [ year ] [ Author’s Name ] All rights reserved.

Alternatively, students may choose to license their work openly under a  Creative Commons  license. The author remains the copyright holder while at the same time granting up-front permission to others to read, share, and (depending on the license) adapt the work, so long as proper attribution is given. (By default, under copyright law, the author reserves all rights; under a Creative Commons license, the author reserves some rights.)

An abstract, numbered as page  iii , should immediately follow the copyright page and should state the problem, describe the methods and procedures used, and give the main results or conclusions of the research. The abstract will appear in the online and bound versions of the dissertation and will be published by ProQuest. There is no maximum word count for the abstract. 

Dissertations divided into sections must contain a table of contents that lists, at minimum, the major headings in the following order:

Front matter includes (if applicable):

acknowledgements of help or encouragement from individuals or institutions

a dedication

a list of illustrations or tables

a glossary of terms

one or more epigraphs.

Back matter includes (if applicable):


supplemental materials, including figures and tables

an index (in rare instances).

Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the end of the dissertation in an appendix, not within or at the end of a chapter. If additional digital information (including audio, video, image, or datasets) will accompany the main body of the dissertation, it should be uploaded as a supplemental file through ProQuest ETD . Supplemental material will be available in DASH and ProQuest and preserved digitally in the Harvard University Archives.

As a matter of copyright, dissertations comprising the student's previously published works must be authorized for distribution from DASH. The guidelines in this section pertain to any previously published material that requires permission from publishers or other rightsholders before it may be distributed from DASH. Please note:

Authors whose publishing agreements grant the publisher exclusive rights to display, distribute, and create derivative works will need to seek the publisher's permission for nonexclusive use of the underlying works before the dissertation may be distributed from DASH.

Authors whose publishing agreements indicate the authors have retained the relevant nonexclusive rights to the original materials for display, distribution, and the creation of derivative works may distribute the dissertation as a whole from DASH without need for further permissions.

It is recommended that authors consult their publishing agreements directly to determine whether and to what extent they may have transferred exclusive rights under copyright. The Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) is available to help the author determine whether she has retained the necessary rights or requires permission. Please note, however, the Office of Scholarly Communication is not able to assist with the permissions process itself.

Missing Dissertation Acceptance Certificate.  The first page of the PDF dissertation file should be a scanned copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC). This page should not be counted or numbered as a part of the dissertation pagination.

Conflicts Between the DAC and the Title Page.  The DAC and the dissertation title page must match exactly, meaning that the author name and the title on the title page must match that on the DAC. If you use your full middle name or just an initial on one document, it must be the same on the other document.  

Abstract Formatting Errors. The advisor name should be left-justified, and the author's name should be right-justified. Up to two advisor names are allowed. The Abstract should be double spaced and include the page title “Abstract,” as well as the page number “iii.” There is no maximum word count for the abstract. 


 The front matter should be numbered using Roman numerals (iii, iv, v, …). The title page and the copyright page should be counted but not numbered. The first printed page number should appear on the Abstract page (iii). 

The body of the dissertation should be numbered using Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, …). The first page of the body of the text should begin with page 1. Pagination may not continue from the front matter. 

All page numbers should be centered either at the top or the bottom of the page.

Figures and tables Figures and tables must be placed within the text, as close to their first mention as possible. Figures and tables that span more than one page must be labeled on each page. Any second and subsequent page of the figure/table must include the “(Continued)” notation. This applies to figure captions as well as images. Each page of a figure/table must be accounted for and appropriately labeled. All figures/tables must have a unique number. They may not repeat within the dissertation.

Horizontal Figures and Tables 

Any figures/tables placed in a horizontal orientation must be placed with the top of the figure/ table on the left-hand side. The top of the figure/table should be aligned with the spine of the dissertation when it is bound. 

Page numbers must be placed in the same location on all pages of the dissertation, centered, at the bottom or top of the page. Page numbers may not appear under the table/ figure.

Supplemental Figures and Tables. Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the back of the dissertation in an appendix. They should not be placed at the back of the chapter. 

Permission Letters Copyright. permission letters must be uploaded as a supplemental file, titled ‘do_not_publish_permission_letters,” within the dissertation submission tool.

 DAC Attachment. The signed Dissertation Acceptance Certificate must additionally be uploaded as a document in the "Administrative Documents" section when submitting in Proquest ETD . Dissertation submission is not complete until all documents have been received and accepted.

Overall Formatting. The entire document should be checked after all revisions, and before submitting online, to spot any inconsistencies or PDF conversion glitches.

You can view dissertations successfully published from your department in DASH . This is a great place to check for specific formatting and area-specific conventions.

Contact the  Office of Student Affairs  with further questions.


Office of Student Affairs


How Many Words In A Dissertation? [A Word Count Guide]

When students begin writing a dissertation, the first thing they look for is the dissertation’s structure and breakdown.

How Many Words In A Dissertation? [A Word Count Guide]

It can be much easier to write a dissertation if you are aware of how many words each chapter should contain. 

One of the most frequent mistakes students make when writing their dissertations is underwriting or overwriting. 

Because of this, it’s critical to establish up front the recommended word count for each chapter of the dissertation. 

Because it gives you the foundation for writing a dissertation, the format and breakdown of the number of words are as crucial to dissertation writing as a building’s plan or a map.

Each institution also has its own standards and regulations.

Your professor should provide you a dissertation writing prompt or dissertation template if you are required to write a dissertation. 

You may then create your schedule taking into account the specifics of the word count for each of the sections.

The university where you are enrolled sets the dissertation word limit, and the length of a master’s dissertation may differ from that of a doctoral dissertation or an undergraduate dissertation.

Most dissertations have a word count of between 10,000 and 15,000 words, however some can exceed 30,000 words.

This article will discuss how to format and complete your dissertation according to word count guidelines based on a 10,000 word dissertation.

What Is A Dissertation?

In comparison to essays or reports, a dissertation is a longer piece of writing that calls for more research and wider reading.

The dissertation gives you the chance to explore a subject that interests you from planning to conclusion. 

Additionally, it will provide you the chance to show off and develop particular abilities that are highly valued by both prospective companies and university admissions.

Along with critical thinking and writing skills, this also involves problem-solving and time-management abilities.

There are two main sorts of dissertations: those with primary research components, which call for you to collect your own data, and those with secondary research components, which rely on data gathered by other researchers.

You get the chance to conduct study on a subject that interests you in a dissertation.

You can get ideas from a variety of places, such as a recent news story you watched, recent advancements in your area of study, an experience at work, or a personal agenda. 

Whatever the subject, you need to make absolutely sure it will hold your interest for a long time, that you can finish it by the deadline, and that you are able to contribute something unique to your industry. 

Now you know the basics of what a dissertation is, let’s look at how to structure it in terms of the word count.

Introduction: 1000 Words

An introduction is the first major chapter of a dissertation. A dissertation’s initial chapter makes up 10% of the entire document.

The first section of the dissertation should be 1000 words long if it will be 10,000 words in length. 

You must establish your study topic, present your research questions, declare the dissertation’s aims, and give a general summary of the dissertation’s structure in these 1000 words.

Literature Review: 3000 Words

A dissertation’s literature review chapter makes up 30% of the entire document.

The dissertation’s chapter on literature review will be 3000 words long in a 10,000 word dissertation. 

You must explore the gap in the existing literature, adopt a methodological stance toward the subject, suggest potential answers to unanswered issues, and, with the aid of the new data, strengthen the body of current knowledge pertinent to the dissertation topic idea in these 3000 words.

Research Methodology: 1500 Words

Research Methodology: 1500 Words

A dissertation’s research technique chapter makes up 15% of the entire document.

The research technique chapter of a 10,000 word dissertation should be 1500 words long. 

You must describe the dissertation’s overall format and organization in around 1500 words, as well as examine the data in great detail and give a thorough explanation of how the research techniques were evaluated.

Results: 500 Words

A dissertation’s results or findings chapter makes up 5% of the entire document.

The conclusions or results part of a 10,000 word dissertation is 500 words long.

A student’s analysis of a dissertation’s findings must go into great detail in these 500 words.

Analysis/Discussion: 3000 Words

A dissertation’s analysis and discussion chapter makes up 30% of the entire document.

The analysis and discussion chapter of the dissertation should be 3000 words long, just like the literature review.

You must give a thorough overview of the consequences of the findings that are pertinent to the dissertation’s central issue in these 3000 words.

Conclusion And Suggestions: 1000 Words

A dissertation’s conclusions and suggestions chapter makes up 10% of the entire dissertation.

The conclusions and suggestions chapter of a 10,000 word dissertation is 1000 words long.

You must summarize your dissertation’s main ideas in these 1000 words. The dissertation’s last chapter should leave the reader with a clear comprehension of the thesis.

References Section

To prevent plagiarism, students must cite reliable sources in their writing. The references section is not usually included in the word count specified by the university. 

The amount of references is typically not capped by universities because it relies on the body of literature on a particular subject. 

You shouldn’t, however, overlook any study or research project in your field.

To support your theory and demonstrate the importance and necessity of your study topic, you must verify the most recent references. 

For the literature review chapter, you also require books, journals, research papers, and previously published pieces.

Final Thoughts

A major and extensive research project on a particular subject is the dissertation.

A dissertation is typically required of a student during his final year of study. The topic for the student’s dissertation might be chosen in accordance with his interests. 

After deciding on a topic for your dissertation, you must thoroughly research it. Working with an advisor is essential for students completing undergraduate dissertations. 

The requirements and instructions of the advisor must therefore be followed by the students as they create their dissertation, including the word count limitations. 

When you’re asked to complete a dissertation, instructions on how to do so are given. The word limit of the dissertation is mentioned in these recommendations. 

Reading your advisor’s prerequisites and guidelines and following the structure outlined above is the best way to adhere to the word count specified.

Alan Reiner

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How To Reduce Word Count In Your Dissertation, Thesis Or Academics Assignments

(without losing those precious marks).

If you follow some of the advice on this blog, chances are one of your biggest challenges is keeping your academic writing projects within the specified word count limits. It’s a good problem to have (at least compared to having not enough to say), and in this post, I’ll discuss 4 steps to reduce word count without risking losing marks.

how to reduce word count in a dissertation

First things first – write to think.

Before I get started, it’s worth making an important point regarding writing in general. There are essentially two ways to think about the process of writing :

Which side of the fence do you sit on? I’m an avid advocate of the latter perspective and approach – and I’m not alone. Numerous books and journal articles have covered the topic of “writing as thinking”. If the idea interests you, have a look at Henning’s “Finding your way in academic writing.”

In short, putting pen to paper as early as possible (i.e. before you feel “ready”) and then revising as your thoughts develop (as a result of writing) is an excellent way to improve the overall quality of your arguments and academic work. To do this, you cannot constantly fret over word count (at least not while you’re writing). Instead, you need to let the words flow onto paper, and then sort the wheat from the chaff at a later stage. Sure, you need some constraints, but forcing yourself to apply X model within 350 words is going to stifle your flow and limit your depth. Rather let your thoughts flow onto paper, and then trim them down once your thinking is fully fleshed out.

a dissertation word count

What does this have to do with reducing your word count? It means that word count reduction (particularly, the techniques I’ll cover below) is something you do once you’ve wrapped up your writing, not while you write . Accordingly, all the steps I’ll propose here are to be applied after the fact.

Right, let’s get into it. Follow these 4 steps (in this order) to strategically reduce your word count without losing the “meat” of your assignment/dissertation.

Step 1: Audit for purely descriptive content.

Broadly speaking, content can fall into one of two categories – descriptive or analytical.  Simply put, descriptive content eludes to the “what”, whereas analytical content describes the impact and consequence of the event/factor/situation – in other words, the “so what”. The table below highlights some of the differences between the two:

Descriptive vs analytical writing

Ideally, you should try to keep your discussion analytical, rather than descriptive ( read more about this here ). There’s always be a need for some descriptive content, but ideally, this should be limited to only that content which forms the foundation for analytical content. Therefore, the first step of word count reduction is to audit for descriptive content which does not lead to analytical content . In other words, content which is purely descriptive, and is not required to get to the “so what?” content.

Read through your dissertation/thesis/assignment and trim out all content that doesn’t make the analytical cut , or doesn’t form a foundation for analysis. This is your first target – be aggressive with your trimming. Descriptive writing is pure fat and will not earn you marks – kill it!

Step 2: Audit for content which does not contribute towards answering your research question(s).

One of the reasons that it’s so important to set unambiguous research questions in your introduction is that this practice allows you to ringfence the focus of your work. In other words, it helps you to narrow the discussion to only that which is most relevant.

That said, as you write, you will invariably produce a fair deal of content that does not contribute towards your research questions. You’ll naturally digress into an interesting but irrelevant discussion about A, B and C – this might be very intellectually satisfying, but it doesn’t contribute to answering your research question. Therefore, this sort of content is your next target. Re-read your document from start to finish through the lens of your research questions or objectives. That which does not in some way contribute to answering the research question(s) or achieving the objective(s) must go .

Step 3: Audit for overly-detailed section summaries.

A good piece of academic writing should always feature summary paragraphs that link the end of one section/chapter to the beginning of the next. They should do this by summarising the key points of the former to the direction and purpose of the latter. For example:

“In this section, the analysis revealed that the key contributors to the issue included A, B and C. Accordingly, these factors will be analysed in the next chapter.”

By stating this link very clearly, you help the reader (marker) to understand your argument (which is, after all, completely new to them), which in turn helps you earn marks. Therefore, these summary sections are important. However, they can become wordy and repetitive, and you should, therefore, audit them.

Make sure that they are summarising only the absolute highlights of your argument and providing a clear, well-justified link to the next section. Don’t restate your entire chapter. The example above is what you should aim for, namely:

If you are extremely over word count, you may even consider removing these sections altogether. After all, it is better to remove summary content than core content. This should, however, be an absolute last resort as doing so can seriously reduce the overall flow of your document and blur the “golden thread” of your argument(s).

Step 4: Audit for wordy, bloated discussion.

This is the easiest of the four steps, and typically what most students look for when trying to reduce word count – but it usually has a comparatively minor impact. Therefore, I’m positioning it as the last step.

Naturally, your dissertation, thesis or assignment document will contain sections which are just plain wordy. This is a result of “writing as thinking” (whether you agree with the approach or not!). Therefore, the last step is to audit for sentences and paragraphs which are just plain wordy and rewrite them more concisely.

How to write concisely

Some common trimming opportunities:

Wrapping up.

There you have it – four steps to reduce your word count without losing your core arguments. To recap, you need to:

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Dissertation word count breakdown.

a dissertation word count

Table of Contents

Dissertation Word Count and breakdown– How To Follow The Assigned Word Limit Easily?

Underwriting or overwriting; are two of the most common errors that students make while composing their dissertations..

That is why it is important to know from the beginning how much the dissertation word count of each of the chapters should be. After you have the details of the word count of each of the sections, you can then design your schedule accordingly.

The dissertation word limit is allotted by the university where you study and the Master’s Dissertation word count may vary from undergraduate dissertation word count or the Ph.D. dissertation word count.

Mostly the dissertation word length is between 10,000 words to 15,000 words but some may even go up to the level of 30,000 words.

dissertation word count breakdown

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But despite the total dissertation word count allotted, the main problem begins when students have to break down that word ratio into the headings of the dissertation . Here they make the common error of writing more words for a section that can be explained in less count and less count for a section that deserves more words.

So what is the solution to that problem?

Well, there are many online dissertation word count breakdown calculator websites available that can help you in that aspect. One advantage that they have is that they give an option to select degree level and word count is given accordingly.

But a disadvantage that they serve is that not all of those calculators may be accurate.

So what to do now?

Below mentioned is the dissertation word count breakdown based on the 10,000-word limit. Since we are also giving you the percentage of each section, you can also adjust it according to your allotted word count.


This section is the first that is placed in your dissertation and consists of 10% of your total dissertation word count breakdown which can sum it up to 1000 words. It usually consists of the entire ‘Whys’ in your research.

Literature Review

This section consists of an understanding of the problem by analyzing the past issues. It usually consists of 25% of the total word count which is 2500 words.


This part usually answers the question ‘how it is done and can sum up to 15-20% of the total word count which will be 1500 to 2000 in this case.

Data Presentation

The data collected in the previous section will be presented here and can amount to up to 15% of the word count which is 1500 in this case.

Discussion, Analysis, and Data Interpretation

Here, you will comment on the findings of the data that you have found and will consist of 15-20% which is 1500 to 2000 in this case.

Summary, Conclusion, and recommendations

This is the last section of the dissertation and will consist of your suggestions on the topic of your research. This will be 15% of the entire dissertation which is 1500 words.

Hence, follow the above-mentioned word count and their percentage and you will be able to schedule your dissertation word count in no time.

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Thesis word count and format

Three months ago you considered whether you required a restriction to the access of your thesis, and you submitted your ‘Approval of Research Degree Thesis Title’ form. You’ve now finished writing up your thesis and it’s time to submit. We require your thesis to be presented and formatted in a certain way, so it’s important you read through the requirements below, before submitting your thesis. Find out more about thesis submission policy  (.pdf)

The completed thesis should be saved in PDF format. Once saved, please review the file to ensure all pages are displayed correctly.

Page layout

Illustrations (Graphs, diagrams, plates, computer printout etc.)

Illustrations embedded within the thesis should be formatted, numbered and titled accordingly:

a) Illustration upright - Caption at the bottom, Illustration number immediately above the


b) Illustration sideways - Caption at right-hand side with Illustration number above it.

Numbers for graphs, diagrams and maps are best located in the bottom right hand corner.

For further advice, please consult your supervisor.

Word counts

The following word counts are the maximum permitted for each level of award*:

What's excluded from the word count

*In all cases above, the word count includes quotations but excludes appendices, tables (including tables of contents), figures, abstract, references, acknowledgements, bibliography and footnotes (as long as the latter do not contain substantive argument). Please note these are word limits, not targets.

Specific requirements

For degrees which involve Practice as Research (PaR), no less than 50% of the research output should be the written thesis. The written thesis for PaR degrees may be comprised of a range of written elements including, but not limited to, a critical review, a portfolio, and/or a statement on theoretical discourse or methodology.

**In cases of practice-based PhD’s or MPhil’s these suggested word counts may be different. It is normally expected that the written component would comprise no less than 50% of the overall output.

Each copy of the thesis should contain a summary or abstract not exceeding 300 words.

As an example, see how the  layout of your title page (.pdf) should be.

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  1. Dissertation Word Count Breakdown

    a dissertation word count

  2. Dissertation Word Count Breakdown

    a dissertation word count

  3. Dissertation word count

    a dissertation word count

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    a dissertation word count

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    a dissertation word count

  6. Dissertation word count

    a dissertation word count


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  1. Formatting Your Dissertation

    Most dissertations are 100 to 300 pages in length. All dissertations should be divided into appropriate sections, and long dissertations may need chapters, main divisions, and subdivisions. Page and Text Requirements PAGE SIZE 8½ x 11 inches, unless a musical score is included MARGINS At least 1 inch for all margins SPACING

  2. How Many Words In A Dissertation? [A Word Count Guide]

    Most dissertations have a word count of between 10,000 and 15,000 words, however some can exceed 30,000 words. This article will discuss how to format and complete your dissertation according to word count guidelines based on a 10,000 word dissertation. What Is A Dissertation?

  3. How To Reduce Word Count In A Dissertation/Thesis

    Follow these 4 steps (in this order) to strategically reduce your word count without losing the “meat” of your assignment/dissertation. Step 1: Audit for purely descriptive content. Broadly speaking, content can fall into one of two categories – descriptive or analytical.

  4. Dissertation Word Count Breakdown

    So what to do now? Introduction. This section is the first that is placed in your dissertation and consists of 10% of your total... Literature Review. This section consists of an understanding of the problem by analyzing the past issues. It usually... Methodology. This part usually answers the ...

  5. University of Wolverhampton

    Research findings (1,000 to 1,200 words) Conclusion (800 to 1,000 words) A project that involves secondary research with an 8,000 to 10,000 word limit would typically contain the following elements: Introduction (800 to 1,000 words) Methodology (1,500 to 2,000 words) Specific issues/debates.

  6. Thesis word count and format

    Thesis word count and format. Three months ago you considered whether you required a restriction ...

  7. Newcastle University : Guidelines for the submission and

    Length of Thesis The normal length of a thesis, inclusive of notes, but excluding references and appendices, has been determined as follows: Faculty Doctoral Programmes Integrated PhD Programmes MPhil Programmes Humanities & Social Sciences 100,000 80,000 50,000 Medical Sciences 80,000 N/A 40,000