How long is a thesis?
May 25, 2005 5:39 AM   Subscribe

Mefi Doctors: A recent Ask Metafilter question prompts me to ask - how long was your thesis?

What subject did you do it in? Is there any difference in thesis length between countries?
posted by handee to Education (47 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
250 pages, on Don Quixote in 18th-Century English lit. My then-wife's was about 50 pages, I think, in Math.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:48 AM on May 25, 2005

180 pages, on James Joyce, William Gaddis, and Thomas Pynchon. Mine was on the short end for an English Lit. Ph.D. thesis, though.
posted by Prospero at 6:01 AM on May 25, 2005

375 pages (2 vols.) on the writing of women's history in Britain from 1770-1870. And then it became a book, and came in at 220 pages. Ah, dissertationese.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:03 AM on May 25, 2005

If by doctor you mean PhD, then 120. My advisor's was around 350, btw.
posted by shoos at 6:08 AM on May 25, 2005

378 angst-ridden and teeth-pulling pages. A PhD in sociology.
posted by picklebird at 6:14 AM on May 25, 2005

Around 200 pages, on choice of rules in legislatures. Not especially long or short for poli-sci, though I guess closer to short than long.

Later it became a few articles, with the relevant sections shedding weight dramatically. Not really suprising -- in a dissertation, you don't have any good reason not to cover your ass and mention everything and everyone that's maybe-relevant.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:14 AM on May 25, 2005

A PhD in neuroendocrinology took me 110 pages, but that was including refs.
posted by gaspode at 6:15 AM on May 25, 2005

My impression is that dissertations in the natural sciences are usually significantly shorter than those in the humanities and social sciences. A friend of mine in Physics just graduated with a 40-page thesis (although that's below average, even for theoretical physics.)

FWIW, my undergraduate thesis was about 80 pages long.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:15 AM on May 25, 2005

Oh I forgot to add that my best friend's thesis, in theoretical physics, was 4 pages.
posted by gaspode at 6:15 AM on May 25, 2005

Also, don't forget that published theses also have very wide margins (mine are 1.25") and that margins, font, etc. may vary by university and discipline.
posted by picklebird at 6:16 AM on May 25, 2005

72 pages, mathematics. I'm longwinded for my discipline.
posted by gleuschk at 6:18 AM on May 25, 2005

350 pages, including acknowledgements, bibliography, and unnecessarily verbose footnotes. On the history of emerging diseases and biological terrorism.
posted by googly at 6:20 AM on May 25, 2005

I did a 50 page Cog. Psych. MA Thesis [including everything]. It's roughly between 1/3 and 1/2 of the normal size. It looks pretty skinny next to my wife's 250 page monster.
posted by srboisvert at 6:21 AM on May 25, 2005

Just finished my PhD in computer science (well, the diploma says media technology) in Sweden: 171 pages (a 30-35 page introduction and 7 papers: 6 published, one unpublished. It's available on my home page.)
posted by rpn at 6:29 AM on May 25, 2005

My MA thesis was only 49 pages, by the way, which was on the short side, but it was pretty dense. Plus, it was on Richardson's Clarissa, so I think my thesis advisors gave me credit for simply making it through that hellish book.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:34 AM on May 25, 2005

PhD thesis: 400 pages; 115,000 words, had to get permission to go over 100,000 words, which is actually a pretty high limit by UK university standards anyway. Topic was technology policy, specifically relating to renewable energy. Examiners said I could have done it in half the length, though they didn't say which half I could have lost and all of their (happily few) recommendations for change favoured adding not subtracting stuff.
(Even my M.Sc. thesis was 45,000 words. Basically I'm verbose.)
posted by biffa at 6:37 AM on May 25, 2005

About 250 pages in physical/theoretical chemistry. It was the content of five papers with a few additional chapters of introduction, lit and theory review and methods. Most advisors at my school pushed for approximately the same amount of work, so that was pretty par for the course.
posted by bonehead at 6:38 AM on May 25, 2005

MS in Biomedical Engineering: 127 pages, which includes 30 pages of appendices (mostly color photos).
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 6:44 AM on May 25, 2005

185 pages, philosophy. Dissertations in philosophy can range in length from as short as 70 pages to as long as 450, often depending on how technical or historical they are in nature, with the technical ones (e.g. a thesis in philosophy of physics) generally being pretty short and the historical ones (e.g. a dissertation on Leibniz and his contemporaries) generally being pretty long.
posted by chrisgrau at 6:52 AM on May 25, 2005

350 about - on Dickens, Chadwick and Landseer. In France, many in literary subject areas will go over 500 pages, and the old Th├Ęse d'Etat used to weigh in at about 750 to 800. Scientists write much shorter theses over here too.
posted by TimothyMason at 6:53 AM on May 25, 2005

My thesis for my M.A. in Popular Culture was 88 pages, and was titled "'I'm Gonna Kick Yer Butt': Competitive Dramatics and the Professional Wrestling Interview Segment".

My friend Wendy's was on Jell-O usage by homemakers during WWII, and it was something like 250 pages. There seems to be a lot of room for variation.
posted by NewGear at 7:23 AM on May 25, 2005

140 pages for my Ph.D. in School Psychology. It was a single-subject design model looking at a homework internvention for disorganized 6th graders. I did the study in a local elementary school. I was in a dissertation group at my university with people from all over the school. The longest papers were usually from these departments: English, Communications and Culture, and Linguistics. When there's a study involved, a lot of the work is in the design and data collection. If it's all theoretical, there are usually many more refs and more length. I was told that at 140, mine was long for my department.
posted by abbyladybug at 7:42 AM on May 25, 2005

About 70 pages. "Autonomous Classification by Connectionist System" (or something like that). It was rubbish.
posted by seanyboy at 8:12 AM on May 25, 2005

215 pages on fluid dynamics; slightly above average (150)
posted by swordfishtrombones at 8:18 AM on May 25, 2005

My MA Thesis in History (A historical case study of onlne BBS communities in the 80s and 90s) was around 120 pages.

I know that Gordon Wood's PhD dissertation ended up being published as an 800 page book.
posted by absalom at 8:21 AM on May 25, 2005

M.A. thesis was 255 pages all told, on ground stone technologies. Ph.D. was 222, on merging practice theory with quantitative geographical models in archaeology. When published, both shrank to less than 100 pages. I have since seen an 810 page M.A. thesis (three volumes) on neanderthal burial practices go by, but that was just plain bad supervision.
posted by Rumple at 8:27 AM on May 25, 2005

My law review comment was 137, which was outrageously long. Shortened to 79 for publication.

The Mrs.'s was 10 (visual art MFA).
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:45 AM on May 25, 2005

Mine's about 320 (in film history), but I guess you already knew that. ;)
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:23 AM on May 25, 2005

117 pages right now, global economics. I may get a couple more pages of glorious verbage about it's importance out of it before I defend next week.
posted by dness2 at 9:28 AM on May 25, 2005

80 or so pages for "Autocremation in Chinese Buddhism" for my undergrad. My advisor who did the same topic for his PhD was about 175, and no, he neglected to tell me he had the same topic until after I was 4 months into the topic.
posted by karmaville at 9:31 AM on May 25, 2005

Biophysics, 130 pages. Note that when formatted for publication in a journals, there's about a 10-fold reduction in page count. (A recently published 2-page Journal of the American Chemical Society communication took 20 pages in my dissertation.)
posted by u2604ab at 9:56 AM on May 25, 2005

Haven't finished mine yet, but the department likes the (M.A.) thesis to be 90-120 pages (in Interdisicplinary Studies, English and History focus, in my case).
posted by synecdoche at 9:56 AM on May 25, 2005

Philosophy, about 150 pages, on a fairly specific topic. Chrisgrau is right about the length of philosophy theses, though I've seen dissertations in logic that were less than 40 pages.

And I'm handing mine in today (!!), defense in a week.
posted by ontic at 10:04 AM on May 25, 2005

185 pages, P.hD. in Biochemistry. I don't think there's much difference in the thesis length between countries, but there's quite a few quirks in the defense protocol.
posted by gsb at 10:08 AM on May 25, 2005

What an interesting range of sizes and areas. AND Wow congratulations ontic!
posted by handee at 10:09 AM on May 25, 2005

ontic, I defend in a week, too! congratulations!
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:16 AM on May 25, 2005

When i finally finish mine, I'll probably have to wait 3 months or so for the viva. I can't believe you lot find out so soon.
posted by handee at 10:18 AM on May 25, 2005

handee, I submitted my draft (which I'm still revising ... when I'm not reading AskMe) about 3-4 weeks ago. I think the time between submission and defense varies wildly by school and department (I'm at the U of Wisconsin-Madison). Very glad to be almost done with the damn thing.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:23 AM on May 25, 2005

"Spin-Label Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Characterization of Heterogeneously Functionalized Dendrimers", ~200 pages in bound form, more than half was appendices though (spectra, computer code (C, C++, awk scripts) written for simulations).
posted by 445supermag at 10:23 AM on May 25, 2005

I did mine in Latin, on Martial and his poems about/to Domitian. 110.000 words + 30 pages of original text & translation (did them side by side). Which was supposed to be standardish in my department (in Norway), but a third shorter than that of my fellow student.
posted by mummimamma at 10:42 AM on May 25, 2005

Looks like you have all the data you need, handee, but since I so seldom get the opportunity to mention that I have a doctorate (in philosophy): 160 pp.
posted by bricoleur at 10:57 AM on May 25, 2005

I'm only on page 58 of my PhD thesis in physics. The last guy who got his degree from here had an 85 page thesis including references. I'm comforted to hear about other short theses in physics/science, especially after seeing 600 page monstrosities in Chemistry in our library.
posted by achmorrison at 11:19 AM on May 25, 2005

Achmorrison, those chem one are long for one reason only: bags and bags of spectra, chromatograms, diagrams, structures etc.... It's easy to be long when you include every damn measurement you took over the four (three, five, seven) year it took to finish the thing. A good supervisor will tell you to throw 80% away, but not everyone has a good supervisor.
posted by bonehead at 12:13 PM on May 25, 2005

I haven't written one, but I'm reading a 512 pp History Ph.D. thesis. Unfortunately, it's not very good.
posted by jb at 12:38 PM on May 25, 2005

About 300 pages - 17th century Calvinist conversion experience
posted by Flitcraft at 3:50 PM on May 25, 2005

PhD, Plasma Physics: Streamer Formation in a Gas in Electric Fields of High E/p -- 34 pages

PhD, History: Was Flashman Right? -- Leadership in the Crimea -- 322 pages. (I'm not kidding you, either. The paper was a study of Fraser's presentation of the British leadership in Flashman at the Charge. Sometimes I'm ashamed of myself.)

I think hard science papers are shorter because it's easier to marshal facts to prove or disprove a thesis. Softer sciences require you to back up what is often little more than an informed opinion.
posted by joaquim at 4:10 PM on May 25, 2005

I haven't written one, but I'm reading a 512 pp History Ph.D. thesis. Unfortunately, it's not very good.

I would recommend that any PhD student read a completed and passed thesis that is not very good. It cheers them right up. It's the good one's that are depressing.
posted by biffa at 3:12 AM on May 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

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