I am writing a PhD thesis in literature. I have covered all areas in about 120 pages. Does the length of a PhD thesis matter even if it has covered all the areas mentioned in the synopsis?

  • 4
    Quality counts independant of length.
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 28, 2020 at 12:31
  • 4
    Ask your PhD advisor; your question is country and university specific Jun 28, 2020 at 12:32
  • 3
    In some fields, it seems to do. Asking your PhD advisor is indeed your best bet. Jun 28, 2020 at 12:33
  • Actually, if you want a weighty PhD thesis, then the grammage (thickness) of the paper that you print it on is just as important as the number of pages. If you printed those 120 pages on card-stock paper, it would be solid enough to knock the socks off any thesis supervisor.
    – Tripartio
    Oct 19, 2020 at 19:33

5 Answers 5


John Nash's thesis was 26 pages long with only two references and he later won a Nobel prize. What matters is scientific quality not quantity, if your ideas are superior nobody will object the length (mine was less than 100 pages).

  • 9
    Math is really special in this respect. You won't find a PhD thesis in literature of that length. Jun 28, 2020 at 14:50
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    @lighthousekeeper But even that isn't because in literature theses are somehow evaluated by their length but only due to the fact that in literature its much harder to be concise when properly explaining a certain point.
    – mlk
    Jun 29, 2020 at 11:28
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    @mlk That's a friendly, admissible interpretation of the situation. I'll leave it at that. Jun 29, 2020 at 11:50
  • @lighthousekeeper true. You also won’t find someone who won the Nobel prize in literature for their PhD thesis, regardless of its length.
    – Dan Romik
    Jun 29, 2020 at 19:50

The advice you have so far is pretty US specific - in a system without a committee system, where you will be judged by your examiners in a one off thing, you may want to be more careful.

Of course, the person who should really know the answer to this is your supervisor/advisor, but should also be able to look up what the criteria are for your university. I would generally ask around your field. In my field in my country, a thesis is expected to contain at least three more or less complete "stories" that add up to a advance in the field. In biomolecular sciences, 120 pages would be very much on the short side for that, but not completely out of the question - a 40 page literature review and 20 pages of Methods, 5 pages of general discussion/conclusion would leave you with only 55 pages of results - doable if you are terse and everything worked first time.

But these expectations are going to differ from system to system and subject to subject. Speak to people in the know.


I did one in the low hundred plus. As long as it passes your committee that is all that matters. But a brave face on, submit it and see the reaction.

Don't even ask if it is suitable. Just submit it to your advisor as your intended work product. After all your independent view is that it is good enough. Let him volunteer a criticism if he chooses. But don't suggest it.

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    This only works in a system where you get the chance to try again if the committee doesn't like it. Not all systems are like that. Jun 29, 2020 at 10:02

PhD theses are judged on the quality of their content. Length is only relevant to the extent that it makes that content understandable (not too short) and findable (not too long).


If it satisfies your advisor and the committee it is fine. A 1 page dissertation in poetry is within the realm of possibility, however unlikely.

It is a mistake to pad things, I think.

Some places (and some advisors) might have minimal length requirements, though I would question them. But if that is the issue here you need to think a bit more about the overall structure, not just the page count.

  • Could you perhaps expand on what you mean by “pad things” in your answer? The additional clarity I think could add value to the response. Jun 28, 2020 at 15:48
  • 1
    @GrayLiterature, "padding" is a common idiom for adding less relevant things (or irrelevant) to make something bigger or longer. Think about a very thin person playing the typical Santa Claus role in a department store. (Or watch the NSFW movie "Bad Santa".)
    – Buffy
    Jun 28, 2020 at 15:52

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