Source: R Is My Friend

When it comes to writing their dissertations, graduate students have no reason to increase the size of the margins to hit their page length. If anything, the reputation of dissertations is of students inflating them to crazy lengths, although universities tend to have at most guidelines - rather than rules - about the proper length.

One PhD student at the University of Minnesota decided, however, that he wanted a data-driven answer to the question of the average length of a dissertation. (And a way to procrastinate from writing his dissertation.) The above chart, showing the median page length of dissertations by field, is the result.  

To assemble the chart, he mined digital records of the University of Minnesota's library that contain dissertations dating back to 2007. The chart gives a sense of the median length as well as variation by discipline.

The majors with longer lengths match up with what one would expect, with qualitative studies like history at the top and quantitative fields like mathematics at the bottom. Although every dissertation seems very long from this author's outsider perspective, the creator of the visualization cautions that "most [people] don’t realize that dissertations are filled with lots of white space, e.g., pages are one-sided, lines are double-spaced, and the author can put any material they want in appendices. The actual written portion may only account for less than 50% of the page length."

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