Writing a Dissertation – How Long Should it Take?

How long should your dissertation take to finish? The length of time spent on a dissertation is dependent on several factors such as the topic of research, study design and the author’s motivation to work on the paper.

Most people equate quality with the length of time spent on the paper but this analogy does not apply in all situations. A dissertation that is finished in a year’s time doesn’t mean that is of less value than a dissertation that took 3 years to accomplish. Here are some factors that affect how long it takes to finish a dissertation.

  • Field of Study – for some disciplines, a year of research and dissertation writing is ample time but other fields demand more time to gather data and may take longer to finish. A doctoral degree in the natural sciences can be completed within 3 years which already includes the time for dissertation writing. This can be accomplished with the help of a good adviser and with a light teaching load. While the extensive coursework and research required in the Humanities can take students a minimum of 5 years to complete the degree, roughly 3 years may be purely devoted to working on the dissertation. Students of archeology may even take twice that length of time to finish long periods of research as well as for dissertation writing.
  • Actual Time Spent on Writing the Dissertation – most students enrolled in a doctoral program also hold teaching positions while others keep a part-time job. It is impossible to complete a dissertation in a year or two if you have a heavy teaching load or a full-time job. Those who desire to finish their dissertation in the shortest time possible usually take a study leave or request for a light teaching load. It is important to strike a balance between one’s work and finishing a dissertation.

Setting realistic goals for finishing specific chapters of the dissertation and regularly working on the paper can save students a lot of time. Completing a dissertation doesn’t have to take more than a year to finish if everything is done systematically and with a purpose of finishing right on time.