Average Time It Takes To Complete Dissertation

Writers' Lab: How much time does it take to write a dissertation?

As I've been keeping track of how I spend my time in ManicTime, I can now assess how much time writing my dissertation took me, and how much time rewriting and implementing comments took me.

When I finished my first draft, I thought the biggest chunk of work was done.

So. Wrong.

I spent a total of a little over 600 hours on my dissertation, over a time period from March 2012 to May 2013.

The following list shows you how my time budget breaks down:

Writing the first draft: 205 hours
Rewriting the first draft for approval by promotor and copromotor: 123 hours
Working on the comments of my committee: 255 hours
Final preparations on layout to get it ready for printing and publishing: 30 hours

As you can see: writing the first draft is only 1/3 of all the work. There's much more to be done afterwards...

If we break it down into time, the chronology of my dissertation looked like this:

Writing the first draft: March 2012 - November 2012

I delivered my first draft on November 14th. Most of my first 4 chapters as well as my 7th chapter were written in weekends and on the evenings, as I couldn't find the peace and calm for writing during the office hours, where regular research and teaching activities were in full swing. Over summer, I wrote a set of conference papers for the conferences that I was planning to attend in 2013, and in September and October I carried out the research for chapters 5 and 6.

Rewriting the first draft for approval by promotor and copromotor: early December 2012 - end of January 2013

As so many PhD students, I had to try rather hard to convince my busy supervisors to sit down, read the draft and provide me with their comments. As I had been working on my theory in silence, and not discussed it until I delivered the first draft, it took a number of meetings and significant rewriting of my chapter 5 to actually get my message across. In fact, this chunk of research was something I hadn't shown in a presentation yet, nor written down in a paper, so it naturally took me more time t crystallize my message.

Working on the comments of my committee: March 2013- mid April 2013

That was one hell of a busy time! The committee members get maximum 3 weeks for their feedback, I calculated a month, but the time it takes to pin a meeting with everybody added another 2 weeks. Working through the comments also added about 100 pages to the final document (also a number of extra Annexes).

Final preparations on layout to get it ready for printing and publishing: first half of May 2013

I found it very hard to stop proofreading, and to just let it go and accept that it can't be perfect. The final preparations were mostly related to fishing for typos, and getting my layout ready for the printer. Don't ask me about putting landscape tables on a portrait page - I spent three full days fretting away at that, and I still have a Table of Doom in my final dissertation.

How much time did you spend on rewriting as compared to writing? Do my results correspond to yours, or was your first draft an immediate hit?

posted about 6 years ago

Quote From acm1899:

Thank you for the honest answer.
However I truly doubt that you can do your PhD dissertation for 3 minutes, regardless of the discipline. The thing is that in my country if you want to pursue a PhD in management or marketing you will have to spend 3-5 years. The program is intentionally structured with various courses (general and major) and research and publishing of course. Thus you have to pass all required courses (mandatory and elective) publish few papers and than you will be fully eligible to start working on your dissertation. So compared to European policy of conducting doctoral studies, you only have to submit a RP and if you proposal is accepted you can immediately start with research. When I say Europe in my case I'm referring to Switzerland where I want to apply for grant. For instance a I have a friend of mine who did his PhD in London (UK) and he only worked on his dissertation and neither courses nor exams were involved whatsoever. The same concept is also applicable to Swiss Universities. Can somebody explain why is this so having in mind that PhD usually involves courses?
Further, the reason why this concerns me because I can only apply for a grant scholarship for a research fellowship and this grant is however limited (9 months) after that you will have to finance your self. Overall, I'm not sure whether should I apply because if I'm constantly under pressure due to a shortage of time I'm afraid that my research will not be relevant. If someone have/had the same situation your comments are welcome.


I don't quite get what you're asking. Have you done 2 or 3 years of new and novel research? If so then you will need at least 6 months to write this up into a comprehensible and well structured form, probably you will need a lot longer. If you haven't done the research yet you will need 3 years to do it. There is no requirement to do "training" as you have put it, there are no taught courses.

Many universities will need you to be registered with them for the entire time, that is for 3 years. During this time your progress will be reviewed and they will ensure that your work is of a high enough quality to be awarded a PhD.

If you have already done all of your research (2-3 years worth that is not part of a prior qualification) then you will need to contact institutions to ask them if you can write up your work as a PhD from them. If they say yes and everything is ok then with a lot of hard work you could achieve that in 9 months.


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