Word Limits


Word limits are set for every piece of assessed coursework including the Dissertation. Word limits are there for a reason. They reflect the scope of the assessment exercise and adherence to the word limit is part of the assignment. Learning to write to a specific word limit is a valuable skill to acquire.

You are expected to produce a highly effective piece of work with well-structured arguments, expressed in clear and economical prose without exceeding these limits. It may be tempting to assume that the more you include in your essay the more likely you are to achieve a good mark. But remember that longer essays are not necessarily better essays. If you find that you have difficulty in keeping within the word limit, you should talk to your tutor.

Standard word limits

  • 30 credit modules: 6000 words
  • Directed Reading: 4000 words
  • 15 credit modules: 3000 words
  • Dissertation: 15,000 words

Word limits include footnotes but exclude front and end matter (e.g. bibliographies, abstracts, appendices, title page, contents page, abbreviations page, and acknowledgements).

Some non-standard assignments may be exempt from this general rule (for example, annotated bibliographies).

Please note that while most modules require the word limit to be met with one standard essay, some modules have alternative assessment or multiple assignments and you should always consult the individual module pages for full information.

Your word count should be taken as it appears in the file you submit to Turnitin. Please note that once your essay is uploaded, Turnitin may display a word count that is incorrect. The Turnitin word count will not be used to assess the word length of your essay. 

You should declare your word length on your coversheet (see Presentation of Assessed Work).

Word Limit Penalties

Penalties will apply where the word limits are exceeded, as follows:

  • Essays which are 5-15% over the word limit will be penalised by a deduction of 5% of the mark awarded
  • Essays more than 15% over the word limit will be penalised by a deduction of 10% of the mark awarded

i.e. a 3000 word essay will incur a penalty at a length of 3150 words - 5% of the word limit - and above.