ASA Page Limits: What Jeremy Said!

Jeremy Freese has a post up at ScatterPlot about an issue on a lot of people’s minds right now: do you actually have to obey the 20 page limit for ASA submissions? My short answer is: No. Here’s Jeremy’s more elaborated version:

I have never in my life paid any attention to this rule. I didn’t even know it existed until I was well into assistant professorhood, and only awhile after that did I come to appreciate the other people attend to it. Seems crazy to me to go to any amount of extra work for the benefit of one person who probably won’t read the whole thing anyway. But I’ve known people who have spent days of their life making careful abridgments to reach exactly 20 pages. So, I have a view for myself, which is basically “Eh, I’m not doing that and it’s perfectly okay if somebody doesn’t accept my paper as a result; it’s not like whether or not I get to present at ASA will make any tangible difference whatsoever in my life at this point.” Yet, I recognize, that this is a fine answer for myself does not mean that it is the right answer to give to students or other folks who ask what they should do. So I’m never sure what to say. Any thoughts?

I would be really interested to hear someone defend the 20p rule, or to hear stories of anyone who has been negatively affected by violating it. So far, I’ve submitted several papers in the high 30s. This year, I submitted a whopper – something on the order of 16,000 words, a full, lengthy article draft. Even though my career is nowhere near as secure as Jeremy’s – and by that, I mean I will be on the job market in about two years, please let it improve by then – I still feel that the time spent cutting down a paper is not well-spent, and that if the person skimming the paper to determine its inclusion in a panel likes it from the first few pages they will probably include it, whether or not there are 15 pages or 40 following it. I guess one legitimate concern would be the session organizer worrying that a lengthy paper will not be sufficiently cut down for the presentation version. But given the 7 month gap between submission and presentation, I imagine most short ASA submissions are much longer papers by the time the presentation comes along anyway.

Thoughts? Leave your comments over at ScatterPlot!



  1. Noah

     /  January 9, 2012

    16,000 words Dan? Might be worth cutting that in and of itself – how many journals will take something that long? How many readers will be able to keep focus for 16,000? (Speaking as someone who likes to read articles in one sitting and often taps out at 12k.)

    • We’re planning on cutting it a bit before submission. ASR’s limit is 15,000. AJS’s limit is.. the sky as far as I can tell. It’s hard doing historical work not to end up writing forever and a day.

      • Noah

         /  January 9, 2012

        Yeah, ASR is what I had in mind. I have some journalistic biases when it comes to article length, so I probably want less historical detail than the average comparative-historical scholar. I think most comp-hist people skew the other way on the question of “what is an acceptable word limit for an article?”

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