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shane wilkins

Hi Marcus,

Here's my two bits. I don't want longer papers at the APA. Two considerations.

First, I would absolutely not want to sit through somebody reading out loud a 10,000 word paper. At an average reading pace of 130 words per minute, that would be an hour and fifteen minute long paper, before we even have a commentary, let alone Q&A.

Second, in order to make sessions longer to accommodate these monster papers, one would necessarily have to make there be fewer sessions overall. Suppose you have conference space (over three days) for 24 hours of concurrent sessions overall. If the average time per paper is one hour, then you get 24 times the number of rooms you have many people that can present. If, on the other hand, the average time per paper is two hours, then only half as many people will get the opportunity to give a paper.

For my money, it's better for the profession in general for more people to be able to give a manageable, interesting bit of their work than it is for fewer people to give long, ponderous papers even if the letter are "better philosophy" in some sense. I think the current division of labor between shorter conference pieces and longer published papers is a nice compromise.


I like the APA format. In fact, Marcus, I am inclined to think that the program would be less inclusive if they had longer papers.
Also, I do not expect that the APA can meet all our conference needs. So there are other venues where we might present longer papers.


I'm in agreement that I think the length of APA talks is fine, even though I rarely write papers of that length initially either. But how far in advance you have to submit absolutely does prevent me from submitting, since I have to have something polished but then sit on it and not do anything substantial with it for a long time, by which time I've moved on to several other projects.

Jerry Green

Agree with Lauren: Way too much time between submission and presentation. I'll occasionally present at one of the group meeting, which often have later deadlines.

Michel X.

My guess is that the word limits are meant to (roughly) track presentation time, especially since so many philosophy papers are just read aloud.

Word limits of 3k-5k words are pretty standard for all the conferences which I've attended, as well as those to which I've submitted (with a few exceptions). They don't really deter me from submitting work, since in writing my papers I tend to have conferences in mind as a first step, and so their initial form is usually in the 5k-6k range, which is easy enough to cut down (an exercise which I've actually found pretty useful anyway) or expand for submission to journals. A few times I've hit word limits of 2k-2.5k words, and that's the point where I feel like giving up. Since the presentation times are usually still 20-25 minutes for those 2k papers, though, I just end up giving the same old presentation.

What does usually deter me from submitting to the APA is the early deadline, the timing of the conference (for the Eastern), the sheer size of the conference (which in my experience with other large general conferences results in rather low attendance), and the existence of better alternatives for my AOS (four American conferences a year, plus one Canadian and one British).

Marcus Arvan

Hi shane: Thanks for your comment!

I appreciate your concerns. However, I'm not entirely sure including longer papers would necessitate longer (and fewer) paper sessions.

Both of those concerns you voiced seem to me predicated on the idea that people *read* their papers verbatim, word-by-word. But, this seems anachronistic to me. Although some people still read their papers, (A) I've heard *so* many people say they don't like this mode of presentation, and (B) it is increasingly the norm in philosophy and other academic fields for presenters to simply present the main points of their papers, leaving the details for discussion. To take just one extreme, I presented a full-length political philosophy paper at a political science conference, and our presentations were just 5-10 minutes long! Although I was initially astonished by this, much to my surprise it didn't negatively affect the quality of discussion a whole lot, as commentators honed in on specific issues in the paper--issues that, for the most part, seemed to me like the same areas that audience members were liable to exert pressure as well. Anyway, while I wouldn't recommend anything this extreme for philosophy, I don't think we should underestimate the possibility of *presenting* longer papers within a 25-30 minute time-frame. Like I said, I tend to write long-ish papers, and in most cases I can present the essentials in 30 minutes or so.

Of course, this raises the question: if you can shorten the presentation, why not just shorten the paper? However, I think there is a good answer to this. One *can* shorten long papers--but, since many of them are long for a reason (the details matter), submitting a shorter paper for review may substantially reduce the chances the paper will get accepted (viz. I have 7-10K word papers that I could almost certainly present in 20-30 minutes, but which would almost certainly be rejected if I tried to compress the written document to <3K words!).


I find 3000 words to be an awful word limit. I don't write for conferences. My main goal in writing is for journal publications or to complete larger projects. Sometimes I develop smaller arguments as part of a larger project that can then be plucked to use for conferences but it requires a LOT of work to do sometimes. New intros and conclusions are tedious to write and after receiving comments at the APA you turn the cut down version back into a longer one again. It seems redundant and I sometimes question if a blog post isn't better to get feedback on the main argument rather than buttering up a small argument with an intro that is being constructed only so the reviewer can make sense of the smaller argument.

I've submitted to about 30+ conferences in my time in grad school and I cant help but think the time being spent on writing for a conference submission might have been better served getting it ready for publication without presenting. I'n not suggesting that I don't get value from going to conferences, I do. But I get far more out of discussing my work with others socially, something that could occur without spending the time tidying up a longer more substantive piece only to turn around and explain to my commenter that I get ot their concerns in the longer version of the paper I was forced to cut down because the length was not quite enough to get out the support for one of the premises I was forced to leave out...

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