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Just one referee

Speaking as a frequent referee - I have refereed over 150 papers - I have declined to review papers when I discover that they are really long. Most often, such papers are trying to do too much, and the argument becomes very convoluted. There are places to publish longer things, but, thankfully, most of are journals are not those places. I personally believe that philosophers learn a lot about writing, argumentation, and rhetoric when they learn to write nice, clean, pointed (and shorter) paper.

Thi N.

I sometimes write long to very-long papers, and I have some sense of how different referees react to this. Some, like the above poster, seem against long papers on general principle. Some referees seem sympathetic to the conditions that ask for a long paper. I wouldn't say that's it's a *higher standard* necessarily, but I can tell that some refs are sympathetic to a long paper when it's called for. Some reasons a paper might go long: it's trying to connect two fields that have been disconnected; it's written to be usable in an undergrad class or readable to an interdisciplinary audience, so that it needs to spend more time setting up the basics. Some referees quite explicitly pick up on these goals and will say things like, "the length is forgivable here because this will end up being quite teachable because..." (PS, I dislike bloated papers with unhelpful technical digressions as much as the next person, but I also sometimes worry that the profession's apparently increasing devotion to shortness makes it easier to write technical papers in single fields to audiences that all know the lay of the land, and harder to write papers that connect different fields, or are comprehensible to non-experts...)

Short answer: I do have the feeling that a lot of places have unstated "there needs to be a justification for a longer paper", but there are lots of justifications for length besides "higher quality" in the usual professional philosophy sense. I my feeling is that referees openness to those other justifications is pretty much random, and a lot of the time, with longer papers, I feel like I'm just rolling the dice.

Overseas Tenured

As an author, my experience is that my papers that are 1 word under the word count aren't treated any more harshly than my papers that are half the word count. Sometimes when papers already close to the limit get longer after revisions, editors have specifically asked me to cut them back to the word limit. But I never felt that they rejected a paper of mine for that reason. (Length in excess of the word count already at the time of the initial submission is a different matter. I sometimes tried my luck with that but stopped doing so; these cases made up for the vast majority of my desk rejections.)

As a referee, I never rejected a paper just for being long. Unlike "Just one referee", almost none of the overly long papers I referee try to do too much. Most of them actually do too little to justify the length and are simply overwritten - too much literature review, too much discussion of (often silly) objections, lengthy quotations, unnecessary technicalities, etc. I often recommend revisions and state that I think the paper is overwritten, but I never recommended rejection just for this reason.


As a reviewer, I don't evaluating length as an independent factor (even if I am told to). But longer papers do tend to correlate with other factors I do evaluate such as: how interesting is the paper, how tedious, how complex, how ambitious, etc.

In a (temporary) non-academic position

Sometimes papers are long but don't feel long to me. This is very subjective, but as someone who works on social and political philosophy, well-chosen and well-presented examples can be exciting to read.

Relatedly, when these examples come from non-English speaking countries, there's also this apparent burden for the author(s) to give more detailed explanations. (At least this was explicitly demanded of me in several review processes; examples more familiar to the English speaking world don't seem to bear such a burden.)

Not exactly sure whether such cases fall under "quality," but I think they are good reasons for papers to be longer.

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