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I've been reading papers authored by professor A's PhD students. I have read about a dozen of papers by now, and realized that all of them are exactly 10 pages long. These papers were written by different PhD students and they were published in several different venues (very good ones). Is 10 the magic number for paper-length? (at least in professor A's field, which is computer science - human computer interaction)

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Have you checked whether those venues have page limits? –  Nate Eldredge Feb 16 '13 at 14:35
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Just a quick comment to add to the answers below: in many fields, journal papers are the important thing, but computer science tends to have a strong emphasis on conference papers, with important results often being published in conference proceedings only. Since Professor A's field is computer science, this probably goes some way to explaining why most of his students' papers are conference papers and therefore subject to a page limit. –  Nathaniel Feb 17 '13 at 9:14

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up vote 29 down vote accepted

Most American computer science conference papers are precisely 10 pages long, because most ACM conferences have a strict 10-page limit on proceedings papers.

(ACM is the Association for Computing Machinery, the primary professional society for computer science.)

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It's worth noting that although 10 pages is just an upper bound, in practice it functions as a lower bound as well: almost everyone has more to say than will fit (so they use all the space they can), and even if you could say everything in 9 pages you don't want to look like you're the only one without 10 pages of content. –  Anonymous Mathematician Feb 16 '13 at 19:46
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See also: "Why are everyone's NSF proposals exactly 15 pages long?" –  JeffE Feb 17 '13 at 1:22

Conference papers often have fairly strict page limits; however, there is no uniform consensus even between different conferences in the same field, and certainly not between fields! For example, one fairly extensive series of conference papers (whose conferences I attend semi-regularly) limits contributions to six pages.

Similarly, many journals—such as "letters" journals—have even more severe restrictions (four or five pages), while other journals have (seemingly) no page restrictions at all: I've known papers in both engineering and mathematics journals that have gone for 20, 30, or even 40 pages.

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In many applied math journals, the typical paper length is around 20 pages (with large variance). On the other hand, the page layout is much less cramped than in other venues. I wouldn't be surprised if a 20-page paper could fit in a CS 10-page proceeding just by changing the documentclass. –  Federico Poloni Feb 16 '13 at 19:52

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