I wonder in some good journals, there are articles that are quite short. Maximum 10 pages. How come such papers, with quite a short introduction with a brief lit-rewiew, are published? They are because of the quality, to do point conclusion and precise findings?

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    Do you weigh quality by the pound? Indeed there can be short papers of excellent quality... some even led to the Nobel prize! I actually don't understand this question, could you please expand it a bit clarifying your idea? Jun 28, 2019 at 21:02
  • What field(s) are you thinking of? This varies hugely between different fields. There are at least two big reasons, though. On the one hand, in some fields (eg mathematics), it’s certainly possible for excellent groundbreaking papers to be very short. Another is that some very “prestigious” established journals (eg Science, Nature) are actually notorious for publishing many too-short and sensationalised articles (as well as some good articles, of course).
    – PLL
    Jun 28, 2019 at 21:15
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    In my field, 10 pages is a pretty long paper. Jun 29, 2019 at 3:42
  • @PLL the field is economics ranging through applied economics to econometrics..
    – usergrad
    Jun 29, 2019 at 4:10
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    Many short papers come with supporting materials that run dozens of pages long. In some fields, it is very common for the information to not all be conveyed in the main text, especially methods, which can run quite long.
    – FBolst
    Jun 29, 2019 at 5:57

3 Answers 3


In physics, a lot of “letter” journals or sections of journals limit the contribution to a few pages. The better known example is Physical Review Letters where the current limit is 3750 words, or about 5 pages depending on figures etc. (The one recent exception is the initial paper on gravitational wave detection, which was allow to go well beyond the normal page limit). PRL is currently ranked top physics journal by Google and its Clavirate impact factor score is also one of the highest for a physics journal. People read it precisely because it’s to the point and usually timely.


In many journals that have very short publications (e.g., 2-4 pages), a short publication is often effectively a summary of the conclusions that can be drawn from a much larger body of work that is contained in the supplementary materials.

The "glamour" journals such as Nature and Science are particularly notable instances of this. This approach is likely highly beneficial for them in part because their audience is so broad and they are so widely read: the articles are thus essentially executive summaries that are sufficient for the needs of most readers, while those who want more depth can plunge into the sometimes voluminous supplementaries.

A "mid-sized" article on the order of 10 pages, on the other hand, may simply be a complete work that is simply limited in the amount of verbiage needed to present it. Here, the field and sub-field matters quite a bit: in areas that are more focused on experimental data, a vast a of the work may summarize down to a relatively few data points in graphs. In theoretical areas, by contrast, papers often balloon in length because the paper is the work. Other fields, such as engineering, tend to fall more in the middle.

Thus, different communities can reasonably have highly significant papers that vary by more than an order of magnitude in their expected length.


In mathematics and, perhaps, some other fields, a paper doesn't need to be very long to be significant. This is because it is directed at other mathematicians who understand generally what is going on, and already understand the methodology.

It might only take a few sentences and a couple of references to place the new work in context. It might only take a few sentences to point out the significance. Normally the statements of theorems are pretty short. The proofs can be long or short, but mathematicians prefer shorter proofs. In addition, if the audience is already skilled at this, the gaps between stated steps in the proof can be pretty large, though some proofs fail for this reason. But if you expect that the intended audience can fill those gaps, there is no reason to state them all. A presentation to undergraduates would probably require much more detail, of course.

So, a couple of significant theorems with supporting material and complete, if sketched, proofs can easily fit in five to ten pages.

In other fields, none of this might be true. It might take many pages to set the context and several to explain the significance. It might be necessary to explain in great detail the research process in detail as well as specifics of the data collected. Arguments in some fields can be very long, drawing on the expertise of many others. In some such fields, a ten page paper might be seen as impossibly short.

And all of that is under the assumption that the work is high quality. There are exceptions to both scenarios, of course.

Note that Transactions of the American Mathematical Society puts the break between "normal" and "long" papers at 15 pages. It accepts only the long ones. Proceedings is appropriate for shorter papers.

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    The mathoverflow question Which math paper maximizes the ratio (importance)/(length)? gives several very short papers published in top journals, but the shortest possible paper is probably this non-math paper published in Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. Jun 29, 2019 at 9:00
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    @DaveLRenfro, good catch. Maybe I should publish "Best Existing Proof of the Riemann Hypothesis prior to 2019". Hedging my bet a bit, of course with the date.
    – Buffy
    Jun 29, 2019 at 12:17

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