I'm currently in my 3rd semester of my Bachelors program and have to write a term paper with a word range of 4000 words ± 5-10%. I'll be writing about Zero‑Trust Network Architectures and the way they reduce data loss and cyber attack in companies.

This is the second paper I'll be writing during my program but I'm not sure if I'll be able to fit my work in this word range. would you say, that it's appropriate to ask my professor if I may extend that word range or should I cut some, possible helpful/ important information from the text?

I have already enlisted for the paper with that topic and can't cancel it without it counting as a failed exam.

4 Answers 4


I remember we had a similar assignment in university, and when some students asked about an extension of the word limit, our professor told us that the word limit was there for a reason, so we learn to concisely say what needs to be said about a specific topic. And this really is an important skill to have. If you can say what you need in as short and to the point manner as possible, it will greatly increase the understandability, the reach and the impact and make your writing more accesible. So I would strongly suggest to try to stay within that word limit and really think about what is important to get your point across and what isn't. If there is such a strict word limit, don't aim for completeness, but rather for distilling the topic down to the key isssues.


First make sure whether the word count limit is a proper rule or rather given just for orientation. I have seen word count indications in some departments about which nobody cares. In other places word count limits are strongly enforced. For sure you can ask your professor whether the limit is a sharp rule or not. If it isn't, you're fine. If it is, chances are you need to learn to write things down in a focused way, leaving out stuff that is less important (that's a good skill to learn in any case).

Keep in mind by the way that reading and assessing such theses is hard work, and word counts are in place to make the markers' work easier. So there are good reasons for them, and normally they work out in the interest of your professor.


Your professor or advisor should be able to give you clarity about the assignment and how strictly word counts are enforced (or the penalty for exceeding them) if you ask, so there is no problem with asking.

As another answer mentioned the word count is there to make the assessors life easier but it also ensures fairness in the assessments across your cohort. That is if you send in 8000 words you are effectively demanding twice as much Professor time as everybody else, which isn't fair.

Writing a piece to a given word length is a skill, and that is a part of what is being assessed. If the assignment is 4000 words on a broad topic then it is a part of the assignment to decide what to say and in how much detail. For future reference you are likely to encounter a lot of situations in professional life where you will have to make a strong argument or deliver a report to a fixed length, and getting your point across within that space can be a challenge.

On the other hand I've seen journals with a 3000 word limit consider 6000 word papers because the author knew the editor.

For what it's worth in my previous school we allowed students to exceed the word limits on our assignments, but we only gave credit for material that was inside the word count.


Not only does a word count encourage more succinct writing and limit marking load, there are further reasons for why they exist and are enforced. First of all it is hard to mark consistently when papers have widely divergent lengths (the amount of depth you can go in to differs). Second, it influences assessment load, yes universities do try to limit that. Third there may very well be institutional rules about this. I your case ask the professor for advise.

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