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I've heard anywhere from 2,000 - 10,000 words is typical for a publication in an average journal. What's your experience?

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    Welcome to Academia SE. Can you elaborate why you want to know this? I have the feeling that you have an underlying question the answer to which might be more useful to you (the XY problem). – Wrzlprmft Jan 3 '15 at 1:06
  • This depends on many factors. I suspect papers in biology tend to be shorter, on average, than in most other disciplines (with the possible exception of CS), because more of their journals have length restrictions. – aeismail Jan 3 '15 at 1:36
  • This not only depends on the Journal, but also the section of the journal (Nature Letters vs. Articles). "Typically", research articles are 4-8 dense pages of content and figures. Reviews are more. – Superbest Jan 4 '15 at 1:10
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    This question is evidently (3k views) interesting to many, and has received three answers. Could it be made a community wiki? Or perhaps the question could be rephrased as "When is a research paper too long or short?", which would be answerable based on some general guidelines regarding the structure of scientific papers. – mmh Jan 3 '16 at 17:52
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This source mentions that they're "typically 3,000 to 10,000 words in length". This page may give you some tips on the length of specific parts of the paper, as well.

BTW, I think the length of the publication can also be dependent on where you are submitting it. Also, you can check yourself creatively by going to sites like http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/, and copy+paste the text into a word counter. ;-)

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My experiences with "average" journals (by which I mean that they aren't extremely high-end like Nature or Science) is that typically a publication is around 4,500-7,500 words.

My old adviser used to say that if his manuscript reached 30-40 pages (typewritten, Times New Roman, size 12, double-spaced), he would split it into two publications instead. I wouldn't suggest this method because it's a lot of work to write one manuscript, and this way you would have to go through many more drafting stages to get two manuscripts that were thorough, told the complete story, and yet did not overlap.

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    Splitting large manuscripts also only works if the material naturally splits. Sometimes it's the right thing to do, other times it would be salami slicing. – jakebeal Jan 3 '15 at 20:03
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A typical publication in the areas of biology that I work in, is like an iceberg. The "paper" per se is likely to be only a couple thousand words (for example Nature articles are only 3000 words long, and a number of other high profile publications also have tight limits). That small portion sticking above the surface is typically backed by anywhere from 10 to 50 pages of supplementary material, which contains the bulk of the paper.

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    I strongly disagree. In sub-sections of biology, there is not a lot, or even none, supplementary material – Emilie Jan 3 '15 at 2:34
  • @Emilie I have no doubt that other areas may be different: please note that I qualified my answer accordingly. My experience is primarily with synthetic biology and related study of cell regulation and interaction processes. I would recommend that if you have a different experience in other areas of biology that you post your own answer as well---I, at least, would be interested in learning about the differences. – jakebeal Jan 3 '15 at 4:03
  • I would like very much to post my own answer, but biology is so wide. I think the question has to be more elaborate and give us precise field. A paper in ecology is more around 5000 words, even 7000. But even ecology is large and I can be wrong ! – Emilie Jan 3 '15 at 15:43

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