Quoting from Science Magazine's General Information for Authors,

Reports (up to ~2500 words including references, notes and captions or ~3 printed pages) ...

This seems to suggest that references are to be counted towards the word limit.

But the reference style guide says,

Science includes titles in references. These are displayed in the online HTML version, but not in the print or the PDF versions of papers.

The printed (and PDF) version of papers do not have full titles in the references, which makes the reference list much shorter than in the HTML version. In the end this makes a huge difference in the word count. If I include titles, the word count of just the references makes up more than 30% of the stated word limit. This doesn't seem very reasonable!

In general, I am finding it very hard to navigate the author guidelines. Can someone provide a link to where the word limit (and what counts towards it) is most clearly stated for this journal? In particular: do references count towards the word limit, and if they do, does that include the titles? What about counting things like formulas, which might contribute significantly if counted variable by variable, as a naive word processor would do?

I'm seeing much higher word counts in already published Reports than what the guideline says. For example, this random report appears to have ~4000 words without references, as counted by pasting to Word from the HTML page.

  • So I imagine this work count includes the abstract? Apr 30, 2021 at 13:11

2 Answers 2


If you want to get published, follow the guidelines for authors meticulously.

If you're not bothered about getting published, then you are free to reinterpret them as you wish.

But if you do want to get published, read the words, obey the words.

You've already given us the definitive link for authors. The guide says 2500 words including references. So that's your limit. Keep to it. Yes, it does include titles. References include titles.

It doesn't matter that published articles are longer: they've been through peer review and editing. Your article hasn't, yet.

So if you want to get published, follow the guidelines for authors meticulously.

If there's still any doubt in your mind, talk to the editor. Remember, you want the editor to treat you fairly, so treat them fairly, be polite, don't waste their time, and don't ask them things that are already explicit in the guide for authors.


While I mostly agree with the answer saying that you need to follow author guidelines carefully, my experience with submitting to these types of high-level journals is that there's a little bit of play in the requirements.

If the requirements give precise numbers of words, figures, references, then you need to be close to those numbers. In the first pass, the handling editor doesn't care enough about your paper to bother determining how many words an equation is going to count as. Their actual threshold is more like "Does this look like it's likely to be able to fit in an appropriate size after editing?" As such, it's less about exact counts and more about whether you force them to take notice of the difference between your document's size and their preferred size.

My advice then, is this: don't sweat whether the titles count or not. If your document would be under without titles, it's close enough that size is very unlikely to be a reason for rejection.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .