A professor expects a report for a project to be around 3-4 pages (but never said anything, this is only my guess).

Is it a bad idea to submit a report of 12-13 pages if it contains useful information and detailed analysis? Doesn't this show I am interested in the subject?

  • If you wish to conduct an experiment, pick a page at random (after the 4th page) and add the following sentence "If you read this I will give you $100". My hypothesis is that you will not be asked for the money, indicating that significant parts of the report were not read.
    – emory
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 1:36
  • 4
    My advice: submit the requested 3-4 pages plus a clearly marked appendix for anything extra.
    – Thomas
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 6:25
  • 25
    If 4 pages are only your guess, you should go to your professor and clarify.
    – Alexander
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 8:20
  • 3
    BTW, a page is a very inaccurate unit of text length on its own. Does your professor (or your institution) also specify font and margin sizes? I've seen reports printed with such absurd settings that they could easily be 1/3 of the page count if printed normally... And what about graphs and such? If I were you I'd just ask my professor...
    – thkala
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 23:10
  • 1
    We (you!) don't know what the requirements are. How can we possibly answer? Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 9:30

6 Answers 6


If I say "3 or 4 pages" and get 5, not problem. If I get 12, my first reaction is to give minimal grade, for not following simple guidelines. If I'm in good mood, I'd read it (unlikely, term's end isn't a time for jollyness ;-), and if it really dazzles me (no rambling, no unending tables that could have been summarized in a graph or two, does the work asked, and goes far beyond it in useful direction) I might even give some extra credit (and bookmark you for later). If just longwinded explanation that could be summarized in 3 pages, again fail.


You say, never said - how do you know?

In any case, if 4 is the limit, write 8 pages, cut to 4. From experience, it will be much better this way.


It depends.

In my courses, the professors usually list a max page limit but no minimum. I talked to one and he said its because he doesn't have time to read 50 students' papers if they're all too long and he has had too many students that ramble.

My suggestion is to tend towards following the directions. If that isn't enough, then just ask the professor. A one or two line email could solve this!

  • I usually set a min and a max because many students' reports are way too cursory.
    – Kimball
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 14:49

Assume there's an actual page limit. If you exceed it, you are taking more of the reader's time than you were given, so you lose your "right" to get it read in full.

  • Often, that can be addressed by synthesizing better what you are saying. By not synthesizing better, you're saving the time you'd spend revising, but wasting the reader's time.
  • Other times, by leaving out material or by moving it to appendixes.
  • Reading more on the subject should just mean saying smarter things, not more.

Brevity matters because people have too much to read and not enough time for it — we live in information overload. Even researchers do. You might as well start practicing for it. ;-)

Caveat: brevity means conveying the same content in less time for the reader. There are ways to shorten text that harm this goal, by making text harder to understand, or omitting essential content (but what's essential?); that's best avoided.


Speaking as someone who has done a bit of report marking (as PhD student working as TA, not as the professor/coordinator).

  • Even where a page limit was given, unless the professor has said to deduct marks, I wouldn't deduct marks. Ways the professor could have said that I could deduct marks would include:
    • Including a portion of marks for presentation/format/writing style
    • A direct statement in the assignment brief (eg "5% marks will be deducted if page limit is violated")
    • Telling me in an email or words eg "I have warned the students not to go over X pages, and that they will suffer penalities. If anyone goes over, please deduct 5 marks")
  • Similarly, even where the reports have other format requirements (eg present in PDF, and the student submits a MS-Word document), unless there are marks specifically allocated for succeeding/failing at this; marks will not be deducted.
  • If it was a case that the report was supposed to be testing the students ability to write concisely, then there will be marks allocated. If marks are not then it isn't being assessed -- so marks won't be deducted.
  • However, That does not mean I am happy about receiving an oversized report. I am in-fact unhappy, this unhappiness may end up manifesting in less patience -- wither I intend it or not.
    • if your paper includes a mathematical calculation, and the result doesn't match the expected, then I am likely to give some minimal mark and move on. Why? Because I don't have the time to dig closely through the workings to find where the mistake was made, and to judge if it is a simple mistake, or a deep failing of understanding.
    • Conversely though, where the report is well written (and reasonably sized), then I will look closer. I have given almost full marks for an answer that was not the answer to the question asked -- because I had the time to look at it closely, see that they were reading the question as using a notation that was not used in class (but was used in industry, with the opposite meaning); and had answered a different but similar question.
    • This loss of patience/time would generally show up anywhere that has working that I could quickly tell if it is right or wrong, but that would take a while to verify how wrong it is.

The key factor you are missing when it comes to considering this is that most markers are paid by the hour casuals; and that the unit has a finite budget with which to pay them; so they are told "I will pay you for 8 hours of marking", by the professor. If they can't get the marking done it that time, then they have to go back to the professor, and either ask for more time (and money), or the professor may take it and do it themselves, or they may end up being pressured (internally/subconsciously or directly) to work for free (because they "should" have been able to get it all done.). The key thing here is that when many people write an overlong reports, they are costing the markers money, or respect.

If the marker has 8 hours to mark 40 reports, which were supposed to be 4 pages each then that is not too bad, that is 20 pages (from 5 report) per hour. It means about 10 minutes to read each paper, and a couple of minutes to allocate marks. If your report is 16 pages, then you are using up reading time that belongs to another student, or time that belongs to the marker (when they should have gone home).


The answers so far generally focus on being considerate to the person who is marking the report. That is certainly a consideration, but I think there is another point that has been missed: writing concisely is an important skill in itself. There are many situations you may find yourself in, both inside and outside academia, where you may be writing to a strict word limit. Learning the skills to say what you need to say succinctly takes time, and is worth the practice.

If there is a limit, stick to it. As others have said, you can use an appendix if there is extra material that you are very keen to get acknowledged.

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