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I noticed that many, if not all, journals have two main type of papers:

  1. A short self-contained original research article of 10 pages or less, focusing on a particular result that does not provide enough material for a full-length contribution.
  2. Full-length original research article of more than 10 pages.

What is the actual difference between the two? What does does not provide enough material for a full-length contribution mean? In particular, I have a paper which is (or can be easily made) 10 pages. How should I know if it qualifies as a note or an original article?

Note that in most journals there are original contributions with less pages than some papers appearing as notes.

There are few other related questions, but none really answers (as far as I have checked) these issues. I am talking about applied maths,TCS.

  • And don't forget the 'Letters' journals of various flavors. If you look over the past several centuries of scientific publishing, one will find quite a wide variety of formats. – Jon Custer May 1 '17 at 18:03
  • It depends on journal, and many has specific editorials guidelines that distinguish the two: not only lengths, but scope or urgency, too – Greg Jun 1 '17 at 18:56
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I think this is one of those things that "you know it when you see it".

Very roughly, the distinction in my mind is that a full paper ("original contribution") should actually advance the state of the art in a specific, intentional way. A note is more along of the lines of "I noticed this thing, it seems interesting and I think the community might like to know about it too." Maybe it doesn't fit neatly into a larger research program, or its implications aren't immediately clear, but you think it is worth having in the permanent literature.

As you've observed, an original contribution can be short, if you have made a significant advance that just doesn't take that much space to write. So the distinction isn't really about length per se. Notes do tend to be short, mostly because the author may not want to spend a lot of time writing something massive (thus distracting from their real research program), and also because the simplicity or brevity of the result may be part of its appeal.

I think the distinction becomes more clear with experience. So if you are not sure about your paper, try showing it to someone more senior in your subfield and asking their opinion.

  • Thanks for the clear answer. It is indeed very complicated. For example I noticed that the review times of Notes are not necessarily short and, on average, similar to original contributions (so I guess, wha's the actual distinction, and why shoul'dn't just send it to a Letters journal?) That raises also another point: what is the status of published Notes? I mean, how should they appear on CV (clearly as Notes?) And does it make any difference? – PsySp Jun 1 '17 at 9:44
  • I am not surprised that the review times would be similar. Review times in math fields tend to be dominated by "how long until the referee gets around to it", and after that, checking a proof is checking a proof, regardless of the type of result. Sometimes a note will use particularly novel or unusual techniques that might take the referee longer to understand. I think the point here is just that this journal is willing to publish papers of both types (not all journals are) but they want you to tell them which kind yours is to help them evalute it more efficiently. – Nate Eldredge Jun 1 '17 at 14:12
  • @PsySp: We don't really have "Letters journals" in my field so I can't speak to that, but if there is another journal that seems better suited to your paper, by all means send it there. I've never seen people list notes separately in CVs, though often it's clear from the title ("A note on...", "A remark on...", "A new proof of..."). – Nate Eldredge Jun 1 '17 at 14:15
  • Thank you. Now it's even more clear. BTW, there are quite few letters in Maths: Applied Maths Letters is the one that comes immediately in my mind (although I can't immediately judge it's quality). – PsySp Jun 1 '17 at 14:23
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From what I can tell, there's no set standard (although I'm talking about this from a broader basis than just App. Maths) - it all comes down to what the editor/editorial board considers to be 'full-length worthy'.

If you're thinking of submitting it, you can always ask that it be considered as x, and the reason why you think it should be.

If you have submitted it (hence the question about 'What does...mean', then I'd suggest that they think it needs to be filled out more. I doubt you'd have got that response if they thought it wasn't good enough to be included, just that it might need to be padded out with further explanation and background.

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