asa page limit guidelines

I’ve received a couple of questions from folks around here at Northwestern about this, so here goes: say you have written a paper of the 28-35+ page length that is suitable for a flagship sociology journal submission. Now you want to turn around and submit the paper to ASA, and they have a 20 page guideline. The paper you submit now in January will likely be skimmed/read by a single person who will decide whether or not it goes to the session you submitted for. How much work do you do in order to cut the paper down to reach 20 pages? Is it okay if it is one or two pages over?

I am a bad person to ask this question because, truth be told: I have never in my life paid any attention to this rule. I didn’t even know it existed until I was well into assistant professorhood, and only awhile after that did I come to appreciate the other people took it seriously. Seems crazy to me to go to any amount of extra work for the benefit of one person who probably won’t read the whole thing anyway. But I’ve known people who have spent days of their life making careful abridgments to reach exactly 20 pages. So, I have a view for myself, which is basically “Eh, I’m not doing that and it’s perfectly okay if somebody doesn’t accept my paper as a result; it’s not like whether or not I get to present at ASA will make any tangible difference whatsoever in my life at this point.” Yet, I recognize, this being the right answer for myself does not mean that it is the right answer to give to students or other folks who ask what they should do. So I’m never sure what to say. Any thoughts?

(Incidental additional wrinkle: one student I know is using a restricted medical dataset that involves a detailed chain of review and approval in order to be able to submit a paper using the data for publication. The student is expressly prohibited from submitting any paper anywhere that diverges from the paper that was approved. In other words, the student either needs to break the rules of the data agreement–and that’s not going to happen–or would need to engage the approval process again solely for the ASA-submission version of the paper.)

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

19 thoughts on “asa page limit guidelines”

  1. What Jeremy and Don said. I have always ignored this rule, not only as a submitter but as a reviewer of submissions.

    I think it is an utter waste of time to cut the submission. I do think that if a paper is quite long, it could be worthwhile to include a statement acknowledging its length and telling the organizer which parts you will present. I personally would not need such a note, as I know your presentation will not be the same as the paper.

    I have tested submitting too-long papers to the ASA system and have had them go through, but a colleague told me that her tests revealed that a really long paper might get cut off, so I advise people to test. I’ve been known to use the “additional documents” option for tables or references when needed.

    I think ASA should ABOLISH the rule because having it imposes burdens on the less well-connected parts of the profession.

    The only place the rule ever mattered was that ASA would not pay to print your paper and make it available for others to pick up at ASA if it was longer than 20 pages. Even in those days, you could have a longer paper distributed via ASA if you paid for your own printing. Now that papers are distributed electronically, even this rationale is gone.


    1. OW (and others): Would you replace it with a rule saying abstracts only? Papers of any length (as a kind of commitment device)? Something else?


      1. I have another set of gripes about the “finished papers” rule, but accepting abstracts is probably not a good idea for ASA because 1) acceptance is competitive (fewer slots than submissions) and abstracts-only favors the famous over the novice and 2) drop-out rates are extremely high from panels accepted without a paper in hand.

        I would change the rule to be: “Finished papers, suggested length 20-25 pages. Remember that you cannot present a long or complex analysis in 15-20 minutes.” I certainly don’t object to ASA refusing to pay to print more than 20 pages, but it doesn’t do that any more, anyway.

        I would advise anybody thinking about submitting their 100-page master’s thesis or other long draft that its sheer length would a priori reduce its chance of being accepted, but to be honest, I have personally advised students who wanted to present from a not-yet revised thesis that they could submit the thesis with a note telling the organizer that they’d be cutting it for the presentation and indicating the main focus of the presentation.

        The organizer is interested in having good sessions and knows that there are two kinds of submissions: (1) polished papers that are mailed to the journal on the same day as they are submitted to ASA; (2) drafts of work in progress that need to be expanded or contracted before they are ready for publication. The typical session organizer is a professor whose job it is to recognize diamonds in the rough and encourage works in progress. The paper that is ready for the journal has a better chance of acceptance than the work in progress, but a good work in progress has a chance, depending on the competition.


      2. I think PAA’s [pdf] submission guideline is the best amalgam of ensuring completion (per OW’s point) and allowing for flexibility in submission type (per others):

        Extended abstracts must be sufficiently detailed to allow the session organizer to judge the merits of the paper, including a description of the topic to be studied, the theoretical focus, the data and research methods, and the expected findings. Alternatively, authors may submit completed papers for the organizer to review. If your submission is accepted in a regular session, you must upload the full paper by April 2, 2012.

        It also seems to me that if you have a paper finished, waiting eight months to submit it is a waste. Having said that, there are more papers than I would like to count that have been “drafted” for at least eight months so it might not be a bad idea. But, if a student was sitting on a nearly completed paper, would it not be better to advise them to send it to a journal? This is particularly true if the student is using a widely used data set from which others could publish similar results (e.g., the Census, Panel Study of Income Dynamics, Health & Retirement Survey, etc.)


      3. mike3550: I’m a little confused by your comment. Nobody who has an finished paper in January that they submit to ASA actually waits until August to submit it for publication, do they?


      4. Whoa, Jeremy you’re blowing my mind!

        In all seriousness, I don’t submit to ASA that often for a number of reasons. But, I tend to like to submit things to conferences that I have done sufficient work to have a good sense of the outcomes and how I want to frame the analyses, then use the conference deadline as an internal deadline to finish the paper. That is why I appreciate PAA’s extended abstract option — it is form-fit for my workflow.


  2. I’m also with Jeremy. I try not to blow past the limits too egregiously, but it’s just not worth my time to take a finished paper and cut it down for one conference. This is even more the case when the “finished paper” rule means that I can’t submit things actually in progress that I’d like feedback on.

    On the other hand, I go to the Sunbelt meetings every year- which are abstract-only- and find that system works quite well. Yeah, some half-baked stuff gets in, but there’s also a lot more intellectual engagement over the presentations.


  3. I’m pulling into the main thread and emphasizing the point Jeremy made in responding to Mike. This is another place where the less-connected misunderstand the rules. Let me put it in caps:
    IT IS OK TO SEND THE SAME PAPER TO ASA AND A JOURNAL. The “no prior publication” rule is that the paper cannot have been accepted for publication at the time you submit to ASA. At the time of submission. There is no rule against trying to get it published between January and August. And even if the paper happens to be published in the interval, there is still no ethical violation if it was not accepted at the time you submitted it.


    1. Although I suspected this, it is nice to hear confirmation. I think that informal advice like this makes Scatterplot invaluable. I wonder about all of the other unspoken rules I shouldn’t have broken but did or spoken rules that should have broken but didn’t.


  4. Also, I interpret “finished paper” to mean “paper with a beginning, a middle, and an end” not necessarily a paper that has received all the revisions you intend to make to it. Editing my own comment: I think “complete paper” would probably be a better descriptor as “finished” could be interpreted as you will not be revising it.

    That said, I would actually support a move to make ASA competitions be based on extended abstracts like those for PAA.


  5. I recently noticed that ASA / AllAcademic has begun to post the full-text January submission papers online for all of the world to see – is that something new?

    It certainly makes me more careful about what I’ll submit to ASA in the future in terms of making sure it’s REALLY ready to go out the door and that it’s something that I don’t mind having out there not in a journal – others’ thoughts on this?

    Almost every session I’ve been a part of in the past 6-7 years has people who send updated versions of the paper in August anyway… Shame that the January ones are the ones that go up…


      1. Thanks and good to know!

        I didn’t submit to ASA this year – is that opt-out new?

        I must have missed it if it was there in past years!

        There doesn’t appear to be a way for me to remove it from the AllAcademic servers – if anyone finds a way of doing this, I would be very grateful to be able to remove part of my diss!


      2. DD — as I write this, the submission system is still open. I just went in and changed the license agreement from “yes” to “no” on my paper, because I really don’t want it archived forevermore in its present state. (If the paper gets excluded because I changed one of the settings after the deadline, well, that’ll be one more reason not to renew my membership after my term as section officer is up.)


  6. When we were all griping about dues and financial reports and such, some people active in ASA governance complained that we just griped in blogs instead of saying anything to ASA.

    So my question to Scatterplotters who are more connected to ASA governance than I am: what is the appropriate way to have input into something like this? I.e. suggesting that the formal rules get cleaned up to match actual practice and that better options be created for choosing which version of a paper goes to online availability. Do I send a suggestion to ASA staff? Am I supposed to know who my ASA council rep is and email them? Is there really no way to have input besides running for ASA office or going to a 7am meeting at the convention?


    1. Council meets the weekend of February 11. You could e-mail one or more people on Council and ask them to introduce a motion about this and see if it can get on the agenda. You could even try to organize multiple people to e-mail them if you worry your one e-mail would be dismissed as an isolated view.

      As for the general “instead of saying anything to ASA” issue vs. blogs, there are some people who think that if ASA sends out something extremely misleading about a dues proposal to all members, with a vote on that proposal very soon, the way a member who objects is supposed to handle it is by sending a quiet e-mail to ASA staff and crossing-their-fingers that maybe a quiet correction appears in some subsequent issue. Screw those people, is my belief.

      At least one person involved in the transparency stuff is involved in the outer rings of ASA governance has been an advocate for transparency from that position since that kerfuffle, even if he has deliberately not been blogging about it. That person may have more to say about that later; of course, there’s not much committees can do unless Council approves it. Again, Council meets in February.


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