Matt Bodie has answered a question I have wondered about — are articles at top journals really getting shorter? His answer, based on a survey of seven top law reviews: Yes. Here’s the key finding:
- For those articles published in the 2005-2006 editorial season, the average length was 67.13 pages. The median article was 67 pages long. In contrast, those articles published during the 2004-2005 and 2003-2004 seasons averaged 87.76 pages. The median article was 84 pages long.
- Of the 71 articles published in 2005-2006, only four were over 100 pages (5.6%). None exceeded 108 pages. Of the 130 articles published from 2003-2005, thirty-four were over 100 pages (26%). The longest was 218 pages, and twenty-four of the articles exceeded 110 pages.
- Three of the seven reviews — Columbia, Harvard, and Virginia — did not publish an article over 80 pages long thus far in the 2005-2006 season.
More of the data here. It’s also interesting to note that the published articles are still around 15% to 20% longer than what the journals say they prefer. Of course, some of that added length may have resulted from the editing process.
It’s also interesting to ponder how these numbers may be different from the numbers for journals outside of the “top 10.” My sense is that before the new policy, the top journals were publishing articles that were considerably longer than the articles published in most law reviews. I wonder if the new policy has really just brought the “top” journals back into line with everybody else. Consider the average length of articles published after the new policy was put in effect, 67 pages and change. If you had asked me three years ago what the average length of a law review article is, I would have said that the average length is about 60 to 70 pages. It turns out that this was wrong for the seven top journals Matt surveyed; in those journals, the average length was a whopping 88 pages. So it’s at least possible that the new policy has simply brought the top journals back into line with preexisting expectations.