My Research Paper Too Short

Have you ever had trouble meeting a page limit requirement?

In high school, we all had some trouble with a well-known assignment. It was a 10-page research paper with an annotated bibliography. The research paper was a big deal as it accounted for 25 percent of our final grade.

But the paper had to meet one rule: it had to be at least 10 full pages. We faced a stiff penalty for turning in a paper too short. Not only would our teacher dock us points. She threatened to fail us and give the paper a score of ZERO.

The teacher said there were no exceptions. Even a paper that was 9 and a half pages in length that was well-written and terse would be failed. To highlight the importance of meeting 10 pages, my teacher reminded us the paper was worth 25 percent. Even if you got every other test and homework perfectly, but you failed the paper, you could at most get a C grade.

Most of us got the message and worked hard on the paper. I even went so far as visiting other libraries and finding primary sources.

But one person I knew fumbled with the paper until the last minute. He could only muster up 9 pages the night before, and he ran out of filler material.

And yet, he managed to pass the paper without anyone noticing. Keep reading after the jump to find out how he did it.

Page limit loophole

So how did he turn in a 9-page paper and not fail?

When he realized he could not write any more information, he decided to try something else: he renumbered the pages.

He figured the teacher would definitely check the last page was numbered 10, and the first few pages were numbered properly. But in the middle, the teacher might not be keeping track of each number page by page.

And so he numbered his pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and then 7, 8, 9, 10. All he did was skip page number 6 in the pagination, and he hoped it would work out.

As luck would have it, his plan worked out perfectly. The teacher never noticed the phantom page and the paper was accepted as being 10 pages.

On top of that, she gave him a respectable B+ grade! That means he boosted his grade from a 0 to a B+ just by renumbering his pages. Wow.

Was it cheating, or was it a clever move?

On reflection, the story does give me some pause. This was a student clearly deceiving his teacher by fabricating the total number of pages, and that meets the textbook definition of cheating.

In high school, I hated cheaters and I still resent them. I got my straight A’s in college by studying efficiently and doing the work, and cheaters made a mockery of my efforts.

But I do not feel that way about this story. In fact, when I first heard the story years ago, I laughed.

I laughed even more when I heard he got away with it.

And I’m still chuckling to this day. I mean the teacher’s strict paper requirement was circumvented by a phantom page? It’s just laughably easy and hilarious.

So I tend to view this story as highlighting the foolishness of certain requirements. When he showed that a 9 page paper was worthy of a B+ grade, that was just classic. And something that exposes an arbitrary rule is hilarious in my book.

Just to add to the many answers already here, I'll put what I usually do. I'm often quite verborragic while writing, so this is a common problem for me, as we can all see :)

1) Revise every single sentence, not only to remove stuff that is not needed, ("To this end", "such as", ..., I usually use that stuff to "link" ideas while writing, but they are not needed and usually can be cut out without significant change), but also, as said previously here, to better express your points. Be concise.

2) Remove trailing sentences in the end of paragraphs that do not use the full width of the column. Some times you have one or two words dangling on the end of a paragraph that waste a whole line. At one time, I managed to get a little less than half a page of space on a eight page article just by doing that.

3) Check the references. If the journal is not against journal names abbreviations, do it. The same trailing thing applies here as well...

However, those tips only work if you are close to the mark... For instance, one of my articles was reduced from 10 to 8 pages after the first review... We had no choice but to cut content and move it to supplementary material.

Always keep in mind what information you want to convey...

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