How long is a NIME paper?

Several people have argued that we should change from having a page limit (2/4/6 pages) for NIME paper submissions to a word limit instead. It has also been argued that references should not be counted as part of the text. However, what should the word limits be?

It is always good to look at the history, so I decided to check how long previous NIME papers have been. I started by exporting the text from all of the PDF files with the pdftotext command-line utility:

for i in *.pdf; do name=`echo $i | cut -d'.' -f1`; pdftotext "$i" "${name}.txt"; done

Then I did a word count on these:

wc -w *.txt > wc.txt

And after a little bit of reformatting and sorting, this ends up like this in a spreadsheet format:

And from this we can sort and make a graphical representation of the number of words:

There are some outliers here. A couple of papers are (much) longer than the others, mainly because they contain long appendices. Some files have low word count numbers because the PDF files are protected from editing, and then pdftotext is not able to extract the text. The majority of files, however, are in the range 2500-5000 words.

The word count includes everything, also headers/footers, titles, abstracts, acknowledgements, and references. These differ, but the total words used for these things are 2000-5000 words. So the main text of most papers could be said to be in the range of 2000-4500 words.

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Alexander Refsum Jensenius is a music researcher and research musician living in Oslo, Norway.