Some context: applied/pure mathematics. My supervisor is known and respected in their field. We are writing a paper together, however for various reasons, by the time of submission, I will probably have written 80-100% of it myself. In this case, my supervisor wishes not to be listed as an author, specifically because they don't wish to claim credit for work that isn't theirs. (i.e. the quality of the work is not in question)

Question: as a first publication, would it have greater impact if I were to list my supervisor as an author regardless?

My thinking is that a publication whose only author is a no-name (me) will likely not be read, whereas my supervisor's name might attract readers who are familiar with his/her work. On the other hand, while it might suffer from lower impact to omit my supervisor's name from the author list, including my supervisor's name does detract credit from the work I have done, and I have to consider how it looks when applying to graduate and PhD positions.

  • I think that your supervisor is very honest. Actually it sounds even uncommon to me as for contributing (say) 20 percent surely assures authorship. So go ahead and don't think much. I am from a different field where supervisor usually at least provide lots of equipment. ....).
    – Alchimista
    Jan 20, 2018 at 9:40
  • Is it applied or pure mathematics...? I'm in pure mathematics, and here it's seen as better to publish alone. But my office mate is in applied mathematics and he says it's better to publish your first publication with well-known people. And just to be sure: you are an undergrad?
    – user9646
    Jan 20, 2018 at 9:42
  • @NajibIdrissi - That's difficult to answer. It's at a nexus between. My supervisor is an applied mathematician, however the work I have done has drifted from his expertise into pure mathematics. The results do have relevance to his work, however they also have significance in their own right to pure mathematicians. I really don't know the answer. I graduated from an undergrad degree last year. At my university, it is typical to go straight from my degree to a PhD.
    – Myridium
    Jan 20, 2018 at 9:45

1 Answer 1


Unless there are more people despising your supervisor than respecting them, adding him to the publication will inevitably increase its visibility by some amount, even though this should not be the case in an ideal world. There is a positive chance that somebody will only read your paper because they know the author. How large this effect is depends on your particular subfields culture and the popularity of your supervisor. Moreover, note that your supervisor can also advertise your work to their peers irrespective of authorship and this effect may be more relevant to the impact than authorship.

That being said, for your imminent career, it is mostly irrelevant how many people actually read your paper, but only how relevant or good the paper is considered by those who decide upon your applications. However, those people will also know that you worked with your current supervisor and will also likely have a recommendation letter from them praising your work in the paper. So adding your supervisor as an author shouldn’t matter in this respect. On the contrary: It’s certainly more impressive that you single-authored a paper.

Now, for your later academic career, you have to weigh between the two effects, but since you will hopefully have written several papers then (otherwise you will probably not have a later academic career) and securing a good PhD position may help for this, my bets are on opting for being a single author.

A sidenote: Going from your description, I assume that it is borderline whether your supervisor qualifies for authorship and thus ethical considerations of authorship are inconclusive.

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