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So I wrote a seminar paper in grad school (MSc) with examples on how companies use method x to improve their security. It includes zero original research, no new methods and it would never ever be published in a journal, because the substance is really not there.

It gives a theoretical background of the problems itself and then different current examples from 2 companies that I researched over the internet and a conclusion. Thus, not only academic sources but also other sources (companies) are used and it basically shows the application of academic concepts.

Other researchers could use this paper to potentially find ways on how to dig deeper and how to address some problems specifically, but I did not point something like that out myself.

My question:

Does this count as research and does it make sense to hand those kind of papers to PhD admission departments?

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This is akin to a review article, in the sense that you're interpreting and reporting on existing work, rather than creating something new. There's nothing wrong with a review article, and many scientists do write them during their careers (but usually not before they've started a doctoral program!).

That said, while I believe that it is not nearly as good as a "standard" research paper in establishing one's capabilities to do original research, it may have some merit. If the schools to which you are applying allow you to submit additional documentation, then you could consider sending it in, if you believe it is of sufficient quality.

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I would also say yes, primarily as your research and analytical methods could be considered as original research - this aspect could possibly be refined and submitted as a paper. Definitely do submit your work as part of your PhD application, perhaps with a focus on the methodology that you used and an evaluation of the method.

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I would say yes, it is good to show this if you are planning to apply for grad school as a way to show your capability for conducting research, your interest, knowledge of the topic and dedication. It might, or not, give a potential adviser a hint of your capability. Then, if the paper is or not mature or appropriate for a peer-reviewed journal would not, in principle, be an issue for the purpose you mention.

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In the Definition section of Research Wiki page,

A broad definition of research is given by Martyn Shuttleworth - "In the broadest sense of the word, the definition of research includes any gathering of data, information and facts for the advancement of knowledge".

I think your paper counts as research. I would hand those kind of papers to PhD admission departments if I were you. At the very least, the paper shows that you have the research potential even if it contains no original idea or new methods.

However, you need to make sure the paper is of good quality. If the quality is poor, it could have negative effects. You probably want some experts (like your advisor) review it before you send it out.

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