I am finishing my Master's degree in Mathematics and will be enrolled in a PhD program in the U.S. starting from fall. In my country (Russia) we have thesis as a mandatory requirement for all degrees (including BSc and MSc, not just PhD). I hoped that my Master's thesis would be good enough to be published, but my advisor says it is not (I derived some new results, but they aren't very generic and groundbreaking). My Bachelor's thesis was not published too.

My question -- is it bad to have no publications prior to PhD or is it normal to begin publishing only during PhD years? In my view no publications is understandable for BSc students, but I'm not sure about MSc. The question is not about admission (I was admitted to a couple of decent programs this year), but about general timeline and expectations from students in sciences, especially from Master's degree holders.


In mathematics in the US, it is normal to have no publications prior to beginning your PhD. In my experience, hiring committees will even tend to discount publications from before your PhD program, unless there is evidence that they are significantly more substantial than the typical REU fare. Most US mathematics PhDs never do a master's degree, and most who do don't produce a publishable master's thesis, so people also won't generally notice if your master's thesis wasn't published.

As you imply, though, you absolutely should begin publishing during your PhD program.

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    More accurately: Hiring committees tend to ignore incremental / uninteresting publications, regardless of when they were written or where they were published, but they do pay attention to significant results, regardless of when they were written or where (or even whether) they were published. – JeffE May 16 '18 at 17:56
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    @JeffE: Agreed, but my point is that hiring committees in mathematics (being made up of apes, after all) are more likely to assume that pre-PhD publications are incremental / uninteresting. (The implication for job / graduate school applicants who do have significant early results: make sure your letter writers sell those results!) – Mark Meckes May 16 '18 at 20:30

My experience on this (Europe, physics department): I started my PhD last year, up to that point I had coauthorship on one publication (This dates back to my bachelors degree, I was a research assistant on a project that lead to a publication). Fellow PhDs in my current group have either one or no publicatiion as coauthors from their masters programme.

To cut it short: In my field it would be quite uncommon to have your 'own' papers (as in first author, not sure if a journal would even accept such a submission) before you finished your masters, coauthorship depends on how keen the supervisor is on publishing results (and how well the overall research on that topic is progressing, my thesis was connected to a PhD's research, as those results could be published I got coauthorship).


In the UK (chemistry) it is uncommon to publish during the masters and this does not usually matter when applying for PhDs. As you have already been accepted for a PhD, I would not worry at all - this will be the period where you publish.

I myself, found some new results and disproved a theory but the supervisor did not feel the need to publish it. The decision can be driven by the supervisor or impact of the work.

On the other hand, masters students in China are usually expected to publish and this will greatly help them when applying for PhDs in foreign countries (at least in the UK). I have not known a PhD student in the UK without a publication from their masters. This is not only limited to China, of course.

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