I finished my bachelor project and my supervisor suggested to work with me on publishing a paper about my work which is an encryption algorithm, Now my supervisor helped me with some remarks along my bachelor project and helped me with the paper (like grammar mistakes and such) but I am the one who made encryption algorithm and I am the one who wrote the paper:

Now should I include my supervisor as a 2nd author as he wants? (I can refuse, and then publish the paper on my own) He is a senior IEEE member and has published papers (where he was also 2nd author taking credit for others' work). Should I mention him just for the sake to get my paper accepted or protect it from getting stolen?

From my point of view, what he deserves is to be mentioned in acknowledgments but not as a second author.

And will the ownership of the paper will be 50% to me, while 50% to him ?

  • 1
    So, you did your project on your own, without any inputs from your supervisor?
    – TCSGrad
    Jul 29, 2013 at 4:06
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    In engineering, I think it is commonly accepted that the adviser of a student project is always a co-author of any papers resulting from the project, whether or not the adviser contributed to the paper or to the project.
    – JRN
    Jul 29, 2013 at 4:27
  • But wont people think he contributed in making the cipher ? , i mean i did the cipher , while he concentrated on how should bachelor thesis looks and how should paper looks(which i am grateful) , but he didn't contribute to the encryption algorithm.
    – The Trice
    Jul 29, 2013 at 8:52
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    No. Ownership of the paper would be 100% to you and 100% to him. Or perhaps more accurately, 0% to you, 0% to him, and 100% to the publisher.
    – JeffE
    Jul 29, 2013 at 13:12
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    Given how your comments are rife with punctuation, grammar, capitalization, and spacing errors, I find it hard to believe that you got a paper acceptance-ready all on your own. Perhaps you did the bulk of the technical work, as you claim, but your overall spirit seems remarkably ungrateful for any assistance you may have received. Seeing that he is an IEEE senior member, he probably has a good idea of what qualifies for co-authorship, and what is more appropriate for recognition in the acknowledgements. I strongly recommend that you defer to his expertise in that area.
    – J.R.
    Jul 30, 2013 at 2:55

7 Answers 7


As I read through your question and some of your comments, I get the impression that this faculty member has already done some work on your paper, presumably believing that he would be a co-author.

If so, I think it would be wrong to submit a solo paper with his improvements incorporated into the work. If you want to be sole author, then you should do ALL the work, including the proofreading, etc. – or at least have let the professor know up front that he would only be listed under the acknowledgements, so he could make an informed decision about whether or not it would be worth his time and effort to make those improvements. Proofreading and correcting is not a trivial feat.

More importantly, though, your question reminds me of a similar situation I experienced during graduate school. During a computer graphics course, my lab partner and I did a lot of work on an algorithm, and we ended up getting a paper published. Our instructor was also listed as a third author.

My partner and I developed and tested the algorithm, and our instructor did little but give us the problem. Did I feel slighted? No, and in hindsight, I now better understand his vital role in our work. These problems don't just pop up like dandelions, or infiltrate our email like spam – they are usually the result of extensive study, along with collaborative research with industry. In other words, without us students, he wouldn't have had an answer, but, without our instructor, we would not have had a problem of any meaningful significance.

If I see an IEEE paper with two authors, instead of presuming that the work was split evenly between those two, I'd probably assume that one author's principle role was to identify the problem, while the other worked the solution. That's so common that it's almost a given – such symbiotic relationships are ubiquitous in academia.

In other words, I think you misunderstand the nature of coauthorship in research. Your instructor thought the work you did was good enough for the two of you to get something published together. You ought to be appreciative of his guidance, happily put his name alongside yours, and get off to a good start in the realm of academic research.

  • But remember that standards of co-authorship vary significantly between different subfields of computer science. In theoretical computer science (my subfield), acquiring the grant, suggesting the problem, and offering feedback on the manuscript are not usually worth coauthorship. Even in an IEEE journal.
    – JeffE
    Jul 30, 2013 at 17:07
  • @JeffE: That's a good point. However, I'm assuming that, if the faculty member assumes co-authorship is a given in this case, then it's probably the right way to play it. (I suppose that could be an erroneous assumption, but I wanted to point out that the O.P.'s situation is hardly considered unusual in many branches of research.)
    – J.R.
    Jul 30, 2013 at 21:08
  • Mentioning the problem , alothough i changed the title of my bachelor later to be to make a new encryption alogrithm rather than IMPROVING an existing one , he did point me to the direction of cryptology . Ok well but i will point out to him (since he want to submit paper to the journals himself) that he will guide me in the submitting part but everything will go through me. Thanks your previous problem is similar to mine . Thanks and thanks for all others who helped me in my decision.
    – The Trice
    Jul 30, 2013 at 21:17
  • @Trice: Except I never considered it a "problem" – I always regarded it as an "opportunity."
    – J.R.
    Jul 30, 2013 at 22:31

You have many questions as about authorship, and I am afraid some of your questions/comments indicate a certain level of confusion about authorship. You could browse the questions on this site, and it may Enlighten you to some extent.

Regarding your specific questions:

  • Should I include my supervisor as a 2nd author as he wants?

    First, you should check the policy on authorship directly from the publisher. IEEE Publication Policies states that:

    Authorship and co-authorship should be based on a substantial intellectual contribution. It is assumed that all authors have had a significant role in the creation of a manuscript that bears their names.

    Therefore, the list of authors on an article serves multiple purposes; it indicates who is responsible for the work and to whom questions regarding the work should be addressed. Moreover, the credit implied by authorship is often used as a measure of the contributors’ productivity when they are evaluated for employment, promotions, grants, and prizes.

    1. The IEEE affirms that authorship credit must be reserved for individuals who have met each of the following conditions:
      a. Made a significant intellectual contribution to the theoretical development, system or experimental design, prototype development, and/or the analysis and interpretation of data associated with the work contained in the article;
      b. Contributed to drafting the article or reviewing and/or revising it for intellectual content; and
      c. Approved the final version of the article as accepted for publication, including references.

    Unless you performed research entirely without any input from your advisor, it seems unlikely that he did not make a “significant intellectual contribution”. Possible types of contribution include proposal of research subject/project, any guidance in the choice of method to pursue the project or on intermediate results, guidance on how best to interpret results and present them, etc.

  • Will the ownership of the paper will be 50% to me, while 50% to him?

    No, co-authorship does not necessarily mean equal contribution (and is not understood as such by the readers). To go even further, some journals offer the option of writing an explicit statement quantifying (to some extent) the respective contributions of the coauthors.

  • Won't people think he contributed in making the cipher?

    Not necessarily, as above. They will think he contributed to some extent to the research project, but will understand that he may not have been the one who came up with the idea.

I'll end by adding that you should be really wary not to dismiss your advisor's role too much. Even if you had the breakthrough idea and implemented it yourself, surely the guidance offered by your teachers and supervisors are to be credited, maybe more than you realize right now. Also, that he gave you the opportunity to pursue a worthwhile research project, and then helped you transform that into a publishable (quality) paper, are important contributions.

  • There was no guidance , i had to discover the mistakes in the algorithm and fix them! , because he is that into cryptology i had to study and make algorithm , i updated him with what i am doing but he didn't show me my mistakes , he was agreeing with anything presented. His guidance was in the appearance of the paper and how it should be written and presented .THAT'S IT , so would that fall in category (b) IN Your marked passage or that doesn't fall ? Thanks for help and marked passage(yellow box)
    – The Trice
    Jul 29, 2013 at 23:19
  • Yes, that would definitely fall into the (b) category.
    – F'x
    Jul 30, 2013 at 7:37
  • And would (b) be enough or does he have to meet all 3 requirements ?
    – The Trice
    Jul 30, 2013 at 21:11

Since he's your advisor and you consulted him through out the project, then you definitely need to put his name as a co-author (unless he refused to be a co-author).

Taking into account that this is your first paper and he's a senior IEEE member (I don't know what this really mean but IEEE love its members), I believe it is a plus for your paper to be co-authored by him.

  • 2
    @TheTrice So if I understand right, you got this idea of the encryption algorithm by yourself, encrypted everything alone in a dark room and never discussed anything with your advisor...
    – Nick S
    Jul 29, 2013 at 14:56
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    @Nicks, <irony on> not only that - his advisor must also have told him that he won't do anything but proofread for typos, and particularly not check the content of paper and thesis. Off course there may be a slight problem with the paper as no second person ever thought through the idea of the student before the publication was submitted... <irony off> Jul 29, 2013 at 16:07
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    IMHO the "magnitude" of the contribution "supervision and checking [not the spelling but the experiments, content and reasoning]" by the prof does not depend on whether the student does a very good job or needs lot of corrections. (If I get crappy papers for review that also isn't honored differently from reviewing very good papers.) Also, the student not noticing the guidance of the prof can be result of a very good guidance by the prof: instead of telling "do this and that" the prof leads the student to thoroughly understand the problem and thus derive a solution "himself". Jul 29, 2013 at 16:08
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    @TheTrice No. Is just that often people overestimate their work on a project and underestimate other people contribution. If it was indeed all your work without any input whatsoever from your advisor, then you should not put him on your paper. BUT, knowing how the system works, it wouldn't surprise me if it was the SUPERVISOR not you who chose this particular topic to investigate, and you probably had some talks before starting work, and he probably made some suggestions. And most probably he gave you some materials to read about it...
    – Nick S
    Jul 30, 2013 at 0:27
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    If you don't think your supervisor deserves to be a coauthor, just tell him so and submit without him. You don't need our approval. But be prepared for a backlash; in particular, don't expect him to want to continue working with you or write you a glowing recommendation letter later. Single-authorship may look like the best short-term solution, but generosity usually pays off better in the long run.
    – JeffE
    Jul 30, 2013 at 2:42

The rules for what co-authorship mean vary by field: in math it would be unusual for an advisor to be listed as a co-author under the circumstances, while in engineering, as others have notes, an advisor is normally included.

One of the reasons is that fields like engineering list authors in an order conveying information about the contributions: you'd be listed as first author, and your advisor as last author. Readers understand that this means you had the main intellectual contribution and your advisor acted as a supervisor.


It appears to me that you are looking for validation for not including your supervisor. A supervisor is not supposed a person whose brain emanates marvelous and groundbreaking ideas which are later developed by a horde of pawns. Research does not work like that. It is about collaboration at different levels.

If you cannot admit he has contributed to some extent, that's fine. My point of view regarding this sort of ego-fights is: is it worth creating a whole circus and fighting for being first/solo author of a paper that is not going to change the world? Time will pass and you will understand ... Hopefully.

Good luck.

  • 2
    I have same feeling about this discussion "It appears to me that you are looking for validation for not including your supervisor."
    – antmw1361
    Jul 30, 2013 at 1:44

If he wants to be an author, add him, and use that as leverage to improve your paper.

Being first author is plenty of credit for you; in fact, in your situation being sole author could be an indication that you are unable to work with others, which is a negative in most cases. People are highly accustomed to crediting the student with all of the value of the work (because they did the work), and the professor with all of the value of the work (because they enabled the work in various ways), and the credit can count twice because the student and professor almost never are competing for the same things. I'm assuming that the professor actually did do something enabling.

In any case, before you publish the paper you should get someone to read it carefully, and if they say things like "this passage is unclear" or "this needs more background" then your professor ought to be able to give advice and/or help fix it. There's nothing like having a highly experienced co-author to make short work of a request to place this work in the context of the field! If your professor cannot help improve the paper in this kind of situation (and help write a good cover letter, etc.), and they didn't actually enable any of the work, then even if it would help you, it is probably not ethical to include him as an author. Otherwise, there are only positives for all involved.

  • Thanks for your answer , He does the reading , as i said that's the only thing that he does ,reading the paper and telling me remarks about some passages or grammar mistakes , but work to do algorithm was done solely by me. I updated him with every step in making the algorithm ,but he never mentioned any remarks since he doesn't understand encryption that well , so i had to discover my mistakes in the algorithm and work on my own on them. So his name will only be used to help me publish the paper,Since IEEE care more about appearances more than the work presented.
    – The Trice
    Jul 29, 2013 at 23:11
  • IEEE doesn't really care one way or the other about your paper. The decision whether to publish will be made by an individual editor, based on the recommendation of independent referees, who may not even be IEEE members, much less representatives.
    – JeffE
    Jul 30, 2013 at 10:44

In engineering, it is common (accepted) for students to put their advisor's names as authors. This does not detract from the student's efforts; in some respects it can enhance the reception of the paper because the wider community will probably know the supervisor more than the student.

Be aware that if you try to publish it without your advisor's name, then the reviewers or editors may contact them and ask what is wrong (and also decline to publish the paper).

My advisor told me that the work I was doing was worthless, and not worth publication. I moved universities (and advisors), completed the work and submitted it without my original advisor's name as author. The IEEE editor rejected the paper until my original advisor was added as author.

  • 1
    Yeah its all about appearances and connections rather than work presented . One day a more scientific community will be presented rather than IEEE.
    – The Trice
    Jul 29, 2013 at 23:24

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