Suppose a researcher comes up with a mathematical theorem, which can be obtained trivially from discovered theorems, but with an approach, that was never used before to describe or prove the theorem.

Then do the journals accept the paper because of the new approach or reject the paper because of no novelty?

  • 1
    See also the potential duplicate: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/111704/… Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 10:33
  • 4
    What if Alan Turing didn't publish his paper because of the (previously published) Church's Lambda calculus paper for the Entscheidungsproblem? :)
    – Evariste
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 13:00
  • 12
    @Evariste Utopia! Everybody would be using functional languages instead of imperative ones. ... ...maybe. Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 13:18
  • Even a new perspective on an existing theorem can be encouraged in some places… For instance, in their latest call for contribution, JFLA writes « Nous encourageons aussi la soumission de "perles", ces articles présentant avec élégance un résultat connu sous un angle nouveau. », so "We also encourage the submission of "pearls", these articles elegantly presenting a known result from a new angle."
    – Clément
    Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 17:13

3 Answers 3


There is more to mathematics than theorems. Sometimes the best part is the methodology of the proof, especially if it can be used to also solve important problems in the field. If everybody has been thinking in a certain way about a class of problems for a hundred years and you give them a new way to think about it, you have made an important contribution.

So yes, a journal would publish that. But your paper needs to be clear about the novelty and importance of your approach.

My own dissertation had interesting theorems, but was noted for the proof of one of them that was something entirely new and unexpected.

  • 5
    I largely agree, but, not every proof methodology is interesting. How can the OP determine whether their methodology is interesting?
    – user2768
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 9:51
  • 2
    @user2768 Why isn't that for the journals rather than the OP to determine?
    – BCLC
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 10:46
  • 3
    @user2768 wait what? I'm not familiar with publishing actually. How will journals know if something is publishable or not if they don't decide if it's publishable or not?
    – BCLC
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 12:09
  • 4
    @BCLC Journals use reviewers to advise the editors on which papers are worth publishing. So it comes back to Buffy's "People with a lot of experience" - i.e. the reviewers.
    – alephzero
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 12:25
  • 3
    @user2768, wait what?? Pursuing knowledge without knowing whether someone else will agree it should be published is a waste of time?? And scientific love of inquiry and knowledge just goes out the window into the garbage dump, does it? What a sad commentary on the state of academia.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 19:56

Edward Witten not only published a paper of this kind (entitled 'A New Proof of the Positive Energy Theorem'), but the paper strongly contributed to getting him a Fields Medal, the highest award in mathematics. Both proofs in the paper had already been proved by Schoen and Yau using different methods: the key is that he was using new methods to carry out the proof.

Edit: I should also add that general mathematics journals often like to take interesting or easier new proofs of old theorems.

Later: I have thought about this a bit more and the truth is not as quite as glib as I suggested. Unfortunately these things are never black and white. The proof by Witten of that theorem was new but also interesting and surprising. Producing yet another proof of some workhorse theorem which people use on a daily basis might be a bit hard to publish (and I'm speaking from experience as well).


In my area, proving Schur positivity is a big thing. One can do that using RSK, bijections, involutions, crystals, dual equivalence, or representation theory.

Some proofs give more insight than others, so there are several different proofs of the same statement, as the different techniques have different pros and cons.

  • This doesn't answer the question, which was about what journals will accept. Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 9:49
  • Journals accept this - today I saw 'prominent researcher' put a new preprint on arxiv, reproving a theorem related to positivity using crystals, rather than dual equivalence. I have a (published) conjecture on how to prove the same thing using RSK. Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 11:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .