I have written a paper all by myself,the research problem and its solution all were formulated by me. As a result I wrote the paper and submitted to a journal citing only my name.

As I told my advisor today that I have submitted my work,he is insisting that I should include his name in the paper as he is my supervisor and he has every right to own it.

I knew that if an author makes some significant contribution then only his name should be cited.

But I fear that if I dont agree,he may spoil my career.

Shall I ask the editor that I want to withdraw my paper citing this as a reason?

or What shall I do to include his name as the paper has already been submitted?

I think I should not submit my paper for publication at all.

  • 2
    Does he want to be included as author, or just have an acknowledgement in the paper? The last is appropriate, at least. But he doesn't have a right to "own" it, I think.
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 16:56
  • 2
    What field are you in? And why do you not trust your professor's judgement his contributions merit authorship? Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 18:45
  • @Buffy;He wants his name on the paper,I would have been happy to achnowledge him but he wants listed as a co-author
    – user98075
    Commented Sep 15, 2018 at 0:42
  • Contact the editor and tell them you want to add another author. If they tell you it is impossible, just withdraw and resubmit it after making the change. Basically your advisor has the power to demand co-authorship for your work, even when they don't deserve it. It is a completely one-sided system. At this point your best option is to just give it to them (the other, lesser, options are to throw away your work, or else ignore them and risk them getting your paper retracted, and getting you in trouble at your school). Find a better advisor if you don't like it. Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 18:51

2 Answers 2


If your advisor didn't help you on the paper, other than by fulfilling his normal duties as instructor, then he is abusing his power over you if he demands authorship on the paper. He should be ashamed to try that. He can ask, of course, and provide reasons, but not demand.

However, it would be entirely appropriate for you to acknowledge him in the work itself for the general help he gives you in your education.

Yes, you can ask to have the paper withdrawn, and you can revise it to include an additional author or acknowledgement section.

But if his general attitude is as bad as it sounds, then he can still damage your career if you withdraw and don't publish it at all. If you can avoid that outcome, and are close to completion, you could, perhaps, publish the paper later when he no longer has power over you.

But, sometimes, in an extreme imbalance of power situation with a bad actor, the wisest choice is just to go along and work toward better outcomes in the future. Maddening choice, but safe.

  • 7
    I might note that the OP identifies as an undergraduate student. While it is conceivable that an undergrad would, entirely by themselves, produce a useful paper, I might also consider the possibility that the advisor contributed more than the student is admitting to.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 17:17
  • +1, Agree with Buffy. Good point @Jon Custer. At what point should the OP consider discussing with another faculty member or Dept Head? Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 18:11
  • 4
    @SecretAgentMan At what point should the OP consider discussing with another faculty member or Dept Head? — Before posting the question here.
    – JeffE
    Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 18:38
  • 1
    I inderstand,but the problem is my advisor is in the PhD committee and he wont let me get away,I think I have no other option left.Can you please tell how to write th editor to withdraw the paper?
    – user98075
    Commented Sep 15, 2018 at 0:47
  • 1
    he wont let me get away — What, he's going to physically block the door or something?
    – JeffE
    Commented Sep 15, 2018 at 2:54

Shall I ask the editor that I want to withdraw my paper citing this as a reason?

Resolve the co-authorship dispute with your advisor first, before doing anything with your paper.

Let's give your advisor the benefit of the doubt. It is possible that they actually did contribute significantly to the development of your paper, but in ways that you may not recognize.

So I would recommend asking them, directly but calmly, what they believe they contributed to the paper. And then LISTEN.

If their only answer is "I'm your advisor", start looking for a new advisor. Same for "I pay your salary" or "I need it for my tenure/promotion case" or "It's a department/university rule". The only ethical justification for co-authorship is a novel and significant intellectual contribution to the paper. The requirements are the same for your advisor, your department chair, your office mate, the bartender at your favorite pub, or some random stranger on the internet.

But your advisor might remind you of activities that they consider significant intellectual contributions, even if you don't. For example, if you and your advisor discussed your research results as they evolved, those discussions could be enough of a contribution for co-authorship even if no concrete ideas from those discussions appear in the paper. In particular, steering you away from tempting bad ideas is definitely a contribution.

Whether their contributions really are significant enough for co-authorship is something the two of you will have to negotiate, but I recommend erring on the side of generosity. Not because they're your advisor, or because you "owe" them, but because generosity pays off more in the long run.

Alternatively, they might have expected to be more involved—as a colleague and mentor—in the research and writing process. After all, their job as your advisor is to help you become a better researcher, but they can't do that job if you don't let them. That's not a good argument for retroactively making them a coauthor of this paper, but it is a strong indicator that you and your advisor need to discuss your expectations for future research much more clearly.

If you are seriously worried about your advisor overreacting ("spoiling your career"), you should discuss the situation first with your department chair, graduate program director, department ombudsman, or one of your other faculty mentors. (You do have at least one other faculty mentor, don't you?) Again: LISTEN. Given the high emotions involved, it might be appropriate to invite the other faculty member to mediate the discussion between you and your advisor, or at least act as a neutral observer. Hopefully, your worries are unfounded.

And if you can't trust your advisor enough to have the discussion at all, I'm afraid your relationship with your advisor is broken. Start looking for a new advisor that you can trust.


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