I am a undergraduate student who is trying to publish something so as to facilitate my PhD applications in the future.

I have a few seniors who help out in the lab and have been included as non-1st authors in some publications. Basically, what they do is helping the PhD's do some implementations. Thus, actually there is not much real research involved. But at least in the end, they are the authors, although not 1st authors, of some publications. It is quite nice for undergraduates to have such publications.

As for me, I am currently working on an individual project under a supervisor, who is extremely busy every day. Instead of being a helper, I am actually initiating the research all the way. I am also working towards publishing a paper to present the work.

Nice as it may sound, I am facing a lot of difficulties. As a undergraduate, my knowledge is so limited, and meanwhile I have to attend lectures. My time is also very limited. So I am really afraid I can publish nothing at the end of the research.

Since I have already started the research, no matter the decision to initiate one project my self is wise or not, I have to fight to the very end.

Could anybody help give some suggestions to make my work get published more likely?

  • 11
    To the down-voters: This question is about research and therefore precisely on-topic.
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 12:25
  • 1
    @JeffE Thank you so much for the clarification. Now there are a lot of blind down-voters just somehow down vote all around. Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 12:28

4 Answers 4


One alternate strategy that could help is to see about trying to present a poster of your work at a conference. Even if that doesn't have quite the same prestige as a paper in a journal or an accepted paper at a conference (if you're in CS), it still is a sign of doing significant amounts of research. An especially good sign would be if you could win a "best student poster" or "best student talk"-type award.

However, the important thing for you will be to be able to discuss what you have done with authority in your statement of purpose to graduate schools, and to get a good letter of recommendation from your advisor that clearly outlines your contributions to your project. Having a publication is nice, but it's not an essential component for graduate school admissions.

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    +1; I'd go so far as to say that, while the OP may be jealous of his friends' "easy publications," such papers actually paint a target on the student when they come for interviews, or at least set a high bar for their statement of purpose. The junior-vacuum-seal-manager who tells everyone about "his" paper in Nature but cannot explain to anyone what's in it might as well have no papers at all.
    – wsc
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 15:21

I think working on your own project is a very good thing to get started with research, and it is a good basis for publishing something. But when you have little experience with the research and publishing process, it is important to have someone with more experience who is able to invest some time in advising you. As your supervisor seems to be very busy, he probably cannot take that role.

My advice would be to get someone senior, like a PhD student or, even better, post-doc with related research interests on board. It's probably best to get someone from your supervisor's group. You should also discuss this with your supervisor first, maybe he/she can even recommend someone. This would of course mean that you add someone else as coauthor, but it should allow you to learn much more about the research and publishing process than when you do it on your own.

  • I have also thought about it. But the thing is that there is no such candidate to "pull in". Really worried about the future. Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 6:44

As some people have suggested, it may be worth your time to see if you can get the research into a conference - while in some fields they're less prestigious than a paper no one is going to scoff at undergraduate research that ends up there.

That being said, I did author several papers as an undergrad, and it was immensely beneficial both to my job prospects and my outlook on research. It's tough, but if you want to do it you can - and no, you shouldn't rely on PhD students to get you a few papers with your name buried in the middle.


This may not be a magic solution but I would suggest focusing on a project than involves more applications and simulations than theoretical results. You would also need to find a suitable, likely small, journal that replies fast. Note that top journals may take years to get back to you with a first review or even an automatic rejection.

P.S. I got some interesting results after googling your profile picture.

  • I am aiming at a few conferences so as to get a prompt decision reply. For the profile pic, I love Angelina Jolie! Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 1:19
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    Yeah, um, that's not Angelina Jolie.
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 1:48
  • @JeffE oops... just tried googling this.. I made a mistake! they seem so alike omg. changed my pic Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 9:09

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