While attending a graduate course on an engineering subject (reliability of complex systems) I had an idea about a different approach to a known problem. The application of this different method to a known topic would simply require to build a model of the physical system under study and to do a few simulations. I have already done a test to see if this approach makes sense at all on basic problems (the one you would see in an introductory course on subject). After a quick search, I found that there is no literature that covers this aspect in our field of application (electrical engineering).

I told my idea to a colleague student that has "real world experience" on the subject and he was very enthusiast. Our cooperation would involve him bringing his experience (to evaluate the process and the quality of the results) and I would bring the computational skills (set up the simulation etc...). The paper would be about 5-6 pages plus results (and scripts if they can be attached).

Now I'm asking you: what is the correct iter we could follow to see if this paper is worth publishing? And then, assuming it is, where do we submit the paper for publishing? I'd be happy to publish it on my blog anyway but I think there is some potential for "more than a blog work" (if you can allow me the use of this bad description) and would like to know what are the options.

Also, I would like to add that I came up with the idea of a publication of this work because I came across a lot of short papers in this format (new solution/method to old problem). While I think our idea is not revolutionary, it might add some useful perspective.


  1. We are 2 graduate students that have an idea for a new approach to a relatively old problem.
  2. We already did some tests and the idea seems sound.
  3. The paper would be approx 5-6 pages plus results.
  4. The subject is related to realiability calculation in electrical engineering applications.

Where do we go after having written the paper for "proper" validation and publishing request?

  • 3
    what is the correct iter we could follow to see if this paper is worth publishing? Convince yourselves, then convince your supervisors. And then, assuming it is, where do we submit the paper for publishing? That's a shopping question, hence, off-topic.
    – user2768
    Dec 17, 2018 at 10:06
  • You publish in journals relevant to your field. Most people won't be familiar with any electrical engineering journals, so very few can recommend something. Generally, once you have some experience, you'll know which journals ar worth publishing in. For starters, ask your supervisor, or the head of the program you're in, or a lecturer that's familiar with the topic. In the worst case, they will direct you to someone that will be of more help to you.
    – user68958
    Dec 17, 2018 at 11:20
  • Relevant, if not duplicate: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/60350/… Dec 17, 2018 at 19:26

6 Answers 6


Your situation is just like that of any other researcher. Work out your ideas. Write them up with proper citations of past and related work and submit to a journal that might be interested. The journal may be one of those you have found in your work and have cited.

Your advisor will give you initial feedback on your idea I hope and the editor and referees of the journal will also provide some validation. Your advisors likely have more experience and perspective than either of you, so take their advice about originality and possible importance. But, basically, in order to publish, you just do it and wait for feedback from the journal. Expect, as a minimum to have to rewrite based on reviewer comments.

  1. Write it up clearly and submit it. If you have never done this before, I recommend to do a little research (figure out what the most appropriate journal is, read some articles there, FOLLOW the notice to authors on formatting or other issues).

  2. Also recommend to look at one or two simple books or articles on how to write a science paper. I quite like a couple of older references:

Katzoff Technical Writing (short and sweet)


And the relevant chapters of E. Bright Wilson An Introduction to Scientific Research (library will have it).

  1. You do not need to have an "advisor" to submit a paper. After all lots of scientists in business or government work without professor advisors. Just submit paper.

  2. Practical advice: try to get into a decent, but lower prestige journal. Not some predatory fly by night thing. But also not Science or Nature. In EE, it may be easier since there is such a fragment of journals. Probably pick the closest IEEE journal.


I published a paper as a second year undergraduate student as a result of a project course, at the end of the project the teacher figured we had enough to write a paper. We wrote this under his and a PhD student's guidance. I am positive that we could not have done it on our own, as we were only second year's students, and this was our first paper ever. In my opinion it would really benefit you to have a supervisor of some sort.

You mention you don't have an advisor, which makes me think you're a European student (?), like me. European graduate degrees don't involve advisors until you are writing a thesis. So my advice would be the following: approach professors you have worked with in the past, who are in the area of expertise as your paper's subject, and ask them to supervise you and your colleague in writing this paper. Helping you bring structure to your paper, reviewing your draft, and helping you select a good conference or journal to submit to (and just guiding you a bit through the process), greatly increases your chances of getting your work published. Moreover, you also build a connection with this professor, and considering it is likely you might want to do your thesis in their area of expertise, this can only help you in the future.

Let me also mention that our supervisor/teacher at the time helped us secure a grant (and even personally put in money) to cover a large portion of the conference attendance fees and travel costs, so we could travel there and present our work.


While attending a graduate course

Does this mean that you are not a full time student? Normally, when I hear people talk about graduate courses, I assume they are a full time student with an advisor.

This is exactly why you should have an advisor at grad school. Hopefully an advisor can help you pick an appropriate publication.

Another thing to mention is costs. Some publications require a fee. Some publications require that at least one of the authors present at a conference. Between publication fees, conference fees, and travel expenses, these costs can be thousands of dollars. This is often paid by grants. (It is possible that your school has put aside some funds to help grad students deal with these costs.)

If you don't have an advisor, I would suggest you look for a professor in your school who works in this field and contact them. It may require you to put a third author on the paper, but that may not be a bad thing. Who knows, a third author my have insights that can improve your paper.

  • 1
    +1. I'll note that some (high quality) publications will waive publication fees in some situations rather than have the actual authors pay them. Or, at least, that used to be true. I'm not happy about non-contributors becoming authors just because they can demand it, but it does happen. More in some fields than others. Don't be too rigid if it is demanded of you. You won't be a student forever.
    – Buffy
    Dec 17, 2018 at 13:25
  • 2
    We are full time students. We do not have an advisor (it's not usual in our university to have one) but only professors who teach their specific course. I will try to get in touch with our professors after completing a draft of the work.
    – mickkk
    Dec 17, 2018 at 17:11
  • @mickkk Then I will add (echoing others): there are predatory journals out there that will publish anything without doing a real review; they just want your money. I have seen journals use the reputation of a researcher without the consent of said research to make themselves look legitimate. In addition to your professors adding insight and/or grant money, they should be able to help you avoid the predators out there.
    – Van
    Dec 17, 2018 at 21:40

It sounds like you're not in too much of a hurry to publish your results. This is wonderful news for you, since this means you have a lot more options!

The main downside to submitting to a journal is that it may take a very long time before you hear anything, and much longer to get a final accepted work. If you have no experience submitting journal papers, then your work may be buried in the review process for well over a year (reviewers asking for corrections, extensions, extra citations...), or just rejected outright, which means you're a few months down the line having to look for an additional journal to submit to. The next journal you submit to has to be different from the first one, and would put you through the same process.

If you're looking for an painless way to get your publication out there and receive feedback before you submit it to a refereed venue, why not put it up on a free online repository (e.g. ArXiv)? This carries several benefits:

  1. You get some practice in writing an actual paper: while ArXiv is not refereed, it would be a bad idea to upload something completely embarrassing.
  2. You can 'safely' disseminate your work and elicit feedback from experts, without worrying about them using your work without any credit.

Another option is submitting your work to a workshop. In CS at least (engineering too I would imagine), workshops tend to be more forgiving than conferences/journals, and would plausibly accept a 5-6 page paper (which sounds more like a note than a complete journal paper unless there's something very profound in your results) that contains some nice ideas that would lead to a discussion. Most decent workshops are at least lightly refereed, which means you'll get some meaningful feedback on your work, and much sooner than you would if you submit to a journal right away. Papers that are accepted to workshops are not excluded from being published in journals, which means that if you have written something amazing, then you can still definitely submit to a journal later on.

EDIT In addition to the above, as others have mentioned: if you don't have a formal advisor then you need to be extra careful of predatory journals (ones who will publish anything for the right price), and of ensuring your results are original.

Good luck!


I'm not sure what you mean by "validate" but a common pitfall of junior (or even senior) researchers is that they "rediscover" some known result. It is always a good exercise to write a manuscript but, to avoid this going to waste, you might want to talk to the instructor (or a specialist in the area) to see if she/he knows of literature on this topic: "a quick search" is hardly enough and you should make a thorough search if only to be sure your bibliography on this topic is up-to-date. Once you have convinced yourself that your calculation and idea is really new, you can send for submission.

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