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As everybody knows, research experience helps in one undergraduate's admission to a PhD program. It would be even better, if the undergraduate has a publication out of his or her research experience.

However, for a full-time undergraduate, it is quite difficult to devote too much time to research since one still has the school work to deal with. (Maintaining a high GPA is also important, isn't it?) Given the time limitation by this or other reasons, the undergraduate may face the following dilemma.

The quality of work is low, but the undergraduate has no time to improve it.

Should the undergraduate publish it to a random and low-tier conference to at least have a publication?

OR

Should he or she just make it a technical report instead of publishing it?

In other words, during the PhD admission, how do the admission committees or professors view a low-quality conference paper? Do they take it as an advantage in the sense that most of the undergraduates have none. Or do they start suspecting the student's research potentials? Does a low-quality "1" win a "0" in this case?

FYI, the field of interest is EECS, but any generic comments are also very much appreciated!

  • Making it a technical report is publishing it. – JeffE Oct 30 '13 at 3:29
  • IMHO a technical report is the best option, because it could be expanded or improved and become part of a "real" publication. I would consider doing that with a low-tier conference as salami publishing, even if a technical report is publishing (as @JeffE points) I see a difference in both. But that may be just me. – Trylks Oct 30 '13 at 3:31
  • @JeffE Sorry for the confusion. What I mean by that is to make it non-public report that logs what I have done. – Sibbs Gambling Oct 30 '13 at 3:32
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    @Trylks Sorry for the confusion caused! I mean the experimental data fail to show that the result is promising. – Sibbs Gambling Oct 30 '13 at 3:52
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    See this related question of mine asked from the other side of the table academia.stackexchange.com/questions/7908/… – StrongBad Oct 30 '13 at 6:32
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If the quality of the work is low, the student should neither publish it in a lower tier conference nor publish it as a technical report. They should either make the time to improve it or toss it in the trash. A bad publication, no matter what venue it's published in, is worse than no publication at all.

Similarly, a "publication" listed in a CV or described in a statement of purpose that isn't retrievable via google (unlike most technical reports, which are googlable) is also worse than no publication at all, because we can't tell if the applicant is lying. (Sadly, some applicants are lying.)

  • I'm not sure we have the same concept of a "bad" publication. For me a bad publication is not wrong, it's simply not very relevant, maybe relatively obvious, maybe a small improvement over the state of the art. If it is well written and correct, I don't see how could that be worse than no-publication. Could you elaborate that? – Trylks Oct 30 '13 at 3:35
  • Thanks a lot! Your opinion on this issue is is really valuable, because 1. same field 2. you must be in the phd admission committee. I originally thought 1 was better than 0, since most of the undergrads have non. – Sibbs Gambling Oct 30 '13 at 3:35
  • @Trylks What you're describing doesn't fit the OP's description "The quality of the work is low...". – JeffE Oct 30 '13 at 3:40
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    I'm not sure we have the same concept of quality. Asked for clarification ;) – Trylks Oct 30 '13 at 3:47
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I have a different opinion:

I think you should push it forward for publication in a national conference, not international (because quality is low)

The weightage for this will definitely be less, But it leaves a different impression if you have some published work.

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