Background: My undergrad thesis primarily consists of 4 Methods converted into individual chapters (excluding intro, results, conclusion etc.). One chapter dedicates one specific idea. Each chapter is based on a published/to be published/pre-pint "work". Basically, I have converted each "work" into a chapter.

Now, 3 out of the 4 chapters has 2 additional authors (plus my advisor) but I am the first author in all of them with the major contribution.


  1. Is this okay? Should I just leave this as separate papers and leave the thesis altogether? (I don't have the time to develop a separate research and form a thesis out of it.)
  2. Should undergrad thesis work only be based on one author plus advisor?
  3. How does this look front of a PhD CS admit panel? (Say USA).

Additional Reason to build the thesis: The 4 papers are bound by a core specific domain and are quite inter-related in there work.

Note: I have no constraint for course requirements from my university. The thesis is optional. I can drop it anytime. Even at the last second. My university if fine with point 1 and 2. I am asking in terms of phd admit panels and just "in the eyes of other academics" in general.

  • 2
    Questions 1 and 2 are dependent on your university's policies and you should ask your advisor about that. I don't see any problem with it personally: my PhD thesis was based on three published papers, one of which I was not even first author for. – astronat Apr 21 at 6:58
  • Thank you, but I actually meant for admits and not my university. I framed the question wrong I guess. I'll change it in the note. – Aymuos Apr 21 at 7:02

Since you are not asking about the legalities of handing in such a thesis, I will assume that you have checked that there are no problems obtaining your qualifying degree after handing it in. My answer is contingent on that. I am not in CS, but I don't think the answer is field specific. (in fact it is probably not even specific to academia, but also holds for industry to some degree)

The main question I want answered when I look at PhD applications is:

  • Can this person independently perform high quality work? Or do I have a reasonable expectation that it will be easy to teach the person to do so?

Strong indicators for this are:

  • Consistently good performance in courses.
  • A well-written undergraduate thesis which reflects independent work.
  • A publication based on thesis work, where it is clear that the student was a driving force.
  • Independent projects performed at eg. summer schools.

Weaker, but still good, indicators are:

  • Recommendation letters highlighting the candidate's independence.
  • Publications where it is clear that everything was completely driven by a supervisor, and the student was just along for the ride.
  • Experience working with different supervisors.

Red flags:

  • A weak thesis, not reflecting independent work at all.
  • Poor performance in courses.

If I got an application from a person with essentially no undergraduate thesis, but a compilation of pre-prints with co-authors, my natural question would be if the person has actually done any of this work themselves. I am not hiring the full team who published these papers - I am hiring one student, who is likely the most junior person on those teams. I would need to be convinced that these papers are the product of your work. You could do that by:

  • Specifying your contribution to the individual papers in your application.
  • Actually writing a full thesis, and not a compilation, at mark the papers as "based on thesis X". This would come off very strong, especially if they eventually get published.
  • Having a supervisor write a recommendation letter saying that, yes, you did a lot of work.
  • Thank you so much for this answer! This has helped me a lot and not only for this question alone. It was exactly what I was looking for :) – Aymuos Apr 21 at 8:59

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