Some background first.

I recently graduated (a couple years ago) with a Master's in applied mathematics. During grad school I began working on a paper, which I continued to work on in my free time post-graduation. A complete rough draft of the paper is nearly done and is ~115 pages in length. The work contained in the paper is completely original and solves an open problem (the problem is open but not anything necessarily revolutionary).

It was of my opinion that the paper contained publishable material. To verify, I emailed a professor at my alma mater with a copy of the current draft. The professor did reply stating that the work was publishable and even suggested some Q1 and Q2 journals that might accept this type of work. While this was useful feedback, I received the reply in just a few days so I doubt the professor in question had the ability to read my paper in depth.

The problem:

I have published a couple papers before and thus have some experience in the world of academic publishing. That said, the scale and complexity of this paper is something I have never dealt with before and so I am not comfortable with proceeding to publish it without help/guidance, i.e. on my own. In particular, I suspect I am going to have to divide the work into small portions and publish a few separate papers but don't know how to do this. Also, the paper is very dense and I am concerned that its "readability" is not exactly optimal. Given that I do not have a ton of experience and am essentially working in a vacuum, I also really desire to get feedback on the quality of my proofs, which I suspect are not as concise as they should be. My situation seems a little unusual and I suspect that the feedback I am looking for would typically be provided by an adviser in a PhD program (not claiming the paper is worthy of a PhD).

Given that I do not have an adviser that can provide detailed feedback, what should I do?

I thought about reaching out to professors/experts with relevant backgrounds and proposing to add them as coauthor in exchange for helping navigate the process of publishing my paper. Is this an absurd proposition? I wonder how such a request may be viewed. Are there any other routes one might suggest I consider?

  • 4
    The co-author offer is probably not appropriate in math in the U.S., if only by current styles... Commented May 17, 2021 at 19:33
  • 3
    not claiming the paper is worthy of a PhD”: Why wouldn’t it be worthy of a PhD, or a substantial fraction of a PhD? Most student theses at my department are either shorter or not much longer than 115 pages. If you believe the work is publishable, I would argue that writing and publishing a paper of that length may well be a more substantial achievement than a PhD, and logically might be deserving of one if it were done as part of a PhD program.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 23:48

2 Answers 2


I suspect this may vary by field of study, but I don't think bringing someone on as a coauthor is an absurd proposition at all, even this late in the process.

It sounds like you are looking for someone to do significantly more than just help you navigate the publication process, especially if you decide to break the paper up into separate manuscripts. If that's the case, then I would frame it more as a collaboration on an ongoing project than a late-stage coauthorship on a paper that's about to be submitted somewhere. This would allow you to communicate "fit"--i.e., why you chose to contact them, specifically, and what you think they can add to the project.

Note that his means you need to be open to the possibility that they may have different ideas for what the paper(s) should look like. That's one of the benefits of having coauthors. In my experience, even completed manuscripts can take weeks of rewriting and reframing to get to a stage in which they are ready for a particular outlet.

In any case, beyond communicating fit to a potential coauthor, I think it's important to be clear and transparent about what you want from them on the project.

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    If they don't contribute to the ideas of a paper or to the solution of the problem posed then they are not a co-author. It isn't effort that makes you an author. It is an intellectual contribution. I think it is hard to see this as a collaboration unless the ideas already in the paper are extended in some way. Someone else could earn an acknowledgement, of course.
    – Buffy
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 20:15
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    There would be significant work involved sorting, verifying, simplifying, organizing and ordering 115 pages of a more or less rough mathematical content, to make it understandable for a wider audience. That woud be a sufficient co-authorship to me.
    – mirrormere
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 9:06
  • @mirrormere This is exactly why I thought an offer of co-authorship was reasonable for my particular circumstance. Any advice on how to approach a potential co-author would be much appreciated. Commented May 18, 2021 at 14:20
  • @Addison You have read my question right. While @ Buffy makes the valid point that simply navigating the publishing process does not count as authorship, what I am looking for is more than that. In addition to that, I am looking for detailed feedback on checking my work and improving it where possible and so I viewed the offer of co-authorship as a reasonable offer for what will be quite a bit of effort. Commented May 18, 2021 at 14:26

Most journals will make any page limits public. Some will take long papers, but that assumes some significance to the result. The best way to find out is to make a submission to one that doesn't clearly state a shorter limit.

Navigating the publishing process isn't co-authorship and shouldn't be offered.

It might be necessary, however, to split the paper into two or more papers, assuming that there are intermediate results worth publishing independently. In applied math, it might be that some intermediate results have their own application. That might be a way to look at it. But the sum of several smaller papers can be expected to total more than the original.

If you make a submission, the editor and reviewers will comment on the writing and if it is "too dense" will suggest edits, though maybe not in specific terms. But you can decrease the density by increasing the length (more explanation) and this, again, leads to the possible necessity of splitting the paper.

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