During my master's work, when I was trying to solve the problem the advisor assigned to me, I solved another problem. I got an idea and it worked, I tried to talk to him about it, he refused. So, I went to present it in a prestigious conference and now I will send it to a journal. Now, the advisor knew and offers to revise it and put his name on it. I don't need revisions!

If I told him no then, I might not get recommendations when I apply for PhD programs.

What do you advise me to do?

  • 1
    If you know how to write papers, and get it accepted, the paper will be your reference. That being said, upsetting an advisor is not great, but if they had absolutely no part in shaping the problem, question, methods, paper, they - by rights - should not really be a coauthor. Perhaps talk with a trusted person in the department or an ombudsman? Jun 11, 2021 at 1:15
  • 4
    "I don't need revisions" - if you're a master student, I'd be very skeptical of that part.
    – sleepy
    Jun 11, 2021 at 8:32
  • I am not sure about talking to someone in the Dept. Academics are conformists they will advise me to put his name on my work just to get to the next step in my career.
    – Nadine
    Jun 11, 2021 at 9:22
  • 5
    If you were put down when first discussing the new problem and/or solution to it, and then s/he suddenly got interested on it just after you have presented it at a prestigious conference (which presentation? All is already a big achievement for a master student) then you seem to have the right to go solo. Still, s/he can probably help on writing the paper for submission.
    – Alchimista
    Jun 11, 2021 at 9:46
  • Depends on the field. I've heard life scientists say If you're in my lab it's a joint publication. Is the group paying for your conference participation and the publication's page charges? Jun 11, 2021 at 13:35

2 Answers 2


My first bit of advice is to suggest that you recognize (as I think you do) that you may be being abused here. I would need to know more to be sure, but "male domination" kind of sticks out a bit here.

If the advisor has something to add to the paper (and you agree that it does) then co-authorship of a revised paper would be proper and possibly even advantageous to you, depending on the general reputation of the the advisor. But if the "revision" is just "moving the chairs around" then it is clear abuse to insist on co-authorship.

But, my second, and more important, bit of advice is that you do what you need to do to make the advisor happy enough that you get a good recommendation and get away from his influence if the request is, in your view, improper.

You suggest that you don't want to press it to higher authorities. I can't disagree with that, though I think it would be a proper course to do so. Sometimes you just need to protect yourself and your future career.

While a sole author paper is good, any paper at all is also good and can be a positive point in getting your career going. Think long term. Think strategically. Don't take any action that will come back against you. Life ain't fair in many ways. People with power often abuse it. In Tai Chi we would rather side-step an attacking opponent than counter attack. The point is to remain safe.

Caveat. In some fields, advisors are accepted generally as co-authors. I don't particularly like that standard, but it happens. People in that field understand what is going on so it is, in that world, acceptable. A contributions section in the paper can, then, be used to clarify who did the work.

  • Definitely heed the caveat. Some advisors (thankfully, none of mine!) will take first authorship on all their students' papers, too, which is... a little hard to stomach.
    – Peter K.
    Jun 11, 2021 at 12:58
  • Yes you got that right, I am a female and I feel like I am being used.
    – Nadine
    Jun 11, 2021 at 13:37
  • 4
    I really don't understand the need of bringing the M/F issue into the discussion. The whole Q will be indistinguishable if the username was, eg, Alchimista. With the caveat that Alchimista had absolutely no freedom (economically & scientifically speaking) of submitting a work related to his Master thesis (equivalent of) without discussing with his F supervisor. Please reserve the attention to this delicate issue, that of M/F relationship on workplace and academia, for when needed.
    – Alchimista
    Jun 14, 2021 at 9:12

I've seen similar conflicts between students and advisors here before. Sometimes the question seems along the lines of "should you sacrifice your career to spite an abusive/unethical advisor?" You can certainly choose to submit the paper by yourself, but is it best for your long-term goals? For an established professor, missing out on coauthoring one more paper is a minor loss. For you, your advisor being a coauthor is expected in many fields (I don't know about yours) and carries no disadvantage. I know you don't believe you need revisions, but positioning a paper in context is often as important as the results, and a MS student is usually not yet an expert on publishing. Getting a good recommendation letter is helpful for your future too. In summary, I think there are several advantages to working with your advisor here.

Overall, only you can decide what the best choice for you is, but my advice is to weigh the long-term advantages and disadvantages in your decision.

  • 1
    I once had a colleague who was in a similar situation, he did all the work and his advisor asked for his name to be put on the paper without even revising it then, the paper got rejected the first time so the advisor told my colleague to remove his name and that he needs to find another idea, my colleague then sent it again to another journal and it was accepted. It was a new result.
    – Nadine
    Jun 11, 2021 at 15:07
  • And a very important one, despite that, when he applied to many top unis, he was not accepted but was also admired by the committee. So, idk maybe PhD advisors don't like master's students who publish on their own because this signifies independence and they are looking for someone to implement their ideas so they can be the first authors
    – Nadine
    Jun 11, 2021 at 15:12
  • @Nadine There are many fish in the sea. And traditions are very different in different fields. Biology labs typically require the funding "master" to be on the paper or else the funding will dry out. Is that fair? If the core direction comes from the lab chief, perhaps yes, if not, probably not. But, the incentive system induces such a behaviour, ideals or not. In math, it's a different story, but we have no idea in which field you are.... Jun 15, 2021 at 2:39

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