I am an undergrad student studying in the last year of my bachelor’s. I have written one paper in number theory discovering one new elementary method. I want to publish it.

For mentorship I went to my mathematics department and asked for help, but the professor whom I met wants his name on my paper as a co-author. He has not done anything. I just asked him for guidance and to review the paper format. He even said that without the name of professors some journals don’t consider accepting papers. Is that true?

This is my first paper so I have no knowledge about anything. I desperately want this paper to get published. This is my five-year long research and could be a good paper which may change the perception of people working in that field. Can someone give some suggestions? Should I do as that professor says?

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    @Wrzlprmft The question you linked is similar but asks about a paper in biomedical sciences. This question is about a paper in pure mathematics. Those two fields have very different conventions regarding authorship of papers. In biomedical sciences it is extremely rare for a supervisor not to be a coauthor.
    – Stef
    Jun 27 at 9:34
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    @Stef: I know, hence related and not duplicate. Still, even the answers to that questions say that you do not need a professor as a co-author.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jun 27 at 10:15
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    A principle of how copyright law works is that you can claim as yours some piece of intellectual contribution as long as you can prove that yours appeared first. So I would recommend that if this is novel work, then publish a draft in an online blog. The way mathematicians usually go about it, is first they publish a preprint in arXiv.org, and then they submit their work to a conference/journal. This has the benefit that others can comment on your work. Last time I checked, to open an account on arXiv you just need an institutional email address. Jun 28 at 12:12
  • Also, by looking at arXiv publications in your field you can get a sense of the formatting that they need. Jun 28 at 12:14

4 Answers 4


If you have written the paper on your own and another person has made no intellectual contribution to it, then they have no claim at authorship. I don't know of any journal that requires a professor to be the author of any paper, but I can't rule out that such might exist, but it wouldn't be true for most reputable journals at least.

Note that there are math journals dedicated to student work. You might consider submitting there.

But also note that you might be overestimating the importance and impact of what you have done. Advice from someone more experienced can be valuable, but this professor seems to be unethical about authorship, given what you say. If they help you with the presentation of the ideas then they might be due an acknowledgement, but the standards for authorship are pretty high and especially true in maths.

If you submit to a journal, you will get some feedback. If the paper doesn't meet the expected quality standards then it will probably be quick, but not especially valuable. If it is a good paper, then the feedback will take longer but be more useful.

  • Thank you. Actually, I want to get someone's mentorship especially for formatting my paper as I m inexperienced in doing that and yeah I might be overestimating as well. My research is at the elementary level and it's just about the observation which I did. But it seems so interesting and may result in future research and link between something more. can you recommend me some way to get mentorship or any formatting sources? Jun 27 at 13:54
  • once I mailed one professor working in the same field and he asked me to send my work. Would you recommend me to do this? He is residing outside my country. I contacted him after reading his paper. I do have not much information about him. I just saw his paper in this field. Jun 27 at 13:55
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    It is hard to recommend this without knowing the person. Not everyone is ethical. Most are. Someone local might be better and you can judge how they might react. It might also be helpful if someone local, but with some authority, is in the loop with you if you are sending things around. Don't worry about formatting too much. Editors will help you with advice for that.
    – Buffy
    Jun 27 at 14:12
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    Given that we only have one side of the story here, I think that you go a bit far in stating that the professor seems to be behaving unethically. While I agree that someone who has made no intellectual contribution shouldn't be listed as an author, I think that asking someone to review a paper prior to submission is asking them to make an intellectual contribution (i.e. to check the work). If a student came to me and asked for a review of formatting, I would be worried that it would turn into a review of the mathematics... Jun 28 at 19:48
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    My point is that while the student might think that they are asking for someone to just go over the formatting, the professor might see this as a request to review the actual mathematical material. To do that, the professor would need to become an expert in the material under discussion (in order to check the results), and would nigh certainly have to make some real intellectual contribution to the paper in order to fix errors (which almost certain exist---all works contain errors). As presented, the actions of the professor appear unethical, but we don't have the whole story. Jun 28 at 20:14

I agree with Buffy that going through a paper does not constitute authorship immediately. However, I will defend the other case.

You can benefit greatly by including a professor in your paper. For one, by including him you will not be losing much. There are non-critical benefits such as bringing an established name (if they are known in the field) which could open opportunities to publish in better journals. They might be able to identify well suited journals which could save you time.

However, more important is once they are in as an author, they are duty bound to ensure your paper is factual, they might also identify representation and presentation issues, find problems with the writing and so on. While theoretical work and the idea are the most important parts for a paper, you cannot publish it, if it is not represented well. You cannot expect a professor to review your paper multiple times (my top review count is 12 for a single paper) without compensation.

I was in a similar situation during the first year of my PhD. I have decided to go to the professor of a lecture with my idea that I thought I would publish in a conference. We ended up publishing in a very good journal.

Finally, this might be the start of a fruitful collaboration.

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    additionally, it will likely get you an Erdős number
    – ysth
    Jun 28 at 0:09
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    @usr1234567: don't be silly! That would require an infinite chain of mathematicians.
    – TonyK
    Jun 28 at 10:12
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    @CemKalyoncu Playing devil's advocate, the downside of publishing with an established co-author (particularly if you are an undergraduate) is that many readers will assume that the established professor is responsible for the majority of the intellectual work, and that the undergraduate did very little. In such a case, a sole-authored paper in a B-level journal might actually be better than a co-authored paper in an A-level journal. Of course, everything else you say is spot-on (including the important point that one collaboration may lead to further collaboration). Jun 28 at 19:54
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    @XanderHenderson In my field, computer science, we generally assume the opposite. Most of the work is done by the student, especially if they are listed as the first author. But I can see that it might be different in maths. Jun 29 at 4:43
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    @CemKalyoncu In physics the usual expectation is that indeed most/all of the work is done by the student ... but most of the thinking was done by the professor. Jun 29 at 10:05

I've never heard of a journal requiring that a student author include an academic co-author though my field is the biological sciences. Nonetheless, I see little downside to simply submitting your paper to an appropriate journal. Follow the instructions (if you can do original research in math, I full expect that you can follow formatting instructions) and send it in. If your work has merit, the reviewers and editor will provide the guidance necessary to see it published. There aren't many academics who'd claim that the process is perfectly straightforward and there are plenty of examples of good work that doesn't get published or only after excessive efforts. There are certainly many more examples of papers that are submitted with serious issues ranging from fundamental flaws to inadequate citations to atrocious writing. Frankly, your professor/mentor probably could help you avoid most of these...and co-authorship, while not strictly necessary, may not be unreasonable. Your post suggests that you don't think your professor's efforts merit co-authorship, but accepting his/her advice and taking them on as a co-author may be the most expedient way to getting your work out there.


For the first, there is no journal that requires to have a Professor as a co-author. However, if you want your paper to be published... this will be extremely difficult. You've asked for guidance, have you? I am following just what you are saying - that you are new in that, in publishing articles, right? So that's why I am saying that it would be extremely difficult for you, because you are already asking the others what to do. When I was young, I tried to send my first article to the highly reputed journal, and I did not ask anybody how to do that! And I won - I received three positive references at once and got published!

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    FYI, I didn't downvote, but the earlier part of your answer seems to suggest asking others for advice to avoid a bad outcome, whereas the later part of your answer seems to suggest not asking others can lead to a good outcome. Of course, "can" is not the same as "will definitely" or even "will probably", but I don't see how the later part of your answer builds on the earlier part of your answer. Maybe include something between these two parts, such as: "Nonetheless, in rare cases one can be successful without seeking advice. For example, when I was young ..." Jun 28 at 8:21

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