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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    Somewhat related: Mentor says I cannot be first author of my paper because I am an undergraduate
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 6:59
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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
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 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
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 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. Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 12:12
  • Also, by looking at arXiv publications in your field you can get a sense of the formatting that they need. Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 12:14

5 Answers 5


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? Commented Jun 27, 2022 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. Commented Jun 27, 2022 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
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 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... Commented Jun 28, 2022 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. Commented Jun 28, 2022 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
    Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 0:09
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    @usr1234567: don't be silly! That would require an infinite chain of mathematicians.
    – TonyK
    Commented Jun 28, 2022 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). Commented Jun 28, 2022 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. Commented Jun 29, 2022 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. Commented Jun 29, 2022 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.


I do math by myself. I'm preparing a paper for submission, and I wanted to add a few things that others haven't fleshed out.

  1. Examine the different kinds of contribuion in detail, to understand what must be referenced, what kind of work counts as contribution, coauthorship, etc. Consider several different kinds of help:
  • commonly known results vs.
    material from a college course vs. specific theorems I looked up in a book vs. new published results

  • someone rewrites equations for me using standard methods vs. rewriting equations for me using her judgment and knowledge to find a particularly useful form

  • general advice about how to tackle the problem vs. help solving specific subproblems in the paper vs. help clarifying arguments and organizing the paper vs. assistance with layout and the submission process

To evaluate for ourselves the contributions to our work, we need to know standards of practice. The details. Ultimately, only you know how individual contributions were involved in the progress of your work. If someone else is making those judgments because they know the rules and you don't, and also have a vested interest in being credited that sounds bad for you.

  1. Ask questions.

    An answer like this may not mean what it seems. I spoke to a professor who believed that these days it's impossible to finish a paper alone. He said if I think I have the arguments right start to finish, I'm fooling myself. He said "you can't" but he meant something else.

    What are the specific reasons your school thinks you won't make it to the finish line as the sole or principal author? It may still be unfair to you, but it might not.

    For example, it may be school policy that a professor review student work to make sure it meets the standards for submission. This may be valuable help, and -as mentioned by other posters- it would probably be wise to clarify you are not asking for assistance with the result itself or its development... before accepting.

  2. Get as far as you can without confrontation.

    It's easy to imagine teachers overestimating their involvement in your work, or the amount of help you will need to reach publication. EDIT: a quick internet search indicates, as a general rule, the assumption that your faculty is by default coauthor appears to be false. Student work belongs to the student. In an ideal world, that means it's up to them to justify their contribution, not your job to deny it.

    The main thing is, to publish with a fair and accurate representation of how the work was done. If your teachers are reasonable, they will take your word at face value, help you get credit for your work, and only ask for credit where it is due.

    Give them a chance to recognize the originality of your work, and give yourself a chance to re-examine the contributions of others. Only walk away if they don't cooperate in a reasonable and fair way.

  3. Document yourself

    At the same time, document your process and interactions. Those notebooks filled with scribblings as you work... keep them. Date them. Write out a timeline of your paper. Do you remember any details about how and when you solved certain parts? Write it down before you forget. And keep a log of your conversations with your faculty. Record their exact objections; respond to them, and keep a log. Then IF something goes wrong, you can point to specific dates and say, "No, I spoke with you about X on this day, and made it clear what really happened, and I have the work to prove it right here".


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!

  • 2
    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 ..." Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 8:21

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