I am currently doing my PhD (my third year just started). My PhD consists of writing three papers and is set to last four years.

A friend of mine who started his PhD with me and I started working on a (in my eyes) pretty meaningless research idea that we considered good at the time. We are now nearly finished with the project and I consider it a rather bad project now. The results are not interesting, methodologically it is not interesting.

It would probably suffice as one of three PhD papers, especially because I have another really good one finished already. But it stresses me out just thinking about the paper - I don’t like it at all. However, my coauthor definitely wants to finish the project. I am now thinking of dropping coauthorship. Is this the reasonable thing to do here? Is it bad to be coauthor on a bad paper, or use it as a PhD paper, respectively? Or does it not really matter as long my supervisor says it’s okay?

  • 11
    What is your field? This is definitely field dependent.
    – cag51
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 7:56
  • 4
    If you drop this one, do you definitely have time to do two more good ones? Will the university kick you out once you publish your third paper?
    – cag51
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 7:57
  • 2
    The world needs "uninteresting" research results too. More data helps to improve the confidence in that what we believe to be true is actually true.
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 10:05
  • 5
    What does "bad" mean here? There's a difference between a paper that is "not very interesting" and a paper that is "wrong". Being a coauthor on a paper that is not interesting is never going to be negative (it's not worse than not being a coauthor). Being a coauthor on a paper that is wrong could be negative.
    – Stef
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 21:23
  • Does your PhD require you write three papers, or publish three papers? Who else will be reading and assessing the quality of the work?
    – chepner
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 16:00

2 Answers 2


You'll be surprised by what other people think is good or bad. There may be value in some parts of your paper, or that your paper may trigger some other questions or research ideas.

I recall a paper in my area that presented a very simple solution to a problem. It is published in a low quality conference as well. However, to date it has 20K+ cites. This is because everybody uses it as a benchmark.

I would classify a 'bad' paper as one that contains non-ethical elements; e.g., plagiarism or fabricated results.

  • 8
    I see. I do not think our results are anywhere near being useful. But it's not a scam.. So it might suffice as one of three PhD papers I suppose.
    – Lawazyy
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 16:17
  • 13
    @Lawazyy It is useful to put it out there, so that people do not have to do the same thing again, and can try to do it differently to make it "more useful" (using your terminology). Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 17:51
  • 9
    You'll be surprised by what other people think is good or bad. Well, that's sometimes true. Some papers on the other hand are genuinely bad (even without being unethical) and everyone who reads them is almost certain to think so. So it's misleading to give the impression that "you never know".
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 8:00
  • 2
    @DanRomik yeah, but if it were a BAD paper, OP would've said that, but they just don' lke it/ feel it worthwile
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 14:26
  • 5
    @Hobbamok OP said it was BAD three times...
    – pirsqua
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 18:23

You've said the research idea is meaningless, the methodology and results are not interesting, and you just don't like it.

I can't be sure but it sounds like you've done the science equivalent of grunt work:

Pedestrian research of a bland question using standard techniques and producing completely normal results.

None of that makes it a bad paper or bad science. Somebody's got to do the boring research. As long as it's done properly and competently then you've done the entire world a favour by documenting and publishing your results so that nobody else has to do it in future.

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