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I am an undergrad physics major and I have been involved in something that I (and my supervisor) want to get published (I am the first author and my supervisor is the only other coauthor). This is a theoretical work - so no data/lab work. This is also outside my curriculum and contributes in no way to my being awarded my degree - its purely something I have pursued of my own accord.

While our work/results are far from path breaking, it is original and kind of interesting (but nothing riveting); however, this work is based on a topic that has been around for a long time. When it comes to the content I would describe it as too much for a typical undergrad journal, even something like Am J Phys (so my supervisor said), but not enough for a proper high quality journal, like say the Phys Revs (in my opinion).

Despite this, we made an initial submission to such a top journal - we got desk rejected within a week (reason being the our work was not suited to the said journal, probably in terms of quality; editor advised us to look for a more specialised place). Now, my supervisor wants to try another similar journal - I am nearly certain we are going to be desk rejected this time as well. I recognise that my supervisor has a huge amount of experience and wouldn't have suggested publishing if he didn't feel it was worth it. Therefore, despite reservations, I am okay with submitting wherever he wants me to.

Now, we already published a pre-print on the arXiv and my question is as follows: In case our manuscript remains unpublished by the time I graduate (another 2 years), would my arXiv preprint have any positive impact on my CV?

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  • The reason I am asking this is because even though I have been lead author in an international conference submission (same supervisor, different topic) which was accepted for presentation (we also submitted the manuscript to the proceedings and it went through to the second review stage, rest of the decisions pending), it did not seem to have any effect on my selection to summer programmes/summer research projects this year (even with a high GPA) - I wasn't selected. My SOP for these programmes wasn't bad either; got it checked by my professors for suggestions and tips.
    – ShKol
    May 12, 2023 at 20:04
  • Further, I have an additional concern. Both the conference submission and this are in fields that are very different than the field I'll do my Master's thesis in and subsequently apply for grad school in.
    – ShKol
    May 12, 2023 at 20:24

2 Answers 2

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I'd continue following your advisor's guidelines on where to publish next.

A published, peer-reviewed paper is optimal, but a paper on arXiv is good too on an undergrad's CV. It won't count the "same", but it's not worse than pushing the paper into some predatory or predatory-adjacent journal that basically just publishes everything submitted anyways.

Everyone in academia understands that there's a time component to the publishing process, and an undergraduate applying for anything has had at most a short research career by that time. Years ago, it was normal for work in that stage to be noted as merely "submitted" on a CV, or for fields where conferences are a venue for preliminary rather than final work, maybe it's presented at a conference but not yet in a journal. Now, the standard is preprints.

Congratulations on your work, I hope you'll find a home for it soon, don't get too discouraged if it gets rejected a few more times. Editors of journals at all levels are having trouble finding peer reviewers, so they might be especially aggressive with desk rejections these days.

Also a note that desk rejection from top journals with broad topic coverage is not typically about quality but about impact. You can do great quality work that does not reach the impact of "everyone in physics should read this paper".

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  • Thanks for the response! I will continue to follow my supervisor's suggestions on submissions and see what happens.
    – ShKol
    May 13, 2023 at 6:05
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Undergraduate publications are rare and not usually an expectation, at least in my field, for graduate applications. While a peer reviewed paper is best, a pre-print that is public and searchable is still quite the accomplishment for an undergraduate student.

It sounds like you have a long time before graduation. And it sounds like your advisor is confident about publishing this somewhere. So in general, I would not worry too much about this right now. But, in the case that it does not ever get published, yes your pre-print will still have a positive impact on your CV, at least in for graduate school applications. Just not as positive as a peer reviewed paper.

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