I am an undergraduate majoring in mathematics and I am currently working on a paper with a professor oversea. I found that there might be a proof I cannot understand on the statistic paper on arxiv he asked me to read, and he was not sure if the author is correct as well. I wonder what should I do now. The proof is a bit long so I can barely discuss it with students around me. Should I look for discussion related somewhere, or write an email to the author directly? thx in advance

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    Reaching out to authors is always a good thing to try. Some can be REALLY helpful. Also you should check to see if there is a published article for the preprint. If there is then you may find additional explanation. Jan 15 at 16:47
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    Does this answer your question? What can I do if I don’t completely understand a paper?
    – Anyon
    Jan 15 at 16:50
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    You should start by talking to the professor you are working with. Jan 15 at 18:05

1 Answer 1


There are three things you (and your advisor) can do. First, yes, you can ask the authors for more detail saying that you can't connect the parts they show.

Second, you can try to provide your own proof, using what they have as an outline, trying to connect those parts.

Third, you can try to find a counterexample to the overall statement. It may be that they got it wrong.

The last two might be frustrating, but they might also improve your mathematical skill and insight. It is how mathematicians work, of course, once they have an idea for something that might be true.

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    Adding to this: it is certainly possible that the authors assumed something they didn't mark down, making the theorem statement false as written (but true under some restrictions). Jan 15 at 22:23

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