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Here's my story:

I study computer science. When I started my master's degree, I had good research ideas and I wanted to publish them immideately (I now realize being in a hurry is the worst thing I did myself in my educational life).

My thesis advisor is a perfectionist. His philosophy is all or nothing. Therefore, he ignored my immature works and told me to get ready for my thesis only. He said that my thesis topic is one of the hottest topics in area and possible contributions to that topic would be huge improvement in my academic career.

But again, I was dissatisfied. So, with the ratification of my advisor, I published two conference papers with another professor. One is in ICCAE '12 and the other one is in ICKD '13. Those are not so good conferences, but still they are not in Beall's List.

Now, me and my advisor are writing a paper to submit a top conference.

Here's my question: Those publications are not a bit of scientific publications. They are barely at a level of senior project. When I'm applying to PhD, should I put those two publications in my CV or not? The acceptance notification of the conference is due to July. Until then, is it better to have no publications or two bad publications in my CV?

  • 3
    Actually, the latter conference (ICKD) is published by (or at least associated with) IACSIT iacsit.org, which is found on Beall's list. Also, even if a publisher is not on this particular list, it does not mean that they are not "shady" or "predatory". Having said this, I personally think that for someone aspiring to be a PhD student any publications (or large student projects) would count for, not against, you. – alarge Jun 2 '14 at 12:06
  • @amlrg Bad, bad news. This means not to put them I think. – padawan Jun 2 '14 at 12:09
  • @StrongBad to clarify, I'm not asking about whether making a publication or not. I need to know if I should put them in my CV or not. I also saw that topic but it seemed both questions have different concerns. Thank you for noticing. – padawan Jun 2 '14 at 12:37
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    A low-on-the-totem-pole academic submitted his work to low-on-the-totem-pole organizations. Where's the problem with starting at the bottom and working your way up? We're scientists - we should be able to look at a piece of work and judge it on the merits in the work, not on where the work resides. – corsiKa Jun 2 '14 at 16:32
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In most fields, expectations of publications are very small when applying for a PhD position. What the committee will be looking at is your writing. In most cases, they will have only the thesis to study but in your case, you will also have a few publications, including the one for the "good" conference. The benefit of all of these is that they show you have been active and pursued publishing your results. That the first publications may not be strong will not surprise most, after all one of the main goals of a PhD is to provide the background to be an independent researcher and publish.

You may be in a dilemma if your papers are of disputable quality since avoiding to list them may, if found out, look like you are trying to hide them; regardless of your original intent.

To take this a step further: I think that adding comments on papers you think can reflect negatively on yourself can turn a negative to a positive. The reason is that you can show that you have progressed in your thinking to a point where you can be self-critical. This means that the comments you make have to be insightful and not just a list of excuses, in fact avoid excuses at all costs and provide good arguments showing your new insights.

So, think about how you can use your experiences (good or bad) in a positive way to show your capacity as a budding scientist. We all make mistakes, but not all learn from them.

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    "We all make mistakes, but not all learn from them." "I think that adding comments on papers you think can reflect negatively on yourself can turn a negative to a positive" wow. I never thought that would be a professor's POV. Thank you so much. – padawan Jun 2 '14 at 12:33
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It is not unheard of for undergraduate and MSc students to publish in "predatory" journals and conferences. I have a related question from the other side of the table: Value of light-to-none peer reviewed pay-to-publish articles

that is asking about how to evaluate students with these types of publications. I think the answers are pretty clear that there really isn't a problem with students who have previously published in low quality places or low quality work. It is possible that multiple low quality publications might cause a potential adviser to have concerns about future goals and your understanding of the system, but these can likely be easily addressed in your cover letter.

The question of whether undergrads should publish weak research has also been addressed: For undergraduates, is publishing "weak" research better than not publishing? and the general consensus seems to be that between having no publications or a low quality publication, having a low quality publication is generally no worse.

To then get to the heart of your question given someone has some low quality publications should he attempt to deceive a potential supervisor by "hiding" the publications, the answer seems to be pretty clear: NO. There is little downside and potential upside of including the low quality publications on your CV. A potential supervisor thinking that an applicant is attempting to deceive the supervisor has a clear and huge downside.

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    @cagirici StrongBad has pretty much summed up what triggered my original comment: "A potential supervisor thinking that an applicant is attempting to deceive the supervisor has a clear and huge downside." – xLeitix Jun 2 '14 at 13:16
  • @xLeitix At the time I published papers, I wasn't working on my thesis yet. – padawan Jun 2 '14 at 14:24
  • @cagirici Not sure what you mean. With "supervisor", the new advisor that you are applying to is meant, not your old master's thesis advisor. – xLeitix Jun 2 '14 at 14:43
  • Supervisor is my advisor. I never changed my advisor. I just went to him and declared that I want to be his MSc student. He accepted. But we started working on my thesis two months after my second publication. – padawan Jun 2 '14 at 14:58

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