I've recently finished grad school. I've written two papers since that time, and I think that I have more good ideas. However, I find it difficult to write now for two reasons. First of all, I don't have access to the ACM / IEEE literature databases anymore (they were gratis from my university.) Second, I have no one to review or even proof-read my papers.

So, how do people who are not active in the academic community write papers? Is it possible?

  • 3
    Is your main problem the lack of academic resources (journals, databases) or just that you write alone? Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 18:03
  • My main problem is the lack of sources to cite and build upon, but also I wonder about the lack of review before I submit. Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 19:45
  • 1
    If not having access to the ACM is the specific problem, you can join and get full access to the ACM Digital Library for $198 per year. That's not cheap but it's also not a huge amount of money to spend on something you're serious about. Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 9:22
  • 1
    I see only two problems: 1) Access to data to find the limitations in the state of the art and evaluate your contribution (engineering) or verify your hypotheses (science). 2) Funding (and time) to attend conferences and such. Most papers can be found in open access or personal web pages of the authors (or mailing them) and I do actually feel more comfortable writing alone (both code and papers). Are you in humanities?
    – Trylks
    Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 9:56
  • 1
    You can often find papers on either the author's website or a preprint archive. How common this is probably depends on the field. Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 15:20

3 Answers 3


It is possible. After years away from graduate school, I am working on several papers, covering both old and new topics. However, it is very hard to do it completely alone.

I have the benefit of some contacts acquired through one of the forums on StackExchange. They are willing to spend a limited amount of time (say half an hour a month, to within two orders of magnitude) in email correspondence with me, to receive drafts from me (but not necessarily referee: just skim for a few minutes and find more egregious aspects which they kindly point out), and most importantly, endorse me for posting on ArXiv. Before the endorsement, I spent some time convincing them I wouldn't be a drain, that I could help them out, and that I might hope for a favor regarding endorsement, literature search, and so on. Realize that from their perspective, I could be a potential crank or downside on their career, as I have given them almost no verifiable information on what little credentials I have. I consider their involvement as a gift, and treat it with care.

With their minimum involvement, I now can post results on the ArXiv, and use that as a stepping stone to loftier research goals. Since your express purpose is to produce research for others to read, you need three things: the research, the others, and a means to get the research to the others. Getting to know one or two of the "others" is key. Getting them by being helpful on this and other fora is one of the easiest routes I know for this step, but there are other methods. There may be other repositories besides the ArXiv which may help you more, but I don't know of them; ask the "others" for advice, and respect their time. The research part, that's your problem, again with which "others" might be able to help.

  • 1
    Regarding proof reading, you might get some students at your former or local university to work for cheap. They may not be able to referee, but they can catch some things that your eyes missed for the nth time. Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 18:35
  • 1
    How does uploading it to ArXiv help you as 'stepping stones'? Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 13:28
  • Even though ArXiv material gives no guarantee of peer review, the arxiv.org URL gives some cachet: someone had to endorse you to post there. With that, you can mention it in your promotional material, so people who might not have thought to look for your work there can find it easily. Further, in introducing yourself to others, sending a trusted link is preferred to an arbitrary link or large attachment. Someone following up will believe they are not downloading viruses in clicking on the arxiv link. When you have a respectable ArXiv presence, others can easily promote your work (and you). Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 18:19
  • 1
    Hope is something you manufacture. For the path I recommend, having one or two "others" is key. You will need them anyway to read your stuff, why not offer to help one of them in exchange for a small favor? That's how I'm doing it, and I've been formally out of academia for over a decade and out of industry for most of a decade. I've tried the fully independent route: it took years for anyone to notice my work, and more years to apply it and use it. Promoting it and having some help speeds up the process. Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 18:43
  • 3
    the arxiv.org URL gives some cachet — No, not really. (I'm an arXiv moderator.)
    – JeffE
    Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 0:34

I don't know where you are, but in some countries public libraries have access to academic literature. You may have to deal with a large regional or a national library for this - for example, people in the UK can access almost anything through the British Library in London, but some journals are also available through the libraries in other cities.


I don't see a problem with either of your concerns if you have a good professional relationship with your former supervisor. Just contact them and ask if they would be interested to coauthor a research paper. Send them a draft paper or a description of your idea and a list of the ACM/IEEE publications you need for the research.

  • Why the downvote? I moved to the industry recently after many years in academia. My current job involves a lot of research. If I ever want to publish again, that is exactly what I am going to do - contact my PhD supervisor or some of my former colleagues, depending on the research area. It doesn't mean they are not going to do any work at all - if that is what the downvoter assumed. Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 0:35

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .