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I'm completing a master's in history (one year in), and am beginning to look at possible PhD programs. I have noted in a lot of forums that it looks really good if you have one (or several) publications to your name.

How does one even begin this process? Also, with coursework and the thesis writing process having just begun, how do graduate students find time to write and attempt to publish original work in addition to the aforementioned obligations?

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    Find a professor that you're interested in working with and setup a meeting to discuss it with him/her. – Austin Henley Feb 25 '15 at 21:58
  • In theory a publication is not needed but in practice it is often the result of a really good master thesis, indicating you are a potentially good candidate for a PhD position. – dsfgsho Feb 25 '15 at 22:19
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Publication is not a prerequisite for PhD programs. To be specific, the only requirements for a PhD program are those published by the particular university department in the official degree catalog.

But having your name on some published articles before applying for PhD programs, and including your publications as part of your "pitch," sure makes for a more competitive application.

To get started doing research, talk to your advisor, faculty members whose research areas are similar to yours, look at research assistant positions (anywhere, not just at your school), and so on. Most importantly, define some questions that you want to research, dig into the literature, and just get started on your own. Then let your rough investigation be a conversation starter with local and other faculty.

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Publications are really the name of the game, and you'll find that not very many people read theses (especially Master's theses). If you are interested in staying in academia, then it is worth it to take the time to publish your Master's work regardless of whether it's required for the PhD. I tried writing up my Master's work after I finished my PhD, and it was much harder than if I had done it at the appropriate time.

One way to motivate yourself to write the article is this fact: the peer-review process will point out flaws in your current research, and it will help to guide your future research. The experience will help you when it comes time to do your PhD research and write it up.

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