I'll be attending a accredited/well-recognized university for my undergrad this coming fall, and I'm just curious about research correlating with publications. I have a particular yearning passion in enhancing the field of pediatric robotic surgery, a new field of medicine that just opened up very recently, and I am firmly intrigued in doing undergrad research along with a publication from that department. Now I know for a fact publications take up an exceeding amount of time.

My main question is :

How long does it take a student to conduct undergrad research and then release a publication based off of that research?

  • 1
    Even though any research takes a minimum threshold of time, it depends heavily on the field and where you want to publish. But it is not clear from your question whether you are a medical student.
    – Faustus
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 3:57
  • 1
    If you are serious about research as a means to advance your future career, aim to spend around 15-20 hours a week on it. Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 5:12

2 Answers 2


I think your question is perhaps ambiguous (does "typical length of time" mean hours you put in, or days/months from the start of the project?), and not really answerable regardless of the interpretation. There are different kinds of undergraduate research. Here are a couple of the usual ways undergrad research is done:

  1. A somewhat intensive short period of time (6-8 weeks, say) where a student works on a topic chosen by an advisor ahead of time. Presumably these topics are carefully chosen so that the student is able to make real progress in such a short period of time. These projects are often in the form of an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates). If you do some googling, you will likely find REU's in your field of study, and some advisors/organizers nicely list all of the publications that come out of the REU's. You will see that not all REU projects result in publications.

  2. Working over a longer period of time with a specific professor in your department. This can be an actual job, where you are paid to work in a research lab, or it can be an "independent study" course, where you actually get a couple of credits to work with a professor on a research project. If you are being paid to do research as a student job, your hours may be (at least technically) limited by university policy. This type of research can be very substantial. For example, I knew a person who worked in a professor's fluid mechanics lab for all 4 years of his undergraduate education, and I think they produced and published some nice results.

So, for shorter more packaged projects, I think a "typical" time would be 6-8 weeks. For longer, more open-ended projects, you could potentially work with a professor for years (depending on lab space, grant money, etc.). All of this is highly field-dependent I'm sure.

Now, all of this being said, I think the most important point to make is that publications should not be your ultimate goal. Work hard, be passionate about your field of study, learn as much as you can, and keep up on the other things you have to do as an undergrad. If you do this, then you will impress your advisors and have great letters of recommendation, which will help you get into a great graduate school, and then you can spend the rest of your career worrying about publications :)

  • So pretty much most students will take the 6-8 week study program in the summer I'm guessing?
    – SuperNova
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 15:23

The answer depends on many many factors

  • How intelligent you are
  • How concentrated your work is
  • How hard what you're doing is
  • How much support you get from the rest of the group
  • How much previous experience you have
  • Whether the project actually ends up producing publishable work
  • What the rest of the group is doing, where they are at with publications
  • Whether you're first author/who actually writes the paper.

I go to a famous university in the UK and even though I've spent two of my summers doing research projects that were 8 weeks long, I've only been listed as an author in one conference abstract & talk so far. For example my first project would have been publishable if it had worked but the problem was far too complex and it didn't work out.

I'm now in my masters year and much more likely to get a publication from the work I've been doing in the past few months (2-3). There are up to 3 papers my supervisor is talking about my work being included in and . I put this better outcome down to better vision from the supervisor, harder work and better work from myself due to experience and the fact the group are looking to publish soon.

It's very complex balance of things, if your main goal of a project is to publish which is fair enough because this is how we concretely measure progress in academia, I'd suggest a minimum of 8 weeks work would be required. You also want to keep an eye out on how frequently groups are publishing and ask the research scientists you look to work with about publishing prospects when deciding. If you were writing the paper yourself then you need extra time for that too.

  • Thanks, but what if the publication is between the student in collaboration with the professor, how would you say about that?
    – SuperNova
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 15:25
  • You'll pretty much always work in collaboration. What exactly are you asking? It will still take at least 8 weeks work on the problem and probably more. It will then take a month or two to write up (whether you or your supervisor does that) and then months for the submission process. The only shortcut is if you do a small piece of work for a bigger paper and you get added onto the end of a paper they are already working on.
    – Stephanie
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 15:30
  • Also in the UK at least, summer projects of 6-8 weeks are available but only students interested in research complete them and only a small number of these projects lead to publications.
    – Stephanie
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 15:31
  • Well what I am asking specifically how is the credit distributed between the student and professor. Does the professor tend to get more credit because of their wealth of knowledge? Sorry for not being clear enough.
    – SuperNova
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 15:44
  • Ah okay, so in most fields, whoever writes the paper is typically the first author and other authors come after. The credit will basically be given to authors on how much of the work in the paper was done by them, your supervisor would be on the paper too, often as corresponding author but if you've done the most work and written up you'll go first.
    – Stephanie
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 15:51

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