I have two papers in CS published during my Master's studies. The idea, the experiments and the writings were done all by myself, but my previous supervisor took the first-author place forcibly.

I am planning on applying to US PhD programs. My questions:

  1. Generally speaking, will these publications still carry the same weight as if I were rightly listed as the first author?

  2. Are there any general strategies I can use to maximize the impact that these publications will have on my acceptance?

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    @PeteL.Clark: I assume the OP is talking about PhD applications and has just mixed up the (admittedly complicated) distinction between the words college and university. But clarification would be nice. Aug 25 '15 at 16:39
  • @PeteL.Clark Imperial College London is one of the top institutions to offer PhD programs.
    – qsp
    Aug 25 '15 at 16:42
  • @qsp: And in the US we have Dartmouth College. But Pete is correct that in US English, the generic noun "college" usually refers to undergraduate institutions, or the undergraduate programs of a university. I think that's clearly not what the OP means, however - probably just a simple language confusion. Aug 25 '15 at 16:48
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    @PJ.Hades Please edit your question to clarify: Do you mean admission as an undergraduate or admission as a PhD student?
    – JeffE
    Aug 26 '15 at 0:16
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    I have made some edits to the question with the hope that it will help the question be reopened. Please make sure that the edits maintain the spirit of your original question. If you don't like the edits, you can always rollback to an earlier version, or make additional edits.
    – Mad Jack
    Aug 27 '15 at 4:19

(I assume here that you're talking about admission to PhD programs.)

I'm not in computer science, so I can't speak with authority. We have a number of users here who are in US computer science departments and maybe one of them can step in.

However, I would think that first-author publications would not be essential for admission to good PhD programs in the US. Keep in mind that in the US system, most students would enter a PhD program immediately after their undergraduate (bachelor's) degree, without doing a masters first. These students would not necessarily have any publications at all. The admission committee would expect somewhat more from a student with a masters, but I'd think any publications, first-author or not, would be a pretty good sign of your research ability and preparation to start a PhD.

Another thing to note is that recommendation letters are very important for admission to US PhD programs. If your advisor writes you a letter which speaks highly of the work you did, that should help your application a lot.


Just cite them as they are, and let them stand. You can point out that "the following [1,2,3,4] resulted from my thesis...". Going out of your way to emphasize it was your work, and you should have been first author, or whatever, will just come across as petty.

[But then again, it is said university politics are so vicious because so little is at stake...]

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