My PhD supervisor, who was from an external organisation, got my PhD started with initial ideas and guidance, but wasn't an expert in the topic, thus my PhD research has been mainly self directed. About a year ago my supervisor retired, and has justifiably been off travelling and working on other things.

I'm at the late stage where I am writing up the thesis and have two papers almost ready to submit. However, I would dearly like someone to read over the work and check it, as it has quite a bit of mathematics.

How should I approach publication?

  • Find another supervisor, even at this late stage, and collaborate with them.
  • Approach an expert in the specific area and ask if they will review the papers before submission. Is this an unusual request?
  • Submit the papers to journals and trust the review process will identify any errors.
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    I would do all of those, but I would not assume any of them will find all the errors. – Anonymous Physicist Sep 14 '15 at 1:17
  • I do not like this: "have a few papers almost ready to submit". This usually implies more than two papers. In a PhD papers are interconnected. So, if paper 1 has an important mistake, does not that make papers 2,3 and ... based on paper 1 also problematic? This is why, in certain disciplines, you need to publish at regular intervals during your PhD and not at the end. – Alexandros Sep 14 '15 at 12:05
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    @Alexandros A few too many assumptions there. :) I've published a 6 conference papers, the two (question updated) journal papers are based on those. The general method is sound so I would not expect any huge mistake, more like small errors... I just want to get the journal papers right and would like some external feedback. I do regret not publishing earlier, but at the time I felt I was still learning so much that I didn't have the complete picture. – geometrikal Sep 14 '15 at 12:24
  • @Alexandros: "In a PhD papers are interconnected." - Some, but I don't think it is unusual for a PhD candidate to always have about 4 or 5 parallel branches of work that are largely independent of each other (e.g. one's PhD research; the possibly disconnected output from one's project grant; a cooperation project with another department that may or may not be integrated with the core work only later; a paper based upon a supervised student thesis that is worth publishing; papers in another community that provide use cases for one's core research, but receive a higher-level view; etc.). – O. R. Mapper Sep 15 '15 at 8:35
  • @geometrikal If you've already resolved this, it might be worth adding an answer with how that went. – E.P. Nov 12 '17 at 3:39

Your university should have a policy in what happens if a supervisor retires or otherwise becomes unavailable. At this stage it may not produce the ideal outcome, but you should explore it. It sounds as though somebody, either your supervisor or your institution, is not doing their job.

  • Yes, good idea. I'll check if they have some formal processes, they are pretty good at supporting phd students in general. – geometrikal Sep 16 '15 at 0:00
  • AFAIK, usually you cannot defend without an advisor... – Fábio Dias Oct 5 '15 at 14:01

I think it might be too late to find a new supervisor. Additionally, finding a new supervisor would take time and this would delay the submission of your paper. You can definitely write to an expert in the field explaining your problem and asking if they would have time to go over your paper. You can also write to your retired supervisor and ask if he knows of anyone who would be willing to review your paper. If you do not find anyone, you will have to submit to a journal and wait for the reviewer comments. There is a likelihood that your paper might be rejected, but you will definitely gain from the reviewer comments. Additionally, there are professional peer reviewing services, which would of course, be an added expense. But some of them are pretty good and are accepted by certain journals.


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