I am an independent math researcher and I think I have discovered an interesting result in a particular field (in math). I would like to present my result in front of a committee of PhD admission.

My question: Is there a possibility that i can prove my research skills and the result in such a way that some committee will decide to integrate me into its doctoral (or graduate ) program ?

N.B. Do I need to publish the result (Do you think that all maths journals and referees can be absolutely trusted?) in order that it will appear credible, or at least to capture the attention of the members or any one who can recommend me to a PhD or graduate school?

  • 7
    Putting your work first at arXiv may be another way.
    – Yes
    Sep 27, 2015 at 0:03
  • 4
    Unless you have done a bachelors degree(or similar) in mathematics, it's likely the interesting result is not interesting. That being said, having an interesting result is definitely not all it takes to join a PHD program. They want a wide range of skills in your skill set, and often you have to take examinations. Sep 27, 2015 at 22:48
  • 1
    Since arXiv has been mentioned both in the comments and in both answers, just a note: You will need to get endorsed to put the paper on arXiv. To do this, find someone who is an endorser on arXiv (each paper has a "which authors are endorsers" link that you can use (make sure to find an author of a relevant paper), and ask this person for an endorsement (they will obviously need to see the paper). Sep 28, 2015 at 9:10

2 Answers 2


There are some problematical implicit assumptions in the question. First, PhD admission committees do not conduct interviews of the sort you imagine. They might look at a manuscript accompanying an application, but there's much more substance to an application for graduate-program admission than showing one item. (For that matter, professional mathematicians' perception of your work may be different than your own, so it might be unwise to put so much stock in the anticipated saving grace of your research work.)

You'll want letters of recommendation attesting to your future potential, based on your current and past performance, whether in literal math classes or in informal situations. If you've done a nice piece of work, this would contribute a bit, but it's by no means enough on its own.

Although it's of dubious serious value, the GRE Math Subject Test is something you'd want to sign up for and take it the Autumn before applying to grad schools (which needs to be done by early December for entrance the following Fall).

Publication is nice, but is an enterprise in itself, and not strictly necessary. For one thing, conventional peer-reviewed publication takes about a year or more in the best of times, so it wouldn't help you in the immediate future.

As in @PerAlexandersson's answer, you'd definitely want to type up your work in LaTeX or TeX, and make it conform to the general style of papers you can see, for example, on http://arxiv.org/archive/math There is nothing truly sacred about the formatting and such, but for someone trying to enter, it is often best to be generally conforming in superficial regards, to avoid too loudly announcing that you're an outsider.

Not all "publishers" are serious or honest, no. One way to form a list of plausible submission venues is to look at papers on arXiv, submitted by people with .edu emails, and see what journals their bibliographic entries have appeared in. Some of these will be very-high-status, so possibly inappropriate, but if you sift through you will have a good inclusive list of the most legitimate journals. Still, no compulsion to try to publish in this sense before applying to grad school. If anything, it'd be more important to simply have your result typed up in LaTeX and to create a fairly conformist appearance (for example, matching the arXiv papers). You can even get TeX templates from those papers, to see how the effects are achieved, since the TeX source is available at arXiv.

The traditional journals' editors and referees can generally be trusted, because they have much to lose by bad behavior. Still, there are no guarantees, so pre-publication [sic] on arXiv would establish your priority.

But, in any case, there are more parts to grad school application than just one or two or... pieces of work. Most math depts' graduate programs have web pages that elaborate on what documentation is required.


Do you have experience in writing down math, for example, have you typeset your results in LaTeX?

It is probably quite hard to get a position by just "showing up", but independent research is definitely in your favour when applying for a phd position.

You can and should trust mathematics journals, if they are good ones (it takes some experience to learn which ones are good). If they ask for payment to be published - run away!

You should also put your preprint on arxiv, so that people can get access to your results early, and this also looks good when contacting a professor. Make sure it fulfils the guidelines.

A word of advise: A lot of independent researchers have a tendency to just focus on their own research, and not read other mathematicians papers. You really need to get familiar with the field you are studying, and make sure to reference all relevant articles. A paper with no references gives a bad impression, and it looks like you have not done your homework.

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