I would like to publish a/some papers online. But do the things I discuss in these papers have to be innovations. I am still a student and would like to publish a paper about aerospace engineering (especially attitude determination, control systems for satellites, GNC systems).

Those are not the easiest topics, especially as I am doing that alone on a voluntary basis. So does the paper I will publish have to discuss any innovation? I think publishing something where I explain how some algorithms work, which I tested my self, is much more doable. I could then just explain the algorithms (which already existed) and present their results. Would the latter still be considered as a decent (research) paper?

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    Online you can generally publish whatever you want, unless you would like to publish in a specific venue. But who is your target audience? Given this other question of yours, if you want to publish a paper online to increase your chances to be admitted to a PhD program, this would quite probably not work. Admission committees typically consider only papers published (or sometimes submitted) to known conferences and peer-reviewed journals (stay away from the so-called predatory journals).
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Jan 17, 2016 at 22:42
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    No, ResearchGate is not ok if you want to increase the chances of being admitted to a PhD program, at least in many countries. If you want to publish, really, join a research group in your field for your master's thesis: make it clear that you want to do a serious work and that you aim at being admitted to a PhD. Choose carefully the research group among those that are clearly active in their field and speak at length with the potential advisors about your goals.
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Jan 17, 2016 at 22:59
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    @privetDruzia I'd happily accept a student who shows genuine interest. But I'd look at their academic performance carefully, I won't take on somebody who will end up failing or otherwise be harmed by spending time on non-class activities.
    – vonbrand
    Jan 18, 2016 at 0:29
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    Doing research is like almost any other activity: you learn by doing, by making mistakes and having a mentor correcting you and leading in the right direction, pointing out interesting problems, explaining what has been tried and didn't work, discuss possible aproaches. Going alone won't get you far (or even anywhere)
    – vonbrand
    Jan 18, 2016 at 0:34
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    I would be more convinced by someone that collaborated with me or a collegue rather than a "surprise performance" when hiring potential PhD students. I particular because the quality of stuff produced by students on their own is usually (far) less impressive than they think. In principle that is OK: what would the value of a PhD education be if you could do just as well without one? However, students learn a lot more about doing real research from collaborating in a team, and those that learned more are more likely to do well in a later PhD program. Jan 18, 2016 at 9:15

1 Answer 1


do published papers always have to present an innovation?

Not really, it has to make a contribution to existing understanding, and this can be a very specific contribution in a very specific area. Look at this paper for example:

Gauthier, Joseph P., Eamonn P. Glennon, and Andrew G. Dempster. "Timing Performance of V2R3 Namuru Operating in Position-Hold Mode." (2013).

It provides a very useful, but very context specific, contribution.

Of course the problem which you will face in trying to replicated a paper like this is that unlike these authors, you lack equipment and data to write up such results. However, you could consider getting data from one of the research laboratories working in your area and trying to publish something with them. This could be something where you write up some part of the analysis, or, if you really know your stuff, you take the data they have and then do your own analyses. More likely than not you would have to cite them as you are building on their work/collected data and efforts.

Another option for you would be to do some sort of literature review, for instance, timing performance for GPS satellites: A review of the literature. Something like this would also qualify as a contribution and could be publishable. Plus, if you did it in an area where you would like to do research, it would serve to signal that you are serious about that research and also happen to know quite a bit about it.

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