I am self-educated software developer, and I believe I stumbled across something that is both novel and useful. I'm not talking anything large or groundbreaking, but still novel and potentially useful to others. I believe it may be suitable for publication.

The find in itself is related to a publication from 1997, which continues to be somewhat frequently cited (about 30 times per year).

I have found a journal I believe is a very good fit for the material.

I have no access to anyone who has experience in publishing papers or academia in the field. That leaves me with the following stumbling blocks I have to find out on my own:

  • I lack the overview of the current research in the field. It's nice and good an outsider thinks they have an innovation, but the work may be not novel at all.

  • Even if it is novel, what I regard as a small but nevertheless interesting and useful find may be regarded as trivial and not publishable by academia.

  • Even if it wouldn't be, and would be suitable for a paper, without any experience in writing papers, I will likely make all beginners errors, and have nobody to proofread the paper.

What, if anything, can I do to overcome these hurdles?

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    "itself is related to a publication from 1997". Then go to google scholar, find the articles that cite this 1997 paper, look at the most recent papers and by their title or their abstract, determine if they relate to your work.
    – Alexandros
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 14:58
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    Note that generally old papers are not cited because of their "novel" approach, but for historical reasons. e.g. "the first proposing this method was" or "as proven in " Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 17:33
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    I took the liberty of adding the independent-researcher tag. I'd recommend browsing through our previous questions tagged both independent-researcher and publications. None are exact duplicates, but many are related. Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 19:58
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    @AnderBiguri: Or simply because it used to be novel then, but no-one touched the topic since. At least personally, I feel this is the most frequent reason I see myself cite old publications. Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 20:19
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    @O.R.Mapper: 30 citations per year doesn't sound like nobody touching the topic to me... I agree that it would be useful to look at the context in which this paper is being cited. Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 20:35

2 Answers 2


I would recommend e-mailing the authors of the original paper. (In general contact information for academics can be very easily found via googling.) Briefly explain your discovery and pose your questions.

In general, such e-mails are quite welcome in academia. There is some possibility you might get no response, but I think it is likely that you will get a polite response, and that the authors will be encouraging and helpful if your work is worth publishing.

If you don't want to do much of the grunt work yourself, you may be able to coauthor the paper with the authors and/or others whom the authors might put you in touch with. (But don't propose this until you get an initial positive response.)

Good luck!


Write a blog post

  • blog posts in general are very appreciated by software devs. (I used to spend ages reading them when I was working as a dev to keep up on state of the art)
    • This of-course assumes your "thing" is software related.
  • Academics in general, do read and write blog posts. They are more annoying to cite, but still reasonable.
  • There are a few micro-fields of applied CS that publish exclusively through blog posts (The only one I know of is "Arbitrary Precision Document Representation")
  • You're not a professional academic, therefore you have no "publish or perish" based KPI (Key Performance Indicator)
  • further as a nonacademic writing publishing a paper gains you very little increase in employ-ability (even if it gets cited thousands of times). Some employers might care, for most its just going to be a neat thing you did once (not that different to how they might feel if you said you have climbed Mt Everest)
  • You (as you admit) don't have the skills to write a paper, nor the connections to get someone to help. You do have the skill to write a blog post you demonstrated that in the asking the question.
  • Not related works is expected in a blog post, it doesn't matter how trivial etc. The worst judgement someone is going to pass on you is ignoring it.

You can supplement this by writing a paper, and putting in on a pre-print repository like arXiv. As @Ilmari suggests in comments

  • These tend to have low bar for entry, and are not peer-reviewed.
  • It is almost certainly going to be around forever. (even if Cornell Univerisy vanishes, there are certainly going to be independent backups that can recreate the data)
  • it is indexed by academic search engines like Google Scholar, so it will be found easily.
  • Lots of industry academics (at lest in my field), tend to publish on arXiv, because they don't have the need to publish to keep their jobs.
  • it is easy to cite, and is becoming quiet common to cite a work published only on arXiv.

You can then link to it in the blog post, saying "A more formal writeup is available on ..."

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    The down side to this that a post on a random personal (or company) blog is far more likely to disappear some day than a paper hosted by an established publisher or academic institution. Sure, you can decide to commit yourself to keeping it available, but what if you get hit by a bus next year? I would at least look into getting your paper on arXiv or some similar repository. Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 19:17
  • @IImari I agree. I was going to suggest also putting it on arXiv, but I thought that might detract from the clarity of the answer, and figured someone else would suggest it, immediately. I will edit it in, since doing both is better. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 2:04
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    Good suggestion. I would also add that blog posts allows more diverse formats, therefore more flexible when one needs to figure out what to write. It allows pure theoretical argument, examples, demonstration and test of concept, even tutorials and no review would argue whether this content type suitable for the given journal or not.
    – Greg
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 2:36

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