I am interested to know what the likelihood is that an undergraduate would be able to publish an academic paper (particularly in a STEM field) from home. For the sake of argument, assume they are an advanced student, and work independently of any supervisor.

  1. Is this something that is frequently done?
  2. Would this look any better or worse on a CV than doing it under a supervisor?
  3. Is this something that is likely to happen, in a reasonable time frame, if the student stayed committed?
  • 2
    What do you mean by "from home"? Do you mean "from a dorm" or "during summer break" or "after graduating" or what?
    – jakebeal
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 2:36
  • 5
    The likelihood of publishing something is high. The likelihood of publishing something useful is much, much lower. I suggest you read my answer to "Finding original research ideas/topics as an undergraduate student".
    – ff524
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 2:36
  • 1
    Please clarify where the paper will be published.
    – Nobody
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 4:07
  • 1
    Why are you trying to publish alone, exactly? It might be the case that there is some sort of misconception at a level before this question, but since you are not explaining everything from the beginning it is difficult for us to understand and give you good advice. Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 13:07
  • 1
    Experience makes things easier. You might do it alone, but you'd find yourself reinventing the wheel several times before getting it right, on the technical part. Then comes the proper writing of your contribution, which is not trivial and full of unwritten rules and etiquette. A supervisor/advisor/mentor would save you a considerable amount of time, potentially making the difference between actually publishing something or not... Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 14:00

2 Answers 2


At the beginning of my PhD, last year, I had several ideas, so after thinking long and hard about them, I suggested them to my supervisor. His most common answer was "that is a nice idea, they tried that in the 90's, it didn't work".

Later, I finished my first manuscript. I was quite proud of it, and I gave it to him for review. It came back with more red than black.

Also, don't forget the resources a professor can give you. As an undergrad, I had an idea for which I needed a couple of hours in a student lab using non consumable and safe equipment, but I wasn't allowed. I then suggested the project to a professor, and a word from him gave me full access to whatever lab I would need. Depending on your case, this may mean data, computers, or having a conversation with an expert in something you may be stuck with.

So, chances are that if you work by yourself, you will have the same problems. Either you will work on something irrelevant or some known dead end; and when you get a result, you will have a hard time putting it in a publication ready form. Take as an example your own question: you wrote one paragraph, and three people have already considered your post unclear. A several pages research article, where not even the researcher fully understands what is going on, is significantly more difficult.

You can, of course, go ahead and try to research something you find interesting on your own, but your chances of getting published are significantly lower than if you have a mentor. You would have to jump many more hurdles.


I recommend you to try to publish your paper in a journal with lower impact factor which may increase the likelihood of publishing. If possible, a friend from the same field would edit the paper. Even you did not get your paper published you will get benefit from the editors' or referees' recommendations that will improve your writing.

  • 1
    And, if it is a very good idea, it is now wasted on the wrong venue. While editors and referees usually have good opinions that improve the quality of the considered work, it is not their job to make sure your paper is good. Doing this without an advisor means wasting referees' time. Not a good idea. Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 13:56
  • As a referee I am not agree with you. I had some papers from grad student with no advisers and they imrove in time a lot by getting feedback from the referees and by the way we are not only supposed to evaluate "good papers" but also papers have scientific value. Besides, papers advised ,unfortunately, are not always "good enough to evaluate!" :-)
    – bantandor
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 4:41

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .