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I graduated with a bachelor's in math a few years ago and this year I've applied to several graduate programs and have been rejected. One of the graduate coordinators gave me some very helpful feedback and one of the things suggested was to try to get some research published.

I've found many places for undergraduates to publish, but I am technically not an undergraduate anymore, nor am I a graduate student.

Is it feasible for me to get something published given my circumstances? Are there any places that would accept research at my level from someone who has their undergraduate degree?

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  • One way would be to publish with a colleague who has the know how, a former teacher. Publish something on magazines, local magazines.
    – Robert
    Apr 15, 2016 at 17:35
  • This seems rather strange advice to me, at least for someone familiar with graduate programs in the U.S. That said, you can find a lot of examples of suitable journals and examples of possible research topics in Thomas J. Osler's list of papers, many of which I believe he co-authored with his undergraduate students. Apr 20, 2016 at 16:16
  • @DaveLRenfro He had more advice that you would probably consider more typical, but this was the piece of advice that wasn't as straightforward for me. The other big piece of advice he gave me was to take another semester of each Algebra and Analysis. Is that more typical advice? Would you say that my effort would be better spent on other aspects of my application? Thank you for the link.
    – ShawSa
    Apr 20, 2016 at 18:31
  • Taking another semester of algebra and analysis is much better for you. For one thing, there is little risk of failure, unlike research which could wind up not going anywhere even if you put in a lot of effort. For another thing, you have the opportunity to do VERY WELL, which would look very good on your application as well as allow one or two teachers to write a very positive recommendation for you. Apr 20, 2016 at 18:44
  • @DaveLRenfro You make an excellent point; it would be risky. I think I've been interested in pursuing it since I have some time to kill before the classes start, but I could instead take that time to prepare for those classes. I've reread the email, and I the advice was to participate in research. That may be a little more realistic than publishing. Either way, I think I'll take your advice and put my effort toward preparing for those classes. Thank you for the advice.
    – ShawSa
    Apr 20, 2016 at 19:17

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Yes, of course, there are many places you could publish research at your stage. For one thing, many undergrad journals will accept papers from recent graduates as long as the research was started when they were an undergraduate. Another option would be to team up with some other undergraduate and write a paper together.

There is also the Graduate Journal of Mathematics (full disclosure: I am an editor there). You don't need to be a grad student to get published there. The website explicitly states that a good bachelor's thesis project could be acceptable. And, of course, if you do work at the level of a professional journal like the Journal of Pure and Applied Algebra, you could publish there. They have published papers by undergraduates and recent graduates of Reed College (students of Kyle Ormsby), for example.

All that said, I agree with Dave Renfro that a better way to strengthen your application for a PhD program is to demonstrate success in graduate level courses. You could do a post-bac program like Smith's. You could audit grad level courses at a local university (and try to get a letter of recommendation from the professor who can speak to your potential). You could apply to master's programs instead of PhD programs. As Dave said, the upshot of showing depth via coursework is that it's more likely to succeed than showing depth via research (after all, grad school is meant to teach you how to do research), and also the coursework you do will help you pass your qualifying exams when you do eventually get into a PhD program.

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    Unsurprisingly, this answer came much too late to affect my decision, but I think it is a good answer, and hope that it will be useful to other people. For what it's worth, I did extend my search to masters programs, got accepted to one, did well, and now I'm most of the way through a PhD program.
    – ShawSa
    May 13 at 23:06
  • Yay, that's great to learn! May 13 at 23:13

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