I have published two research works in Q1 and Q2 journals, working as a research assistant (co-author). I am wondering whether the published work increases my chances of acceptance for a master's program, if all other factors are good but not exceptional. The two works improved the state-of-the-art in a particular subfield and my involvement in both works was very much in every aspect of the research, from idea development, modeling to writing.

Note: my field is electrical engineering

Edit: To add more substance, would having such publications and research experience make me an equivalent candidate to, say, someone applying with ~4.0 GPA but no research experience? Which usually aims high when applying (for reference, my GPA is 3.7)

  • 3
    Short answer: yes. But a strong recommendation letter from the most senior person on these research projects will help even more.
    – user37208
    Aug 15 '16 at 18:10
  • Of course, publication matters in academic and research admissions. However, recommendations plays a great role in the process as @user37208 said.
    – Coder
    Aug 15 '16 at 19:33
  • Can you give a little more detail about what country/region you are planning on applying in? In, for example, the US, I would suggest considering also applying to PhD programs directly if you are committed to continuing research. Your gpa, publications, and (presumably) a recommendation letter from your lab head has the potential to make a strong PhD application as well as MS application.
    – user58322
    Aug 17 '16 at 7:40
  • To answer user58322's question, I'm indeed applying for the US
    – Santi
    Aug 18 '16 at 18:59
  • 1
    Usually the 'fact' of participating in research experience as UG is the important piece because it teaches them many things about how research works. If I saw a UG on several credible papers compared to another UG on one credible paper, I would usually just assume that he was lucky to be in a productive group with a supportive mentor). It would be the recommendation letters that make the difference if those 'multiple' papers were truly meaningful difference. Even then, I'd be reading between the lines of whether the research advisor was just blowing steam.
    – Carol
    Sep 1 '16 at 20:59

Yes! It shows you have experience with (and are good at) writing and research. It would be even better if you could get a letter of recommendation from someone you worked with on these research works.

  • 1
    This seems correct but kind of trivial. Also you don't address the OPs further questions about how this weighs vs. GPA.
    – virmaior
    Oct 6 '16 at 13:59

Yes, it would. The whole point of the admissions process is trying to determine whether or not you have the markers of someone who will be able to do graduate research - having already done research that's resulted in publications is a very strong indicator.

Supplementing that with a strong recommendation letter from those you worked with will help solidify that benefit.

As to the question of GPA, it's really impossible to say for two reasons: There isn't a formula, where "One Paper = 0.15 GPA points" or anything like that. There's not necessarily a score at all. Additionally how each individual program weights the components of an application will vary - for example, my program treated the GPA as something of a "You must be this tall to ride..." criteria, while some others will take it very heavily into account.


An excellent record (GPA 4.0) is not an evidence for good performance for a master's degree or beyond (PhD). Different qualities are required and assessed. For instance: autonomy ("every aspect of the research"), endurance (to deliver usable results, and during the publication process), cooperative skills (RA, co-author), innovation ("idea development") and additionally this double success in publishing (potentially in English), are very important factors.

I do not believe there is a strict equivalence: you simply cannot count your papers as 2x0.15. For myself, I would spend more time considering your application than the other (I am in Electrical Engineering too), and I do generally advise my colleagues to do the same.

For some persons in charge, the number of papers would suffice. For others, they will read the papers, and judge how good they are; Q1 or Q2 rankings could be biased depending in the subfield.

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