I finished my masters thesis (computer science) a year ago and had only a slight chance to become a graduate student (I declined the offer because it was too risky for me).

Now I am working as a software engineer for almost a year. I still want to do a PhD and I am convinced I can do it one day. I even told my company that I want to do a PhD and if there exists a chance to do it in cooperation with the company, I will do it.

Nevertheless, I find myself reading books about the life of a PhD student, how to write a dissertation and so on...but I feel like I am getting nowhere closer to my goal. I would like to publish something that I can show to research institutes of interest (something to add to my CV that is research related).

Right now I am interested in Software Architecture, I also read other publications even if they are not related to my current job as a software engineer. I feel like I could squeeze some of my knowledge into some kind of publication, I just don't know how to do it.

Could you give me any hints or even books that focus on publication for the field of computer science?

All the books I read so far are either medicine research related or very global...


To be honest, I think it would be extremely difficult to publish independently, in a forum that would matter. That is, there are predatory publications that will take just about anything, including a publication consisting solely of the repeated sentence Get me off Your F--king Mailing List ... but if you want to publish real work, there are a lot of hurdles.

I'm not going to google for you to point at how-to's that must say things like how you need to state a thesis, provide background, do some evaluation, compare to prior art, and so on. I don't think the issue is the mechanics of writing a paper, though the English in your original post indicate that will be a problem if you publish in English. (I sympathize with those for whom it is not their first language, but it doesn't make it easier to publish.)

The issue is really, as a junior software engineer, is it really true that you can could squeeze some of [your] knowledge into some kind of publication?

It's surely the case that some people have published with minimal background and sometimes even made monumental contributions. But the bar goes up with time. There's a lot of cumulative work. If you really think you can add to that, you probably should start with the "prior art" part I mentioned before. Read a bunch of papers, for instance in a conference pertaining to your area of interest, and see if there is something there where you think you can add on to it.

But I think a better approach is to do accomplished work as a software engineer, then apply to a PhD program, and have the professors teach you what is involved in publishing.

  • I am very grateful for your honest answer. I had a job interview for a job as researcher (before my sw engineer job) where they asked me why I didnt publicate anything. They stated that I could use my bachelor or master thesis and publish a portion out of it. One of them said that I should not be afraid to write something down and publicate, I should just do it. Nevertheless I have no idea how to do those things. Get a latex template from a journal and just start writing something down? I don't know. – Captain GouLash Apr 9 '17 at 19:28
  • I responded to another answer but the comment applies here too: I agree that it might be possible to publish work from the master's degree, but if so,isn't it likely the the professor would have pushed for it at the time? But that is certainly an avenue to pursue. – Fred Douglis Apr 9 '17 at 21:21

I'll offer a different answer to the above, as I'm in a very similar position to you.

I don't think publishing 'independently' it is necessarily as hard as people assume, if you have some university education behind you. I put independently in quotation marks, because I think your best avenue would be to reach out to somebody at the university where you completed your master's, eg getting into contact with your thesis supervisor, and see if your thesis is worth condensing into something of publishable quality.

An alternative would be to approach other professors at the university, if you have other connections from your masters. This is what I did, although I had already done the research myself, and mostly needed the guidance on how to best write up the paper. It's also really helpful when writing papers to have someone much smarter than you to bounce your ideas off. They will also know the field you're wanting to publish in, and can help you select a suitable conference, etc.

If you get in touch with any members of staff, they will probably expect you to have a specific research problem in mind. As someone who isn't a PhD student, you and the person you choose to work with won't have the implicit professional relationship, and so it may seem a little bizarre if you contact them with a view to publish just something, rather than approaching them to talk specifically about a research interest.

  • I agree that it might be possible to publish work from the master's degree, but if so,isn't it likely the the professor would have pushed for it at the time? – Fred Douglis Apr 9 '17 at 21:19
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    @FredDouglis not necessarily. It could be a non-trivial amount of work to take a thesis to a publishable paper, and the professor mightn't have even considered it. By the time theses are submitted/read (in the UK at least?) the 'student' will have practically graduated, won't be officially associated with the school anymore (no access to buildings), and mightn't want to put any effort into research-related work on top of their job. – bekah Apr 9 '17 at 23:51

Regardless of whether or not you decide to pursue a Ph.D, publishing is in principle not something you set out to do in advance, this is always going to be the result of research work that has results that the scientific community is likely going to be interested in. This means that you need to do a lot of literature research first to understand what the problems the researchers are dealing with today are. If you then do your own research and come up with results that you think the professionals would want to read about, then you can consider writing up an article.

So, while there are always going to be exceptions, in principle a publication by you on some topic means that you've mastered that topic to such a degree that you should be considered to be a top expert (at least when one narrows things down to what's covered in your article). This is the very reason why a publication can help increase your chances to get an academic job.

You should not reverse the logic here and try to get to a publication for the sake if it. There are junk journals where you can get away with publishing mediocre work that editors of normal journals would have rejected. But publishing in such journals won't help you much, most researchers will get a visceral reaction when they see the title of such a journal on your list of publications.

Publishing as an independent researcher is possible, I've published quite few articles outside of my professional research area. But it helps to have had research experience in one field to be able to do this. I'm quite sure that I could not have written up a proper research article had I not had studied at research level at university.

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