I'm a computer science graduate student (Master degree), I have done my thesis defense, and it is accepted. So, the problem is that I want to publish a paper based on my thesis but the advisor wants her name to be the FIRST name! Claiming that she has done enough work to be as first author. So, here how the research has been done:

  • At the beginning she didn't have any good idea to be done as thesis. Thus, I had to go through existing research for couple of months until I came up with a new idea.

  • As any new idea, it develops with the time. What I mean is that she suggested few things to be added. However, I added much more things to enhance the algorithm (my idea) and achieve better results .

  • I wrote the whole thesis, but she revised almost all of it (except Related work and conclusion) because English is not my first language.

  • She did the mathematical proof ( I mean she found the equations to proof that our algorithm is better)

  • However, I codded all the simulation programs, and I did the simulations and collected the results.

  • Also, she stayed in contact with me during the summer (one Skype call a week)

I spent almost two years working on this research, and I don't want to be unfair with her. I would like to have your opinion

  • 9
    I'm not in CS so I don't know what the conventions there are (e.g., in some areas alphabetical order is normal). If you were equal colleagues, it is quite possible that the mathematical proof would be central to a paper and deserve first authorship over your other contributions. In my own field, it would be very unusual for a student to not be first author on the papers which they publish from their thesis, and the advisor is typically last as a "senior author" - in fact, it would look bad for a professor to not commonly have last-authorship papers at that stage of their career.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 23:56
  • @BryanKrause Thank you for your response. The mathematical proof is not central because there is a simulation with correct results. Also, I believe that the most important thing is the new technique of the algorithm
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 0:15
  • 11
    A simulation is not a proof. It shows a special case, rather than the general. So, the proof indeed may be crucial. Check whether this may be the case. Commented May 6, 2017 at 1:46
  • 10
    @SHADOW.NET Please be so polite and do not put words in the mouth of people who take their time to respond to you, such as claiming I said "finding a whole new algorithm is not important". I formulated carefully and did not say anything like that. In your description you say a lot of things, but did not say anywhere that you - as you freshly imply here - invented a new algorithm. From your description, it looked like a co-development, in which case, the first authorship depends on many details. I am not saying you shouldn't be first, but it really depends a lot on the details of the case. Commented May 6, 2017 at 2:46
  • 1
    Who is going to write the actual article?
    – Karl
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 19:08

2 Answers 2


In my experience, in CS, it is rare but not unheard of for a professor to be first author. Usually I think that is really when it is the professor who has taken lead, both in running a project and in writing the text, and typically it is when it is a group project where each student has a moderate contribution but it's the advisor who pulled it together. This is often the case when the paper is an overview of the project as a whole.

In the case of your project, it certainly sounds like you're getting a raw deal and should push back. But without seeing the professor's side of the story, it can be hard to tell. They may have a different view of the relative contribution.

IMHO, even if it's 50-50 or 60-40, the student should get priority. There's a tipping point where it's more understandable, but from your description, you're nowhere close to it.

Good luck!

  • PS. There are certainly related posts you should read, such as academia.stackexchange.com/questions/10059/… Commented May 6, 2017 at 0:48
  • Thank you for your time to answer. Now, if I choose not to publish at all, does she have the authority to go without my consent and publish a paper?
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 1:30
  • I don't think so, but I can't say with certainty. I suspect the "someone wants to publish without me" question has come up on SE before, so look around. I certainly think you should be able to come to some understanding here. Is there another professor who can mediate between you? Commented May 6, 2017 at 1:33
  • I guess, we can ask another professor to mediate (but I doubt her coworkers take a side of a student who will leave the country in few months!)
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 1:42
  • 1
    The fact that you're leaving should have no bearing on this at all. The question is what is fair. Generally, what's fair is to prioritize the student. This isn't true if the student's contribution is truly a "small enough" fraction of the overall effort -- for instance I just had a paper where we put all the authors in alphabetical order (though none was a professor -- one was a summer intern). But from what you've said you have a strong case.... Commented May 6, 2017 at 1:48

More data seem necessary in order to clarify what's going on there, but if your report is accurate, take for granted her behavior is highly unethical. A thesis is (should be) the result of individual research, and a publication based on it definitely should have you as the first author.

That being said, many research groups are infamously well-known for being run as communist states. That is, research is not mainly an individual task, but a constant "groupal collaboration guided by the leader", where the leader is the one that distributes credit, depending on a plethora of criteria (helping the weakest/oldest student, personal interests, old favors, etc...).

If this is your case and you accepted a lot of help (like your professor writing for you a crucial proof, or doing a full copy-edit of your whole thesis), you got credit in other articles from your colleagues, etc... then sadly you'll have to give in, because you implictly accepted participating in that system. Did this only happen to you or is it common?

If this does not apply, your group is run based on meritocracy, and your professor just did important but limited work, then discuss it with her and expose why you should be the first author. Although, from what you have described, and in my experience, I don't have much hope this would work. I also know a research group where the supervisor signed as first author in every paper produced and there were only two options: accept it or leave.

The supervisor is there to supervise, guide and advise, not to collaborate or help in your thesis. In the future, be very wary about "receiving (excessive) help", because this is what eventually happens: you'll have to pay the favors back.

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