I am working with an advisor, but I don’t really understand him. He replies to my questions and suggests things. He also provides documents to help me in my research.

However, when it comes to publishing (which is important), he excludes me from his papers. I feel like my name is a shame if appeared next to his name. Last time he clearly said: “Try to publish by yourself.” What does this mean? How to handle such a situation? All I want is to take my degree and end this struggle.

Edited: Thanks all for your answers. As many asked if I did contribute something and my advisor took the work without mentioning my name? No, this did not happen. But, I have done research work by myself and came up with conclusions supported with experiments/simulations/derivations ... etc and I feel like they are publishable. I am, I compare my work to recently published papers in the same area and I see that, sometimes I have better quality. But, my advisor is a perfectionist and it takes him years to write something which is absolutely unusual in my area of study. Plus, he doesn't have enough funds. So, I have two scenarios in my mind: 1: He is afraid to perish his name with me 2:He doesn't have money to pay for publication fees/charges Both scenarios are bad. Again, I can't clearly ask questions. The advisor is impulsive person with everyday mood. Not friendly at all.

  • 13
    Can you please edit your question to clarify whether you contributed to what you denote as his papers?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Sep 17, 2017 at 9:16
  • 76
    He's not putting his name on your papers, or you're not able to put your name on his papers? The title and body of this question seem to conflict.
    – Nat
    Sep 17, 2017 at 9:34
  • 35
    To answer the title question: Publish your work alone without his name!
    – JeffE
    Sep 17, 2017 at 11:03
  • 19
    Could you also mention which field you are in? In some fields, in particular areas of Philosophy and Mathematics, publishing on your own is normal. Sep 17, 2017 at 12:29
  • 34
    If you did not make a substantial contribution to one of his papers, it would be intellectually dishonest for him to put your name on it. On the other hand, if you did make a substantial contribution, he should definitely put your name on it. From your question, I can't tell which of these two possibilities is the case. Sep 17, 2017 at 15:31

4 Answers 4


Consider the possibility that you are seeing things emotionally rather than rationally. Additionally, you should critically reflect whether your expectations of the operational principles of doing a PhD are realistic. Based on the little information you provide, it appears that your supervisor is doing a fairly good job. He is answering questions and helping you out in your work. In a nutshell, this is the kind of support you should expect.

It is per se not your supervisor's job to "include you in his papers". This has almost certainly nothing to do with him being "ashamed" of you. Authorship in papers is not a courtesy that is, or should not, be granted based on friendship, but due to intellectual contributions. If you are not contributing to these papers, why would your supervisor add you to the author list?

Of course you could ask the question why your supervisor is not inviting you to help with his papers. This may be because your expertise is not necessary for the papers (which is not the same as that he does not respect you!), or maybe the papers have developed from a longer ongoing collaboration. You should not fault your supervisor for not warping his projects just so that you can fit in them somehow.

What does this mean? How to handle such a situation?

It means that he wants you to be an independent researcher, as you should be. Why do you think there is something to handle, other than to heed his advice and look into publishing your own papers?

In many disciplines, it is fairly common that PhD students are expected to publish their own research without their supervisors. Have you actually attempted to do so? Have you talked to your supervisor in what capacity (helping with experiments and arguments, structuring and presentation, reviewing drafts?) he would be willing and able to help should you go ahead and publish your own work?

  • "In many disciplines, it is fairly common that PhD students are expected to publish their own research without their supervisors." In others not. The discipline of the questioner here is unknown, so we don't know what is the norm. Sep 18, 2017 at 13:45
  • 6
    @Trilarion Yes, but OP's supervisor has told him to publish their own research, so ...
    – xLeitix
    Sep 18, 2017 at 14:02
  • 2
    "...OP's supervisor has told him to publish their own research, so..." You mean this means he/she must be from a discipline where this is the norm, not that the supervisor is some kind of crazy guy? Well, I think it is not so evident. Could be, could not be. Sep 18, 2017 at 14:44
  • A tangential question: is a PhD expected to have ability to do research independently, or just need to have a specialized knowledge? Because while the latter usually implies the former, I think anyone can do research alone
    – Ooker
    Sep 18, 2017 at 16:23
  • 1
    @Ooker I am not following. Certainly, doing (valuable) research alone is not something that everybody can do? If that were the case, why would students even need advisors?
    – xLeitix
    Sep 18, 2017 at 17:13

His papers are his. Only if you considerably contribute to a paper should you be included as an author.

Apparently you like to start a joined project with him, and he does not. Do not take this personally. Profs are busy people, and they need to prioritize. Maybe he works best alone, or your subject is not his primary interest, or...

So if he says you should publish yourself, then that is what you should do. Maybe, you can find an experienced PhD student or postdoc to collaborate with.

  • 32
    "Profs are busy people, and they need to prioritize." Yes. And their own PhD students should be very high on their list of priorities! Sep 17, 2017 at 15:26
  • 5
    "Profs are busy people, and they need to prioritize." If he is not willing to collaborate with his student he should not have taken him on. The rest is good, but I think this particular line of reasoning is against the spirit of being a supervisor, in my opinion. Sep 18, 2017 at 13:48

Generally, and regardless of supervisor-supervisee relations, the rule for authorship is:

Whoever made significant direct contributions to the research findings presented should be listed as an author.

Now, when someone is supervising you, they have enough of an influence on what you do and how your work develops to justify their being added as authors to most publications you are writing "yourself". Thus in many (most?) institutions and most disciplines, your advisor gets to be an author on your "own" papers (for an example of when this is not the case see this answer). At the very least, you need to ask your advisor what's the customary thing to do. I wouldn't ask him/her "do you want your name on this-or-that paper?" because then, saying "Yes" sounds kind of vain.

The other way around, i.e. an advisee having his/her name added to a paper of his/her advisor without significant contribution - is unlikely to occur and is basically unjustifiable. If you didn't contribute directly to something your supervisor is doing, you should not be listed as an author of a paper about it, nor should you want to be. Doing so would basically be lying to people - pretending to have done something you didn't.

If we're talking about research work that you have contributed to, then it is a grave ethical and moral offense for him not to add your name as an author. But since you referred to "his" papers, I'm assuming that's not the case.

  • So your advisor gets to be an author on your "own" papers. -- No. no, no, a thousand times no!
    – JeffE
    Sep 18, 2017 at 21:01
  • @JeffE: I read the guidelines at the answer you linked to. unfortunately, it is almost always the case that an advisor passes well beyond the activities which do not merit authorship.
    – einpoklum
    Sep 18, 2017 at 21:06
  • Check the second link, too.
    – JeffE
    Sep 18, 2017 at 21:08
  • @JeffE: Didn't notice the second link - they're tricky to notice...
    – einpoklum
    Sep 18, 2017 at 21:09
  • @JeffE: Amended my answer in accordance with the links. Although now it's a bit muddled rhetorically.
    – einpoklum
    Sep 18, 2017 at 21:15

It is not clear what was meant when the PhD student states, "he excludes me from his papers... All I want is to take my degree and end this struggle". I am not certain, but from former experience I suspect the concern is that the PhD student did a considerable amount of research or time spent gathering data/articles and/or performed research that was used in the professor's publication(s). And therefore, felt that he (the PhD student) should get credit (as a co-author) for his contribution.

Unfortunately, It is common practice for Professors to use Graduate-Student(s), PhD-student(s), as low-paid clerical labor to do much or all of the grunt work. And consider the graduate-student's efforts as merely that of a contract-laborer. Accordingly, It is common practice to not give the Graduate-student/PhD-student any credit in the professor's publications.

Professors frequently regard themselves as the brains behind the project/publication. And, therefore he/she justifies taking all the credit for him/herself... whether right or wrong.

The professor is clearly in a position of power over the PhD student which can be, and is often, abused. My father was in this situation, while working toward his PhD degree. My father had an advisory professor at UCSD who had a multi-year Department of Defense (DOD) contract awarded to him (worth several hundred thousand dollars) to do certain research.

The professor wasted most the time and money doing little or nothing to fulfill the contract obligations. In comes my father (a Graduate-student/PhD-student) at the time, who was told to perform all the research work and complete the contract requirements.

My father had to set aside his PhD work, for several years, and perform all or nearly-all the work necessary to complete the contract. Upon it's completion, The professor took all the credit and my father (who did all the work) got none.

Meanwhile, my father was no further ahead in the completion of his PhD degree... putting him further behind in Life and further in debt with more money to repay his ever-increasing student loans.

Hence, the author's comment..."he excludes me from [from co-authorship in] his papers [while I do much of the research/work]... All I want is to take my degree and end this struggle".

  • I should have also described his position as such: He is tired of being taken advantage of by the professor --doing much of the research work and getting no Credit (i.e. No co-authorship on the professor's publication). "How to handle such a situation?" Saying, that he is tired of getting screwed-over by the professor. So..."All I want is to take my degree and end this struggle"... and Get on with my life.
    – John Clay
    Sep 18, 2017 at 19:56
  • 1
    What's the point of this answer? It offers no concrete advice whatsoever... Sep 18, 2017 at 21:00
  • @goblin Agreed, this is an essay, not an answer.
    – Fomite
    Sep 19, 2017 at 0:28

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