When I was starting out in my Masters degree, I had an idea of a publication that could be completed in a small amount of time. I was starting out and I felt it would get me at ease with research after publishing this idea.

My idea was like a comparison between two different techniques of solving a problem and the paper could be completed in a week. However, My supervisor told me that I could get a publication for this idea but he recommended me not to waste my efforts on a low quality publication and focus on a long term high to medium quality publication.

So my question is would it have badly affected my research career if I had published that paper?

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    I'd say the potential negative impact of a publication is directly proportional to how bad the publication was to begin with.
    – posdef
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 6:39
  • If it was so bad it would not have been published
    – zzzzz
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 6:43
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    One would think so, alas: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/9602/…
    – posdef
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 6:45
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    "the paper could be completed in a week" - I wish I had been right with such an estimate at least once - sigh...
    – Dirk
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 8:07
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    @NPcompleteUser I can't understand what you said?
    – zzzzz
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 11:01

2 Answers 2


First, regarding your comment that “if [the paper] was so bad it would not have been published”: in my experience, pretty much anything is publishable, it all depends on the journal. Don't overestimate the field: there are journals out there that publish absolute crap. And that is not only my opinion, e.g.

in many cases, Bentham Open journals publish articles that no legitimate peer-review journal would accept

Now, the initial question is: how bad can it be? Well, it can be bad. As a researcher (or wannabe researcher), your publications list is like an artist's portfolio. When you look for a job, apply for a grant or try to recruit new team members, this is what they will judge you on.

Now, for a young student (say undergrad or MSc level), one weird paper would not completely freak me out. It would mostly speak to me about the quality of the tutor/advisor/program director: a newbie can sure get a wrong idea at some point, but how come noöne was there to tell him it was a wrong idea? On the other hand, if he was told and did not listen, it might speak to his character!

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    what about "publish or perish" mantra? Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 10:58
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    @NPcompleteUser what about it? “Publish or perish” doesn't mean there is no threshold for quality of the publications. It is true that the current system puts emphasis on publication quantity, but that is not absolute. I could publish five times the number of papers I have now, if I absolutely did not care what their quality was (if you are wondering, that's not hyperbole, that's a fact). Would it have benefitted my career? Most probably not.
    – F'x
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 11:53
  • you should consider the current position of the OP. You cannot disagree that publication_count+1 looks better that publication_count for undegrad/grad student. Of course, in professor world, the situation may be different, although... i think it's the same ;) Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 12:37
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    @NPcompleteUser I understand the position of the OP and, as someone who runs a research group, I disagree. If someone has one publication, and it's “meh”, it won't influence my opinion of him. As I said, everyone knows that anything can get published, so I will simply ignore stuff published in journals that I don't consider serious.
    – F'x
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 12:55

Not if you published it as a non-peer-reviewed technical report / note on your webpage, or even a adapted it into something like a blog post.

However, it's quite often the case that small results can be augmented with related small results, or added to more significant results, too build up a paper that' more worth of publishing "for real", i.e. in a respectable conference or journal.

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