1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How do you ask a professor for possibility of publication

  1. Jan 21, 2009 #1
    When you consider joining a professor's research group, how can you bring up the subject of publication in a discrete way. What's a better way than to ask the professor straight up "if I work for you, will I get a publication in a relatively short period of time?" How do you raise this question without making the professor think you care only about grad school application.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 21, 2009 #2
    Just mention that you're interested in publishing your data, so that he knows to direct you on the right path towards being able to publish.
     
  4. Jan 22, 2009 #3

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2015 Award

    But it sounds like that's exactly what you are interested in, rather than research for its own sake.

    I don't think your professors are quite as easily fooled as you may think.
     
  5. Jan 22, 2009 #4

    j93

    User Avatar

    Research for its own sake is overrated. Publications look better on your application than research for its own sake. If you can find someone who can guide you into first author postition dont worry about the actual topic. His reputation maybe.
     
  6. Jan 22, 2009 #5
    If you are an undergrad student planning to go for grad study, publication is not important. Just do research without insisting on publication and get experience, you will get a strong recommendation letter. If your research is good your professor will suggest you to publish anyways.
     
  7. Jan 22, 2009 #6

    j93

    User Avatar

    You serious. Publications are big bonus points for grad school admissions. The OP knows this otherwise he wouldnt have asked about pubs.

    My point is as Vanadium and a lot of people on this forum have said not everyone can get into grad school but everyone can get into undergrad. For undergrad there are tons of people who guide their decisions based on admissions to get every possible boost in their applications and this becomes a big positive for them. I dont understand how your suppose to suddenly not care enough about grad school admissions to seek out every possible boost on your applications especially when everyone says it is more competitive than undergrad. There is no possible way that grad schools can tell that he chose an adviser based on the likelihood of his getting a publication and publications will give his application a boost. You could get into grad school without publications you could also get in with subpar PGRE but im still not going to recommend seeking out a lower PGRE score or not studying for the PGRE because you want to spend the time learning QFT.
    Not true at all. Different sub fields have different rules for who gets publication credit. For example, experimental high energy physics collaborations typically have rules that specify that an author must be a member of the collaboration for a certain amount of time as well as fit various requirements that can change at any given moment.
     
  8. Jan 22, 2009 #7

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2015 Award

    But a statement on a letter of recommendation that says "He was less interested in research for its own sake than in padding his resume for grad school with a publication" would be very bad.
     
  9. Jan 22, 2009 #8

    j93

    User Avatar

    Thats pretty unlikely. There are droves of HS seniors who do analogous padding when they volunteer for charitable organizations and ask their supervisor in their organization for a recommendation letter yet its is not common for the supervisor to send a recommendation that says "He was less interested in community service for its own sake than in padding his resume for college". The reason it is not common because regardless of the fact that they were interested in padding they should have formed a relationship with their supervisor that the supervisor would not write a recommendation along those lines unless the supervisor is a jerk in which case the student should know enough about his supervisor to see it coming and should also have bothered to find out along with the likelihood of publication whether he fits into the jerk category. People wouldnt pad if it did not work.
     
  10. Jan 22, 2009 #9

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I'm not sure if people who have responded to this missed the whole "scenario", but the OP appears to be asking the professor on the possibility of publication BEFORE he/she joins this professor's research work.

    I think this is a bit presumptuous. One can never tell about the nature of the outcome of any research work to make any kind of guarantee that the work will result in a publication. I've had several undergraduates joining my project during the summer, and I never make that kind of a promise or guarantee. I can't! How does one guarantee the outcome of a physics research conducted over a specific period of time? Do you think Mother Nature will cooperate with you on this?

    If I were that professor, I will tend to lean towards what Vanadium has said, that this person doesn't really want to do the work, but rather care more about getting his/her name on some paper. Oh, I'm not naive about wanting to pad a resume with publications. However, it shouldn't be the MAIN reason why someone wants to work in my project. By asking such a question right off the bat, one IS making that impression.

    I would not hire such a person.

    Zz.
     
  11. Jan 22, 2009 #10

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2015 Award

    Exactly. And I wouldn't hire such a person either. Opening with the question of publication really puts the cart before the horse.
     
  12. Jan 22, 2009 #11
    And if you do your homework about professor X's research, you should know some important things like how often his/her group publishes... if undergraduates are on any of those publications... if he/she has recently been awarded any grants (to support big projects) or prestigious research awards (indicating a large body of important research already out there... aka good productivity). You should be able to find these things online (without professor X knowing you've done this). Of course even when you make a good bet, it might not pan out into large quantities of publications, or even one.
     
  13. Jan 22, 2009 #12

    Choppy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I might be in disagreement with some posters here, but I think it's fine to ask about the possibility of publication up front. Just because you're interested in a publication does not mean that you're not interested in the research itself.

    The caveate is that you have to be willing to accept the answer. The truth of the matter is that simply collecting and processing data for a couple months (the nature of a lot of undergraduate lab assistant positions) does not always meet the criteria for authorship. In my field anyway, you generally need to be a part of the study's design, execution and synthesis and at the very least contribute some original thought to the work.

    When working for a professor, it's important to keep in mind that you're not slave labour. It's important to ask questions before accepting any position including: the payment you will receive (if any), the expectations with respect to hours, output, end goals of the project, and whether or not you will be named on any resulting publications. Bringing these kinds of things up is not easy. I would recommend that when you go for any interview or meeting, you write out your concerns ahead of time. Then be polite and professional when bringing them up.
     
  14. Jan 22, 2009 #13

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    No, what one could ask is if the research project that one is applying for MAY result in a publication. That's different than "if I work for you, will I get a publication in a relatively short period of time?". The first one is simply checking if the work is a research front work that could result in a publication. The latter is more "demanding", especially with the "short period of time" part, as if one can predict what can happen in a short period of time, especially in experimental work. Try working in experimental high energy physics when the Tevatron was down for that long upgrade.

    Zz.
     
  15. Jan 22, 2009 #14

    j93

    User Avatar

    As a general rule I would hope that nobody on this forum would lack enough social skills
    to open with the question about publications.

    If you were trying to have sex without working too hard. I would suggest a female who sleeps around. That doesnt mean that person should go around asking every single female he meets if shes a whore or start every date with "are we going to have sex tonight?". I would suggest he research/asks around to determine who sleeps around than get to know those people.


    Ask around and research the professors.
     
  16. Jan 22, 2009 #15
    So how exactly should I go about asking the first type of question? "So Prof. X, will there be opportunity for me to be involved in a publication in this research group?", like that?
     
  17. Jan 22, 2009 #16

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2015 Award

    To use j93's analogy, would you say to a woman "So, will there be an opportunity for me to boink your brains out if I were to buy you dinner?" And if she slapped you, would you then go around and ask her colleagues at work?

    You're missing the whole point. The reason grad school committees value undergraduate research is because of what you would presumably have learned. Publication is an additional data point indicating that you would have learned a lot. Focusing on the publication and not the work won't fool anyone - not your research supervisor and not the admissions committee.

    Neither is particularly gullible.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2009
  18. Jan 22, 2009 #17

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    If I were an undergraduate, I would be happy to be doing ANYTHING in someone's research group, regardless of whether I get any publication out of it or not. The experience and the SKILL that I gather are more important, and something that I can write about in my graduate school application.

    I mentored a couple of undergraduates doing their internship here last summer, and NONE of them got any publications out of the work. But the feedback we got from all of them showed that it was the most valuable experience they've ever had, and the fact that they got into the program will be a significant addition to their resume and grad school application.

    If any of these kids would have asked me the question that you wrote, I would not have picked them.

    Zz.
     
  19. Jan 22, 2009 #18

    j93

    User Avatar

    You should focus on getting a publication but only when deciding who to pursue research with not when conducting your research or having meetings with your supervisor. Dont start every meeting with you research supervisor asking when you're going to get a paper. The whole point of the research on the professors background is to find a professor who will increase the likelihood of being in the position of publishing a paper. You cant force a publication out of a professor.
    To extend the earlier analogy even when you find a girl who is easy. You shouldnt spend every single minute with her asking her when she is going to boink you. The whole point is to put yourself in a position where if you do what you would have done anyways you will have the least resistance in the path to reach your goal.
     
  20. Jan 22, 2009 #19

    j93

    User Avatar

    That is great but I dont see why you cant gather the same skills and experience within a group which publishes often and with undergrads receiving author credit. By joining such a group you get the validation of your research that will give you a boost in grad admissions.
    That is why I think it is practical to take the time to search for such a group.

    There is no way you would know if they applied to the program to add the program to their resume.
    If any of the previous forum threads are any indication a lot of undergrads pursue REU's because they believe it will aid their applications with the afterthought of conducting research in a certain subfield. Yet I doubt a single application for an REU has a personal statement asking if the REU will increase the profile of the grad school applications.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2009
  21. Jan 22, 2009 #20

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    The work comes first and foremost. The publication will come naturally if the work is important enough, and done right. To put more emphasis on publication FIRST, and the nature of the work second, is to have a very skewered set of priorities.

    Note that I didn't say one shouldn't think about publishing. I'm saying that in the current context, that has been put as the overwhelming criteria, and that's wrong. We've already seen criticism of college professors who try to pad their publication list no matter how repetitive or obscure the work they are doing. This is the mentality of putting publishing ahead of doing good, important science. We don't need one more to go into such a pipeline.

    If they apply to add that they did research work to their resume, I would take it! I've even mentioned this in my "So You Want To Be A Physicist" essay as one good reason to want to do such a thing. But this means that the student WANT to do the work because this is the experience they want to write in their application or resume, and not simply to get their name on a paper. Such an experience is often a guarantee. Getting a good result and within a specific amount of time to be able to publish isn't!

    Zz.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: How do you ask a professor for possibility of publication
Loading...