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carlyhylton

First author publication(s)

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How important are having first author publication(s) for grad school admittance? When people recommend trying to publish during undergrad are they referring to anything or to being a first author?

Any Canadian perspectives? (as I know we are a bit different up north!)

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An applicant might have first-author conference posters/presentations but it would be one-in-a-thousand to have a first-author peer-reviewed publication.

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Yeah, publications, first author or otherwise, are bonuses, but they're by no means necessary to get into great programs. If you can publish something, great! If not, having some interesting research projects that you can talk about in personal statements and interviews is perfectly good enough. Doing research as an undergrad is a prerequisite, but having publications is not.

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P.S., In my department/field, having a first-author publication (in a top journal) is seen as the prerequisite for getting a job, not getting into grad school.

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How important are having first author publication(s) for grad school admittance? When people recommend trying to publish during undergrad are they referring to anything or to being a first author?

Any Canadian perspectives? (as I know we are a bit different up north!)

If you have a first author publication in a peer reviewed journal prior to applying to grad school, you'll look like a mega-prodigy brainchild superstar (at least in my field). All programs expect of you is some research experience. Having a conference presentation looks nice too.

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Awesome thanks! I guess my question was equally 'do second+ author pubs have significant value' and it seems as if the general consensus is yes. Thank you!

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I don't think not having a first authorship will keep you out of any program... I doubt every harvard admits have a first authorship.

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Let's just unpack a little more why it's rare for undergraduates to be coauthors on papers and almost unheard of to be first author. This situation comes out of my background, which is social psychology. Other disciplines may be different.

As a rule, only 1/3 of studies actually work and most papers need between three and six successful studies. So to get one paper you might need to run between three and fifteen experiments. Most undergraduates do one experiment, possibly two, for their honours thesis, so already the odds are bad. Even if you get a few studies that work well together, the peer review/publication process can take six months, or more if the initial decision is a "revise and resubmit". Practically speaking, there just isn't enough time as an undergraduate to get the studies run, and the paper written and reviewed.

Furthermore, to be published the studies need to have theoretical novelty and practical importance. Bluntly, most undergrads are not up to the task: they just haven't read enough or done enough to get a handle on what makes a good idea and what's a compelling way to test that idea. This is nothing to feel bad about--it's what they teach you in grad school! So if you're lucky enough to be on a novel/exciting project, the odds are that the idea was originally a professor's or a grad student's, and they'll quite likely end up being first author.

Edited by lewin00

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Agreed with what's been said. I got into one of the more competitive psychology-ish programs this year with 0 journal pubs. They're neither expected nor required for admission at top programs.

I did have several conference publications, poster presentations, and a couple of invited talks--those are much much easier to get than journal pubs once you're involved in research, though.

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