Sponsored Ad:
See the top rated post in this thread. Click here

Page 1 of 6 12345 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 52

Thread: Don't worry about publications!

  1. #1
    Within my grasp!
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    108
    Rep Power
    14


    6 out of 6 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No

    Don't worry about publications!

    Sponsored Ad:
    Often on this forum I see comments about how a prospective applicant should try to publish papers to boost his profile. I need to get this off my chest: both the value and the feasibility of publications are wildly exaggerated on this forum. If you don't have any publications, don't worry---hardly anyone else does!

    Why? The publication process in economics is simply too long for this to be practical. I don't think I've ever seen an economics graduate school applicant with a good publication that has not been coauthored with a professor. Certainly there is no one like this at MIT.

    There are a handful of people who manage to publish their undergraduate work in top field journals eventually, but I don't think I've ever seen this happen prior to the admission process. Moreover, the few cases that come close all seem to be in micro theory, which is the one area where it is possible to publish aggressively at an early stage; this is irrelevant, however, for anyone outside the far right tail of mathematical ability.

    Ultimately, the only way to publish in a decent journal so early is to coauthor with an accomplished professor. Yet in these cases, a publication is not a very useful signal: any professor who has collaborated with you will already be communicating the extent of your contribution in her letter of recommendation. The only situation where I can imagine a "publication" making a difference is when you are at a lower-ranked program and your professor is also unknown, and the fact that the work has been published makes the professor's letter more credible. But this case is almost irrelevant, since it's extraordinarily unlikely that both (1) you will be added as a coauthor to a paper and (2) that paper will be published in a decent journal before you enter graduate school. (Unknown professors, almost by definition, don't publish in selective outlets with such ease!)

    Of course, many people have "publications" in random, unselective journals, but this isn't a meaningful goal. Groucho Marx comes to mind: "I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member." This is very true. No matter how good you are, it is virtually unthinkable that you will be able to finish the publication process in the short time available to you as an undergraduate (or even as a master's student) in an outlet that commands any respect, at least without a faculty coauthor doing most of the heavy lifting.

    (I admit that this is where my knowledge of the process frays a little; I'm mainly thinking about graduate programs in the top 20 range. If you're targeting less selective graduate programs, it's possible that they care about publications in low-tier journals. But ex ante, of course, you're almost certainly better off focusing on advanced classes and your undergraduate research, without the distraction of trying to push a paper through the refereeing process.)

    Moral of the story: if you see people chattering on this board about publications, please don't freak out. Only a sliver of the incoming students at even the most selective Ph.D. programs have publications, and none of these students produced the published research themselves. In 2009 and 2010, even the top candidates on the academic job market (Dave Donaldson and Alp Simsek) didn't have publications in economics, and they got tenure-track jobs at MIT and Harvard. When you're an undergraduate worried about grad school, it's easy to let your imagination run wild and envision hordes of superstars who took functional analysis as freshmen and wrote their first Econometrica articles as juniors. But such people do not exist.
    MIT!

  2. #2
    Eager!
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    88
    Rep Power
    11


    Good post? Yes | No
    Thanks for the post. (I'm still nervous as hell though.)

  3. #3
    Don't overthink it moneyandcredit's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Manhattan, KS
    Posts
    606
    Rep Power
    15


    Good post? Yes | No
    I loved that last sentence. I always imagine an army of Will Hunting clones in the application piles with me, even at lower-ranked schools. I still think I have no chance at the top 30 thanks to my lack of publications (and worse, my low GPA), but I'll give a shot at a few just so my family and friends won't ask me why I didn't.
    Final Profile. Goal: Econ PhD; Fall 2014 Completed: Unranked State BA Econ + Other Unranked State MA Econ
    GRE 790Q/720V/5.0 Grad GPA 3.62 Econ / 3.23 Overall Undergrad GPA 4.00 Econ / 3.75 Last 60 / 3.27 Total
    Attending: KSU ($16k TA + $5k FS) Declined: NCSU ($0) Rejected: CLEM IND KU MIZZ PURD TAMU UGA UNC

  4. #4
    De-compressing jeeves0923's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Cambridge, MA
    Posts
    1,689
    Rep Power
    21


    Good post? Yes | No
    Quote Originally Posted by moneyandcredit View Post
    I still think I have no chance at the top 30 thanks to my lack of publications (and worse, my low GPA)
    If you miss the top 30 it will definitely have nothing to do with your lack of publications... I think that was the whole point of slightlyconfused1's post... or maybe you're making a joke here that isn't coming across to me.
    Starting to feel old

  5. #5
    Ok what yes, well...dunno dreck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Posts
    876
    Rep Power
    15


    Good post? Yes | No
    Two years ago, I met a guy from a nearby college who had already published in his junior year, and it totally freaked me out. Looking back, I've realized he was co-authoring with a faculty, and the paper was in a very low-ranked journal. But all I saw at the time were the big words in the title, the professional appearance, and all the math. So my frantic attempt to write something good and publishable--which is, it turns out, just about impossible to do on your own as an undergraduate--in order to compete with this guy was really for nothing [EDIT: Well, not for nothing. I did gain a ton of valuable research experience, and may have inspired some research I will do as a graduate student]. I have no idea where he ended up either, but I'm happy where I've ended up.

    slightlyconfused1, thanks for sharing. I agree completely with the sentiment of your post, and wish someone had told me this at least two years ago.

  6. #6
    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage Elliephant's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Posts
    1,270
    Rep Power
    17


    Good post? Yes | No
    Quote Originally Posted by dreck View Post
    slightlyconfused1, thanks for sharing. I agree completely with the sentiment of your post, and wish someone had told me this at least two years ago.
    Lucky us 2011 applicants. This actually makes me feel a whole lot better. For those of us coming from low-ranked UG schools, it's hard to tell what student quality is like in the upper crust. We just make wild assumptions, and sometimes they run away with us. So this is a very welcome reality check - thank you!

  7. #7
    Don't overthink it moneyandcredit's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Manhattan, KS
    Posts
    606
    Rep Power
    15


    Good post? Yes | No
    Quote Originally Posted by jeeves0923 View Post
    If you miss the top 30 it will definitely have nothing to do with your lack of publications... I think that was the whole point of slightlyconfused1's post... or maybe you're making a joke here that isn't coming across to me.
    Somewhat joking in that I mentioned my low GPA as an offhand concern, when it's really the weakest part of my profile.
    Final Profile. Goal: Econ PhD; Fall 2014 Completed: Unranked State BA Econ + Other Unranked State MA Econ
    GRE 790Q/720V/5.0 Grad GPA 3.62 Econ / 3.23 Overall Undergrad GPA 4.00 Econ / 3.75 Last 60 / 3.27 Total
    Attending: KSU ($16k TA + $5k FS) Declined: NCSU ($0) Rejected: CLEM IND KU MIZZ PURD TAMU UGA UNC

  8. #8
    Huh! Sam Adams is better!
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    269
    Rep Power
    12


    Good post? Yes | No
    I am sure we would all love it if:
    1) Grades were less important for those with poor grades
    2) GRE scores were meaningless for those with low GRE scores
    3) Publications were useless for those without publications
    4) Recommendations were not all that important for those who don't have a well-known reco writer
    5) Personal statements had no weight in the admission process for those without a good story to tell

    Unfortunately, it is not one factor that determines the admission of a candidate and all of these variables do play a role. It is always good to have something that can distinguish you from the rest. Given the tough competition, most people tend to have comparable profiles and perhaps, publications/ and or graduate level courses are the ones to separate you from the pile! Having said that, not everyone can do it!

  9. #9
    Within my grasp!
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    108
    Rep Power
    14


    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No
    Quote Originally Posted by Econ2011 View Post
    Given the tough competition, most people tend to have comparable profiles and perhaps, publications/ and or graduate level courses are the ones to separate you from the pile! Having said that, not everyone can do it!
    If we're talking about single-authored publications in respectable journals for applicants coming out of college, "not everyone" should be "literally no one in the world". This is not an exaggeration.

    I'm sure that publishing in the QJE would indeed make an applicant stand out, but this is so extraordinarily unlikely that it's irrelevant for decision-making purposes. This is in contrast to the other option you mentioned, taking graduate level courses, which is a good strategy for many ambitious applicants.

    Papers with faculty are somewhat more plausible, but the mere fact of being published doesn't add much to the content of your letters, where a professor can detail your contribution to the project. (For instance, did you contribute substantial new ideas, or just run lots of regressions in Stata?) And even if coauthored publication turns out to be useful, it's not clear how to operationalize this as a distinct admissions strategy. The way to maximize your chances of coauthoring with faculty is to find active professors and work closely with them, which is generally what you should be doing anyway. Agonizing over the very unlikely possibility of publication is just a distraction.

    Again, as a worried applicant it's easy to let your imagination run wild about the backgrounds of accepted students. Trust me; I've been there. Yes, students accepted to top programs tend to be very accomplished. But they aren't omnipotent -- they can't somehow speed through the legendarily drawn-out refereeing process to obtain good publications before they even apply to grad school. It just isn't possible.
    MIT!

  10. #10
    Within my grasp! Pedxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    337
    Rep Power
    12


    Good post? Yes | No
    I think most MIT student graduate without even having published a paper (although with lots of working paper). I remember asking one student (now a faculty at top 10) why this is so during the flyout. The answer was 1) trying to get the job market paper publish diminish the value of the paper, as it shows that you have benefited from getting the referees' advice and 2) it is generally hard to publish in top journal without faculty co-author, and using co-authored paper for job market is a bad idea.

    Anyways, my point is that if the department is not pushing hard for its current student to publish, I cannot imagine it demanding incoming student to already have publications.
    {Harvard, MIT, Chicago, .....}

Page 1 of 6 12345 ... LastLast

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. admit query, causing worry
    By slophead in forum Graduate Admissions
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 08-31-2008, 02:32 PM
  2. What to do instead of worry...
    By TruDog in forum PhD in Economics
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: 04-20-2008, 09:16 PM
  3. Do not worry foreign applicants
    By cyber in forum TSE
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 04-16-2006, 04:26 AM
  4. I worry I'm writing worse
    By Ziyod in forum TWE
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 09-01-2005, 05:10 PM
  5. Worry GMAT Test
    By joey888 in forum GMAT
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 02-02-2005, 12:59 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •