Publication advice needed


======= Date Modified 12 Aug 2011 11:00:15 =======
Hello, I’m looking for a bit of advice! I’m doing my social science PhD in the medical field. My sup, who is a clinician, wants me to publish a lit review in a clinical journal. He himself is not an expert in the particular topic of my PhD, but he does work in that general field. The area I’m researching is still pretty ‘untouched’, so getting something published on it would really establish that person as the current expert.

Now, he’s asked me to give him all my references and reading notes so he can write up a paper, as he feels that with my background I wouldn’t be able to write a clinical paper myself. This makes me feel a bit cheated, as I feel I’ve done all the hard work and he’s just helping himself to my stuff to get his name out there as the leading person researching this topic (although I’m sure I’d be acknowledged as a co-author of sorts).

My question is: am I just a bit paranoid? Is this an ok thing to do at this stage (seeing as I’ve never written a paper before)? Should I be grateful to be getting my name out there, even if it is just as a co-author? Or am I being used here? I’m not sure about the argument that I couldn’t write a clinical paper myself. I mean, I’ve done all the reading, I can surely write a lit review on this whether I’m a clinician or not and match it to a journal’s guidelines?

I’d be grateful to hear what you guys think as it’s really bugging me…


I'm not speaking from a position of great experience here, so hopefully some 'older' heads will respond as well but if my supervisor came to me and asked for all my notes and references so that he could write a paper I would be a bit concerned. I'll give you my own contrasting experience to put this against:

Earlier this year my supervisor suggested that we co-write a paper. He basically threw down a thousand words or so and asked me to run with it for a while. That meant time in the archives, as well as a few interviews, for me etc but I happily shared my notes and observations because it was established from the start that we were doing this together - there was a clearly something in it for both of us. As it happened my supervisor insisted that I be put down as the lead author on the paper in recognition of my efforts.

What he brought to the table was a vast wealth of experience in the subject area that helped to fine tune some of the things that I had written as well as make sure things I hadn't thought of were included. Even more valuable was the fact that it meant his name was alongside mine - I'm sure the paper has been more widely read because of his name rather than mine. All in all the whole process was an enjoyable and valuable experience.

Given what you have written above I don't think you're being paranoid to be concerned about this - what I would do though is have a conversation with your supervisor to establish exactly what you are getting out of this - if you are named as a co-author then it might be worth it just because it might help to get you noticed more for what sounds like very little extra effort if he's going to write it and put your name on it (though if you feel that the paper would be strong enough without your supervisor's input this is obviously irrelevant).

Really though I think you would be best off talking with your supervisor about how this paper can be turned into a truly collaborative piece.


Hi Miss Piggy,

a few issues come to mind looking at your posting:

1. Is the publication a major issue in your PhD? If yes, it would be best if you would be the first author and it I think it should mainly be written by yourself.

2.It really helps if you have an eminent clinician / professor on board to get things published in the medical journal. Editors like clinicians to write papers.

3. Indeed one needs to be careful in giving information to other people (in this case the clinician), as in the academic world all kind of unpleasant things happen, including stealing of your ideas / information! This does not have to be the case, but I think it would be important to have a clear agreement, making sure that things are documented regarding authors  / co-authors.

4. From an ethical point of views journals want all authors to be involved in the paper, not "just" to provide the information. As such I think it would be useful that you write a draft as well and / or at least be heavily involved in the drafting of the paper. This would also be good experience for your PhD.

Good luck.


Hey! I think it would be really good to be the first author if possible, especially if you're confident about your ability to write the paper. Could you possibly suggest to your sup that you would very much like to have a go at drafting the paper yourself, but would appreciate his help and feedback? If you have written the paper yourself then you should get first authorship, even if your sup has looked over a few drafts and provided feedback. And of course it would give you a good chance to get experience of writing papers as well. Best, KB