Is it mandatory to have publications to apply for a PhD program?

Academic publication generally refers to articles that contain original research and are published in peer reviewed journals. Academic publications are used by PhD candidates and professors to share new research that advances knowledge in their field of study. Many hundreds of academic journals exist, representing virtually all PhD disciplines. Most research libraries carry a large selection of academic journals on the shelves and also offer electronic access to many others.

In the vast majority of cases, prior academic publication is not required of PhD applicants. This holds true whether you are applying with a masters degree or a bachelors degree. In fact, PhD programs exist largely to train students in research so they can later publish in academic journals during their careers. Though it is not unheard of for a student in a masters program, or even an undergraduate program, to publish in an academic journal, it is not a common occurrence by any means.

Academic publication in journals is not the only method available to a PhD who has new research results or scholarly contributions to share. Large-scale research projects, sometimes requiring hundreds of pages of reporting, are commonly published in book form. Many new PhD graduates publish book-length works based on the thesis they completed as a PhD student. A PhD thesis or dissertation is undertaken by most students as a capstone research project required for graduation.

While publishing in academic journals is not vitally important for undergraduate students, it is quite important for many PhD students and PhD graduates. Thus, it is an important topic to consider if you plan to pursue a PhD degree.

Peer Review Process

The peer review process is a fundamental part of publishing a scholarly work in an academic journal. The process is used to ensure that a manuscript is soundly reasoned and represents research that is unique to the field and relevant to the particular journal. The basic steps of the peer review process are relatively standard across all academic journals, whether in the sciences, the social sciences or the humanities.

The peer review process begins shortly after a researcher submits a manuscript to a journal for publication. First, a journal editor reviews the manuscript to determine if it is generally appropriate for publication in terms of subject and quality. If it is, the editor identifies several PhD experts in the subject matter found in the manuscript and invites them to participate in a review.

When 2 or more expert reviewers are found, copies of the manuscript are distributed to them. Over several weeks or more, the reviewers read and comment on the manuscript’s quality. After review of those comments, the editor may choose to accept the manuscript for publication, reject the manuscript due to profound problems or invite the author to make certain revisions to improve the manuscript for publication. If revisions are made, the manuscript is usually reviewed again.

Note that many journals cover very specific topics and may publish only certain types of research. Thus, it is important for an author to read through a journal before submitting a manuscript to ensure that the manuscript’s subject matter is appropriate. Even groundbreaking manuscripts will be rejected if they do not fit the scope of the journal.

Career Advancement and Tenure for PhDs

In order to secure permanent employment as a professor and researcher, a new PhD must enter what is known as the tenure track and successfully complete the tenure process. Understanding this process is essential for anyone looking to become a university professor.

First, not all professor positions are on the tenure track. Many new PhDs are hired as visiting or adjunct professors, neither of which guarantees employment beyond a contractual appointment ranging from 1 semester to several years in length. Those professors who show promise in research, teaching and other aspects of the job can be promoted to a tenure track position.

PhDs hired into a tenure track position usually begin as assistant professors. Generally, good researchers with strong records of publication have the best chance of becoming assistant professors. Assistant professors are granted a tenure review within 7 years of employment. With a successful review, he or she will be promoted to associate professor. After 5 to 7 more years another review determines promotion to full professor.

The tenure review process is typically a substantial undertaking during which the professor’s work record is carefully reviewed. The tenure committee collects the professor’s academic publications and reviews the professor’s reputation in the field. Those professors with significant published research and high standing in the discipline are most likely to pass the review.

While tenure review committees also seriously consider a professor’s teaching record and general service to the institution, successful research and publication have become vitally important to tenure decisions in most universities today. This is largely because a university’s reputation rests on the scholarly reputation of its faculty, and that reputation is measured in published research.

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