I just finish my masters thesis, and I was told by one of the referees that I should publish some of the results in there. However I feel that I mainly repeat arguments by other people in a slightly more general form.

I do feel that I improved certain results. I also approach these results in a different way (thanks to several decades of mathematical development). However the ideas behind the proofs are not mine, and I feel that all I do is rehash the original idea.

Of course for a masters thesis this is fine, I do feel very happy with what I did. However I don't know whether or not I should write those into a paper form.

I was hoping to get a general advice from those more experienced than me. When do you publish a result? Especially as a young mathematician-to-be.

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    $\begingroup$ This question could also have been asked at academia.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$
    – Dirk
    Oct 10, 2012 at 10:07
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    $\begingroup$ I was also wondering. However, publishing etiquette is strongly mathematics related. $\endgroup$ Oct 10, 2012 at 10:35
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    $\begingroup$ Unless you have reasons to believe that the referee is not very representative of your shared academic community, why not trust the referee's advice? $\endgroup$ Oct 10, 2012 at 15:04
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    $\begingroup$ There is very little out there that could not be regarded, by a sufficiently modest mathematician, as repeating arguments of others in a slightly more general form. Evaluating the merit of one's own work is psychologically complicated, particularly at the beginning of one's career. I second Thierry Zell's advice to defer to the more experienced and independent referee absent evidence to distrust him or her. $\endgroup$ Oct 10, 2012 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ Even if you write it up and submit it, only to have it rejected as unoriginal... it will be a useful learning experience. $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2013 at 15:36

2 Answers 2


Understanding old results and putting them into new perspective has its own very important value. You should not underestimate it.

However, especially for a novice, it is difficult to judge this. Consult your reviewer and ask for advice. If an experienced and well-established mathematician sees value in your work, then you should try to publish it.

Of course it is an important and difficult question where. Not all journals approve of this type of synthetizing papers. Here again, the help of an experienced established colleague is inevitable.


I think that publishing a reappraisal and generalization of older work in modern terms can be very useful, provided you clearly label it as such in your paper. Depending on the field, there might be some journals who would gladly publish this kind of paper and others who wouldn't consider it, so you might want to consult your advisor about where to submit to.


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