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This semester I participated in an independent study with a professor and one of his/her PhD students. In this independent study, I spent a very substantial amount of time building (coding) things to facilitate the research being performed by the professor and his/her PhD student. However, I did not perform any actual research (though without my work, their research likely would not have been possible).

A few weeks ago, I asked this question: If I work on a project but don't do research, should I be included as an author on a paper?

It seems that the general consensus was, "it depends, but probably yes". Unfortunately, though the professor has told me that I did excellent work and that s/he is very pleased, s/he did not offer to include me as a co-author on the paper (the topic never came up).

My question now is, is it within the bounds of etiquette to ask this professor if I can be included on the paper? If so, what is a respectful and reasonable way to frame the question? I don't want to be imposing or assuming (especially because I did not actually conduct any research myself), but realistically I put in a very significant amount of work this semester (far more than the professor was expecting) and I think it's reasonable to at least be considered for co-authorship given that my work greatly aided in their research process.

For what it's worth, the professor is a reasonable person, i.e. this is not a case of "I'm being excluded unfairly!". Rather, the possibility of my being included as an author on the paper has not been brought up by the professor, so I'm wondering whether is it acceptable for a student to ask a professor to be included on his/her research paper?

1 Answer 1

It's fine to just ask.

But if you feel uncomfortable asking straight out "Can I be considered for authorship on this paper?" an alternative approach is to have a conversation about authorship that (1) makes it clear to the professor that you're interested in authoring a research paper, and (2) helps you understand the shades of "it depends" for your specific kind of research.

For example, you might bring up in conversation:

In our field, what kind of contribution are students expected to make in order to merit authorship on the paper that comes out of their work?

Then you can ask,

On this project, what additional work could I have done in order to have sufficient contribution to be considered an author?

and then, if you want very much to co-author a research paper and plan to continue working with this professor,

I'm interesting in being a co-author on a research paper. On the next project we work on, can I have a role that (if I do it well) merits co-authorship?

Ideally, if you had just asked straight out "Can I be considered for authorship on this paper?", the ensuing discussion would also cover the points above.