Quality vs. Quantity

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Zmvernlaro
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 6:42 pm

Quality vs. Quantity

Post by Zmvernlaro » Sat Apr 04, 2020 6:56 am

In the long run, what looks better in the eyes of theoretical physics graduate schools: a student with more research papers but with insubstantial impact, or a student with very few or perhaps even one high quality research paper(s) published in say, a top journal like RMP? I personally feel that the latter is perhaps something most admissions committees would be fond of, but I can't help thinking that, objectively, the former would perform better universally in the admissions game as they may display a more "well-rounded" nature. Of course, this is going to vary drastically from one application to another, but what kind of student is generally seen as better?

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Nishikata
Posts: 218
Joined: Sun Sep 23, 2018 6:37 am

Re: Quality vs. Quantity

Post by Nishikata » Sat Apr 04, 2020 9:53 am

Zmvernlaro wrote:
Sat Apr 04, 2020 6:56 am
In the long run, what looks better in the eyes of theoretical physics graduate schools: a student with more research papers but with insubstantial impact, or a student with very few or perhaps even one high quality research paper(s) published in say, a top journal like RMP? I personally feel that the latter is perhaps something most admissions committees would be fond of, but I can't help thinking that, objectively, the former would perform better universally in the admissions game as they may display a more "well-rounded" nature. Of course, this is going to vary drastically from one application to another, but what kind of student is generally seen as better?
A good candidate would have demonstrated an ability to perform in a research project.
Of course, this is best done in form of a publication. However, consider this checklist which I think may be reasonable:
  • does the candidate have research experience?
  • does the candidate's experience available for assessment? (any publications?)
  • does the candidate have substantial research contribution in the field ? (first author?)
  • does the candidate demonstrate adaptability in different subfields? ( repeat the above three )
if you think this checklist is reasonable, then probably the candidate with fewer, but more important contributions would be favored.
However, i would suggest that the quality criteria being the contribution of the student, instead of where the paper gets published on.

It is possible to contribute minimally as a n-th author to a big collaboration project that ended up in Nature.
This is not necessarily greater contribution than to be a first-author in a lower-tier journal.

Moreover, in theoretical physics, i do not think the schools are ever short of good quality candidates, so they won't need to make this decision.
We should aspire to publish quality papers in each project we are in, and this means to go the extra mile to make our contribution felt.



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