Is publishing a research paper the key to academic success for high school students?

Pioneer Academics > News > Is publishing a research paper the key to academic success for high school students?

Students and parents may feel like having an article published in an academic journal is the ultimate badge of accomplishment after conducting research. This isn’t surprising; who doesn’t like to see their work in print? However, the truth is more complicated. Publishing in reputable journals is very difficult and not accessible for most high school students. In order to meet the growing number of high school students who believe they must publish their research, a wide range of publishers have emerged, ranging from vanity press to outright predatory. We encourage students and parents to think carefully about publishing.   Here, we address four myths about academic publishing as a high school student. 


Myth #1: Publishing automatically confers credibility. 

Research is credible when it is proven to follow rigorous academic standards and is certified by a reputable organization. Being published in a journal does not automatically make your research more credible. Research is made credible because of the academic system under which it was conducted and the process of inquiry that was undertaken. Just being in print does not make an article more reputable. Today, the ease of publication through a vanity press is such that anything can be published, so it is vitally important to dig into the specific journal. 

Myth #2: All academic journals are created alike. 

Not all academic journals are reputable. Credible academic journals have transparent editorial standards and a peer review system as well as rigorous selection processes. Journals that are not credible run the spectrum from vanity press models to predatory publishing. Predatory publishing is academic publishing that exploits authors by charging publication fees without vetting articles for quality or authenticity. Other journals, while not outright fraudulent, are essentially vanity presses and will publish anything for a fee.  In 2005, scientists from MIT created SCIgen, a program that randomly generates nonsense computer science research papers.① Despite being randomly generated nonsense, several of these papers were accepted by predatory journals and conferences! This experiment highlighted the lack of scrutiny by some publishers.

Myth #3: As a student, it is easy to spot which journals are reputable based on their names. 

While some predatory journals may be obviously suspicious, others are more insidious. It is important to do your research in order to determine the credibility of a given publisher. Reputable academic journals tend to have a transparent editorial board and membership in professional organizations or electronic databases. The Directory of Open Access Journals provides a list of reputable open-access journals. ②

Myth #4: Admissions officers expect high school students to have published research in an academic journal.

While being published in a reputable academic journal is a great accomplishment, it is not the norm for high school students. It is unusual even for undergraduates to have research published. College admissions officers know this, and being published is not a requirement or even the norm for admission into selective undergraduate institutions. Furthermore, reputable journals go through a long process of peer review which means that it may take 1.5 to 2 years for an article to be published. This means that by the time a student has been published in a journal, it will likely be after college admissions are already complete.

Despite what predatory publishers may try to convince high school students, it is better not to be published at all than to be published in a disreputable journal. At best, predatory publishing is the academic equivalent of a vanity press––just like anyone can self-publish a collection of stories on Amazon, anyone can pay to have articles published in a predatory journal. At worst, students may do damage to their reputation by associating with a fraudulent organization. It is important to approach publishing with caution and make an informed decision.



Dear educator friend,

In the critical process of preparing students to transition to college, you are key. The
ramifications of your guidance are far-reaching.

The Pioneer Research Program believes that it, too, has a role to play in preparing students of special potential and passion for learning. This is a role we trust you will appreciate knowing about. Our mission is to offer a deep and otherwise unavailable opportunity to exceptionally motivated young scholars who want to learn and research at the college level and to explore their potential for innovation.

What makes Pioneer a unique deep-dive learning experience is not just the mentorship of distinguished professors. It is the rigorous quality controls developed conjointly by Pioneer and Oberlin College. Professors (must) adhere to rubrics for

1) setting learning goals;

2) syllabus development;

3) oversight, feedback and evaluation, and

4) grading standardization.

This rigorous academic system is supported by thorough admission process and a high-minded ethics code. The combination gives students an exceptional learning experience that is brought to fruition in a college-level research paper documenting their findings.

You can follow this link Pioneer’s concrete academic system to learn more about the academic system. Academic quality control and academic oversight assure Pioneer’s focus is on learning and learners, and therefore all of our practices were built upon the following principles:

No conflict of interests Pioneer’s academic ethical standards
Because of its high academic and ethical standards, the Pioneer program has earned the trust of college admissions departments and formed the basis for the ground-breaking collaboration with Oberlin College. Pioneer scholars get two college credits upon completing their Pioneer research.

Click to learn about Pioneer and Oberlin College's groundbreaking academic collaboration.

Pioneer has a rigorous admission process. Students who have genuine academic interests and are highly motivated are a good fit with Pioneer’s values. Pioneer’s founding board insisted that Pioneer commit to a professor-blind policy during the application process, ensuring that applicants have authentic field interest and correct priorities. Consequently, no information about professors is released before admission to the program. This policy is much appreciated and respected by universities. Professor-blind admission policy
On this page is the critical information needed to meet your needs.

If you have additional questions, feel free to let us know how we can help you by emailing or calling 855-572-8863.


Matthew Jaskol

Founder & Program Director