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I'm always confused when I see a lot of PhD students looking to publish papers, even if the papers are not so good. They publish them in not so important conferences or workshops. Is that a good thing? Is it good to have a lot of papers published even in not so popular conferences? Like what is better: to have 10 papers in not so famous conferences or workshops or 1 or 2 in a very famous and good ones?

I have never published a paper before and new to this.

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Good for what purpose? –  JeffE Jan 9 at 6:00
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People do things for a variety of reasons. Even writing a paper for smaller workshops has some benefits for everyone (from a PHD student to a professor)

  • Good reason for the affiliation to cover expenses for the suggested trip. Usually CS workshops are co-located with important conferences and even a workshop paper may cover your expenses (not every time if you continuously abuse the system) to actually watch the entire conference.

  • Workshops have limited attendance but may still be organized by reputable professors / scientists close to your area of interest. So, they are very good for networking. In a major conference, it is easier to get "lost" inside the many participants.

  • Practise makes better. If you write 5 papers (even when some of them were for a workshop) writing your 6th paper is going to be easier, instead of trying to write your "seminal" paper.

  • Reviewers have the "strange" habit of sometimes rejecting your paper. In this case, sending your paper to a smaller workshop (after rejection in 1-2 major conferences) where it gets accepted, lessens the sense of rejection and still "patents" your results on which you can expand later.

  • Workshops sometimes have a "best paper award" which may even lead to journal publication, when the same paper might not had a chance in a bigger conference. In workshops the competition is smaller (usually 10-15 accepted papers), so you have something like 5-8% chance for something like that.

  • Sometimes when you work on a specific project you might discover something that although is not good enough for a major conference or later expansion, is still a compact solid idea that may help others. So, a good workshop paper may disseminate this idea to a larger audience.

  • Unfortunately, although quality should beat quantity, this is not the usual case. In some research projects, grants applications it is better to state that "A is the author of more than 50 scientific papers with an h-index of ... " than "B is the author of 2 papers". Same when you look at the Google Scholar / DBLP record of an author. It is better to see 50 papers (which among them are 10 really seminal papers) instead of just 10 perfect papers that usually leave a gap in the author's bibliography (blank years).

In this sense, even workshop papers serve their purpose if you treat them as professionally as the rest of your papers (they are well written and still scientifically solid and correct).

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"Reviewers have the "strange" habit of sometimes rejecting your paper." ;o). The point about best paper is also a good one, publishing a good paper in a large but lesser quality conference helps to get your name known, which in turn helps your work to have impact. I disagree about google scholar though, it is citations that matter, if you have lots of publications with few or no citations (as I do), they may as well not be there, they are of no consequence. –  Dikran Marsupial Jan 8 at 18:40
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Very nice answer! –  Vinicius dos Santos Jan 24 at 2:16
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For the purposes of getting a PhD, the quality of the paper is more important than the venue. Quality is always better than quantity, as it will only be your best papers that end up being cited and having an influence on your field of research, so you are better off in the long run focussing on quality work and avoid wasting your time on work that will not give a true account of your ability and that will not be taken up by others in your field.

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There are two objectives in participating for academic conference. First one would be networking. This is getting to know the other academic and industry personals that are working, studying and researching in similar field. This will open many opportunities for PhD students. Other advantage would be constructive criticisms. Experts who take part in such conference will give constructive comments for your presentation. The questions they raise may show you a new way of looking at your research question. Likewise there are many advantages a PhD student may get by taking part in conferences. A good conference is a one which is relevant to your research area, which is popular among the experts in the respective field and one which many expert and interested parties will take part. Thus in my opinion education institutes, supervisors and of course PhD student should prioritize the quality of conference before counting the number of conferences that you attend.

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My guess is that this might vary a bit between different fields, so I'd say ask some professors in your own department for their take.

I'll just answer from the perspective of Philosophy. It looks a lot better (in terms of impressing academic hiring committees) to have papers accepted into big meetings of the national organization because everybody understands how hard it is to get one of those accepted. It isn't clear how competitive the northwest iowa caucus of young philosophers meeting was to get into, consequently the committee won't really know how important an achievement that was.

Also I'd say published papers > conference presentations. It isn't an either/or. give the paper at a conference first, then send it off to a journal. But try to think strategically for the semester about what to send off where and when in order to make those deadlines.

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Definitely, you want refereed papers in the top 5 conferences or journals in your field. That is, if you can. I mention conferences because in some fields conferences are refereed and are equally respected as top journals, but in most fields you want top-quality papers in top-quality journals. Period.

Academics (i.e. people who will look at you CV when you look for a job) know full well the huge gap between average papers and top-journal-quality (I would guess a subjective factor 2 to 5 at least). There are several reasons, besides the obvious ones, to aim high:

  • Tell your advisor your are aiming very high. See how (s)he reacts. (S)He will treat you accordingly (including telling you right off that he thinks you do not have what it takes if such is the case).

  • That will oblige you to chose interesting and relevant research questions. Papers about unimportant stuff never get published in top journals.

  • That will oblige you to make sure you advisor can coach you (is that where (s)he publishes?). If needed, you will switch advisor (or department, university) before wasting too much time.

  • On top of purely scientific results there are many things to learn from aiming high while you are still a student. That includes countless hours of rewriting, much better structure, language, dealing with referees who know their stuff, etc.

  • It does not make sense to go to school in a very competitive field and not try to do your absolute best.

  • Now is the time to learn from the best while you still call yourself a student and ask for help.

  • Top papers live longer, they still help you CV 10 years down the line (and accumulate citations meanwhile).

  • Average is boring, average is everywhere, average is... average.

  • Academia is a winner-takes-all game. Job openings are highly competitive. Candidate #1 gets the job, candidate #2 gets nothing more than candidate #10...

Of course you can go to a few conferences. Write a damn-good paper first, then try to present it to the best conference you can.

Btw, I published 4 papers out my PhD work in top-5 journals. The other two in good journals. I got a job.

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