Take the 2-minute tour ×
Academia Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for academics and those enrolled in higher education. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Background: I started my Ph.D two and half years ago in engineering/computer science field. I was pushed by my supervisor into a direction which he thought would be good (He switched directions and he knows nothing about the field, just because there were better prospects for getting grants). I never felt connected to the field and he never received any grants to study it.

I switched a year ago to a subject that I feel passionate about and started reading lots of literature. I have done some work and submitted (rejected at first, resubmitted and waiting).

So now I have completed 2.5 years in the program and no publications at all. I even find it very hard to find new novel ideas in my field as it is been actively researched for 10 years and it seems to me as if almost everything is already done but that is a different issue. I am afraid I won't get enough publications in time before the Ph.D time limit expires.

Question: Is it normal to be 2.5 years into Ph.D and have no publications?

share|improve this question
What did your supervisor say? Does your department have an explicit minimum number of publications that must have been accepted before a PhD can be awarded? What have your peers and predecessors done by this stage? –  EnergyNumbers Jul 25 '14 at 7:37
Are you in the US, or in any other PhD program with a lot of coursework involved in the first years? –  laika Jul 25 '14 at 9:51
My supervisor never mentioned anything. He had some students graduate with one conference paper yet for the past few years he is asking for unreasonable number of publications. He has some students publish over 15 conferences and 5 journals in five years time! No coursework is required in my program which makes me even feel bad. –  The Byzantine Jul 25 '14 at 15:44

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

One word.

Yes !

It is absolutely normal. I am a doctoral student in, what is arguably a top 5 CS department/top 5 HCI program in the USA.

Although, I had a handful of publications before I started my doctoral program, my first "real" paper (in a top flight venue) with my adviser was published more than 2.5 years after I joined the program. I had published a couple of workshop papers/posters in those years with other graduate students but the acceptance rates for them, even in highly ranked conferences, are pretty high so that doesn't really account for much. These had nothing to do with my dissertation but were just some side projects that we did.

Most of my colleagues and friends/acquaintances in similar programs in similar universities were in similar situations in that time. It takes time to read literature, come up with a compelling and important research question, design a study/prototype/system/algorithm, write the paper and most importantly, get it published.

Do not be disheartened. The quality of papers matter, not the quantity when it comes to being evaluated by search committees.

share|improve this answer
This answer is misleading. You start off by stating how its completely normal to not have papers for 2.5 years, and then go on to say that you did publish some workshop papers before. That those were not top venues is not the question - the OP asked about not having publshed at all. –  xLeitix Jul 25 '14 at 5:17
I do not think that my answer is misleading. I published workshop papers with other graduate students, not my adviser. Those had nothing to do with my dissertation. I will clarify my answer accordingly to reflect this. –  Shion Jul 25 '14 at 7:07
... but the OP still asked about having, and I'm quoting, no publications at all. –  Stephan Kolassa Jul 25 '14 at 9:46
Why does it matter who your coauthors were? Why does is matter if the publications had anything to do with your thesis? –  JeffE Jul 25 '14 at 12:53

Yes, it's definitely normal.

It can take time to find the topic that's close to your heart. Once you find a topic that motivates you, the publications will flow.

share|improve this answer

I would say it can be normal to have no publications until you're done with your PhD. There's nothing wrong with having no publications. These are obsessions for university Deans and other Admin, they are not connected with the pursuit of knowledge or your degree.

Save publications for your career. Better to focus on making your PhD count for something.

share|improve this answer
Although that's normal in many (most?) fields, I'm not sure it's true in CS. –  Noah Snyder Jul 25 '14 at 4:59
they are not connected with the pursuit of knowledge - communicating your research to other scientists, and getting feedback from other scientists by having your work peer reviewed and presenting it at a conference (in CS), is certainly part of the pursuit of knowledge –  ff524 Jul 25 '14 at 7:29
In th areas of CS I'm active in (bioinformatics, some functional programming) it is definitely normal to have publications. The 'obsession' sentence is /really/ wrong -- staple theses are becoming more and more the norm. –  choener Jul 25 '14 at 10:13
If you're a PhD student, your career has already started. –  JeffE Jul 25 '14 at 12:55
@MarkJ PhD students are researchers. Dude. –  JeffE Jul 26 '14 at 2:56

If your university stipulates that you need to publish as a prerequisite for the completion of your study,then your PhD study could take a longer time to complete. Although journals normally take a long time for review and publication, there are some journals that you have to pay, to ensure a speedy publication. Before proceeding this path, you should discuss it with your supervisor. Also you need to check with the university whether such journals are in the publication blacklist.

share|improve this answer
This doesn't answer the question. –  aeismail Jul 25 '14 at 4:35
Don't encourage pay-for-publish fake journals! No reputable journal will sell you a 'speedy publication' it's a scam, like the 'Nigerian email' scheme. –  Cape Code Jul 25 '14 at 12:05

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.