I am a 3rd-year PhD student in Theoretical Computer Science, having started the PhD program after completing my bachelor in Computer Science.


  1. Is it okay for a PhD student in their third year to start publishing?

  2. More generally, when may researchers start publishing?

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    Anytime. You can equally well be an undergraduate student, a (lucky) intern etc. - If the work is scientifically sound/useful, it can be written up and submitted. – DetlevCM Feb 17 '18 at 20:13
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    Speaking personally, I am halfway through my third year and I haven't published anything yet. Two students in the lab are fourth year and one hasn't published anything either. – iammax Feb 17 '18 at 22:01
  • A PhD student has an advisor, who can "advise" him on this. That advisor knows the situation much better than we do here. – GEdgar Feb 18 '18 at 2:30

There's absolutely no single timeline for publishing papers. I've had students publish papers as first author in the first year of their PhD, and I myself didn't publish a paper until I was a fourth-year grad student, because I was working in a relatively new field and had to work out all the kinks and issues before I could start writing things up.

Research projects are unique, and have their own respectively timelines. Publish when you have something worth publishing, rather than waiting for some arbitrary clock to go off.


There's no such thing as publishing too early. If you have something to show off, do not hesitate to disseminate the results. Personally, I have published papers even before I started PhD (in less-then-stellar venues), so that I had something to show to PhD admission commitee.


It depends on the field and on the size of the research group.

Personally, once you reach critical mass of people, I believe the ideal would be for 1/2 yrs to co-author along with 3/4y first authors. One paper/year per 3/4 year phd candidate should be enough to make everyone leave with a nice CV.

Of course, some students might do better (MS research experience) and start "first authoring" before, some might get stumped and start after that, but it would be best to finish the phd with at least 2-3 papers as first author... the competition for positions is only getting worse, both in academia and out...

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    Since we're talking specifically about theoretical CS here, it's worth mentioning that the concept of "first author" is very uncommon in this field. Authors are - almost without exception - listed alphabetically and are assumed to have roughly equal contribution. – Maeher Feb 17 '18 at 19:54
  • Indeed. But the idea remains, that around 2/3 year, the students should start "leading" paper development, in something that is directly part of their phd dissertation. – Fábio Dias Feb 17 '18 at 22:45

Absolutely anytime, even before starting the grad school. If you feel that you have a good understanding over the topic, or have a dataset to simulate or prove a result and if you have some collaborator(s) then just go for publishing the article. You may visit some of the journal websites and have some ideas how to publish there.