I am a PhD student in Computational Materials Science in the US with just one publication in a Q1(according to Scimago Journal Rank) or Q2(according to Journal Citation reports) journal. Another as co-author in a Q1 (according to both) journal. I have manuscripts ready for two works with finalizing one more work and will be submitting them by July end. My advisor isn't available at the moment to work on my manuscripts. So, hopefully will get them done in July. But, I will also be submitting my thesis this August and hopefully defend in October. I will be looking for postdoc positions soon. But considering my poor publishing record, how should I approach prospective postdoc P.I's?

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    We cannot comment on how many articles are considered "too little" your field --- and we don't want to, in this forum. Maybe you should remove the deatils on how much you have published and reword your question to a more general one "how to approach prospective postdoc advisors when your publication record is underwhelming for the standards of your field". (Keep in mind, of course, that the impostor syndrome may be involved here, and you may be mis-judging the quantity/quality of your work). Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 16:33
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    Echoing @Federico Poloni: In my field it was generally understood, until recently, that you finish a PhD without any publications, and use your postdoc to produce publications from your PhD research. But I don't know about the standards of your field. Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 17:00
  • Possible duplicate: academia.stackexchange.com/q/127657/93566
    – Erwan
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 0:25

5 Answers 5


Towards the end of PhD with just one publication. What are my options?

Well, your options are the same as everyone at the end of a PhD :)

If you are interested in continuing as a postdoc, you should definitely apply.

As Buffy said, you should mention your work in progress in your applications. If possible, you can also give a link to a preprint version of your papers.

The only problem with a low publication record is the competition for a particular position: if in your field PhD students usually publish significantly more than you, all other things being equal a PI will choose another candidate who published more than you. But all other things are rarely equal in research, the PI usually wants to find the right person for the job, not only somebody who has published a lot.

Obviously a position in a major university or with a famous researcher in your field will attract many applications, so it's mathematically harder to get accepted. So in the unlikely event that your publication record proves to be an issue (something you will know if your first batch of applications are rejected), you could try to adjust and target some less competitive positions.


Whether you are in a good place or a bad place depends on too many things to be definitive. The simple number of publications means very little. A few high quality publications answering difficult questions is more impressive than a lot of simple results easily obtained.

Approach getting a position the way anyone does, no matter what their record. Make your best case that you are just exactly the right person for the position and that you have the skills required and plenty of ideas to carry you through. Tailor your applications to the positions offered, rather than just having a generic application that you send out randomly.

But it is also valuable to have a lot of "work in progress", so that the potential for future publication is there. Keep a notebook of research ideas that you can draw on, so that if you get blocked on one project you have others that might be advanced a bit. Add to it as new ideas come to you.


Perhaps a low number of publications is common in your field. I cannot comment on that. In my field (engineering), I would have students target a goal of 1 paper (conference or journal) per year at high quality conferences/journals. I think that is a reasonable number.

But this is not all your fault. I view the job of reviewing students papers as one of the primary responsibilities of an advisor. Your advisor choosing not to review your manuscripts for a couple months is negligent. I would try to get your advisor to change their stance on this point. I would express your concern with them by stating that you view having more publications as essential to your future job prospects, and so these remaining months are extremely valuable to you.

For what its worth, it is not uncommon for students to be most productive in their final year... You are finally at the point where you have a good handle of the field, and are in a great position to make some impactful publications.

Now how to make the best of this situation on applications...

If you don't have a lot of publications, then you will simply need to highlight your skills well on your resume. Postdocs are expected to publish quite a bit, and to be able to work quite independently. Through your cover letter, you need to convince them that you have the skills to do this.

I think the most effective approach for you moving forward would be to start work on 2 papers as if your advisor will be able to review them. Presumably if you are writing a dissertation, then you have enough material. If your advisor does not have enough time to review them, then you will include this material as part of your application. As part of the cover letter, you can then explain that you do not have many publications because your advisor could not review your material for several months, showing the papers as proof.

If your advisor does get around to reviewing the papers, then you will have 2 more publications. Win win...


This question depends entirely on what the publishing curve in your field looks like. In some fields, its very normal and expected for graduating PhD's to have multiple publications. In others, its rare if they have a single publication.

Also, being ahead of the publishing curve does not necessarily mean you will get a tenure track position at an R1 institute. It increases the likelihood but does not ensure anything. Sometimes there is little rhyme or reasoning for hiring committees.

If you are worried about your publication record, I recommend on securing a postdoctoral position. If you can land one at a top institute, thats even better. As a postdoc at Duke, I had postdoc colleagues who published in Nature/Science to those who had not yet published their dissertation. It just depended on the field.


That kind of output is low. It's not that hard to make the spaghetti (band diagrams).

Seems like there are a couple issues. One, your own level of work/initiative. Two, the advisor dependence. My advice is to literally write papers as if you were going to submit it ON YOUR OWN. Make it as perfect as you can (writing, style, etc.) Then your advisor is only reviewing "staff perfect" documents.

In addition, after having submitted such level of quality papers, you should feel confident about being a squeaky wheel and just tell him to mail the things in (or to let you). After all, the whole point is for you to become a functioning independent researcher and you are practically done with the training period.

Note, that I'm not saying to immediately go nuclear. But definitely change your attitude to more of one of captaining your own ship and of the advisor as more of a gatekeeper, extra hurdle, etc. If he can add some value great. And don't be too obvious about it. But definitely write papers that you would literally send in on your own (polished, perfect) and after that don't accept "don't have time to review for months". That's UNSAT when you are doing all the work and he is writing grant reports and adding his name onto the lab group's papers.

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