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I am currently enrolled in a Computer Science PhD program in USA, and this is my third year(I changed my PhD advisor after my first year).

I have written two papers with my new PhD advisor. The first one was submitted to two top-tier conference, but get rejected twice. The second one was submitted to a mid-tier conference(A-tier in Core Ranking still), but get rejected.

I feel really desperate about this.

I might be an idiot, and I feel that I might not be suitable for pursuing a PhD degree anymore.

Should I quit the PhD program to find a job or keep pursuing the degree? The thing I consider is that with Computer Science master degree, I can still find a good job.

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    What does your advisor say? Are they supportive?
    – Buffy
    Feb 10 at 23:58
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    While the decision of whether or not to do a PhD is quite complex, please do not treat paper decisions as a binary 'you are good'/'you are horrible' marker. Many, many papers get rejected from top/mid-tier conferences. Often, with constructive feedback on how to improve the work. Use the reviews, collaborate with more people if possible, and try to improve your submissions. If your PhD work culminates in just one or two really good papers, that is a great marker of success. Feb 11 at 0:29
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    Everything I've done in the last six months has been rejected and I'm good at my job. Most of what you'll do is get rejected. The only issue here is can you deal with getting rejected and if you can't you might have a problem. Your work is fine.
    – user133933
    Feb 11 at 2:02
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    Drop out of a PhD program if the program does not benefit you. Don't drop out because you get rejections. Rejections are normal. Feb 11 at 2:23
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Don't do anything without more information. In particular:

  • Why were your papers rejected? Was it because of some analysis you did not do? Was the entire approach bad? Was it correct but not interesting enough for the journal? These rejection reasons all reflect differently on your ability as a researcher. Remember as well that your supervisor was almost surely heavily involved in the paper, so at some level it's not just you being rejected. If for example the entire approach was bad, then your supervisor is just as responsible (arguably even more responsible, since they're supposed to be guiding you).
  • If you quit, what can you do? Don't just say "I can still find a good job". Make sure you know what kind of job you can find. Look at your local job portals and see what's out there for people with your qualifications. You may have a CS Master's degree, but can you program in the languages that people want, or perform the types of analyses that is asked for?

From the answers to these two questions you can make a much better-informed decision. If your conclusion is you are an idiot and not suitable for pursuing a PhD degree (are you sure? I would at least talk to your advisor to confirm that you are underperforming), then quitting makes more sense. On the other hand, if you quit now when you're actually overperforming your advisor's expectations, then you'd have metaphorically shot yourself in the foot.

Get the information first, sleep on it (so you don't make emotionally charged decisions), talk to your advisor, and then make a decision. Either way it'll be a life-changing moment.

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I would like to add to Allure's answer. I think your decision should also depend on your motivation to do a PhD. Are you doing it just because you want to learn and love doing research (or, you loved it and think you can love it again when you get your self-confidence back) or is getting a job in academia also an important factor?

Especially if you are doing it mostly because you love learning and research, I would suggest not to take decisions of rejection/acceptance of papers as seriously. The few submissions you mentioned are not that many data points anyway (there is some randomness in the review process). Moreover, especially at top conferences, the bar is very high -- (almost) all the papers they receive are very good and most of them end up being rejected. Just the fact that your supervisor decided that your paper has a chance to get accepted at a top conference reflects positively on you!

It is completely normal to have papers rejected, it happens to everyone. It reminds me how one more senior researcher in my group who is one of the top researchers in the area once said that we should not feel bad about rejections, that he has had more than any of us [other people from the group].

If your goal is to find a job in academia, the decision process is slightly different. Getting a job in academia is tough. You may decide that you have little chance to get the kind of job in academia you would want. In such a case, it would be understandable to quit. But even in that case, I don't think there is any right/wrong choice. It depends on what you want in your life.

So to summarize, do not let a few rejections crush your love for learning and decide based on what you want to get out of PhD.

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