I have only 2 publications from my PhD, and I am applying for a post-doc position.

My fields are: Theoretical physical chemistry; condensed matter physics; computational chemistry; cluster science.

I am already a postdoc and I am finishing 2 publications, and my collaborators are going to write other 2. The problems are: I have no idea when those 2 papers, that I am going to be co-author, will be published; the only proof I have publications is those 2 from my PhD, which are not really connected with the position I am applying for.

How to justify the lack of publications in my application form? I always had this feeling that putting "manuscript in preparation" in my publication list sounds weird, even if it is true.

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    Important missing pieces of information: what is your field? how long have you been a postdoc? For example, f you were a pure mathematician with 2 publications from your PhD, and recently graduated, you might well not need to justify anything. Feb 20, 2015 at 16:17
  • Did I get the math right? You had 2 from the PhD, you're now writing 2, and your collaborator is writing 2. How come you will end up with 2 but not at least 4? (2 PhD and 2 post-doc written by you.) Also, why are you applying a post-doc and you're also already a post-doc? Feb 20, 2015 at 17:30
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    @Penguin_Knight In some fields, it is quite normal to do multiple postdocs.
    – jakebeal
    Feb 20, 2015 at 17:43
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    Good answers to this question are impossible without information about your field, because publication expectations vary radically from field to field. Accordingly, I have voted to put this question on hold as unclear.
    – jakebeal
    Feb 20, 2015 at 17:48
  • @Penguin_Knight, I said, I'm finishing 2 publications. They are not yet published. And yes, as jakebeal said, in my field, we do postdocs ad infinitum... even if I have 6 months of contract in my current postdoc, I am already applying for the next one.
    – ziulfer
    Feb 20, 2015 at 18:45

3 Answers 3


I do not understand why you find "weird" putting manuscripts in preparation in your CV. In my field, it is perfectly normal and accepted, and I guess in all academia.

This is the best way to explain what you did in the last years. It won't be strange at all, especially if you have talks on those results already, as you imply in a comment. These things happen; sometimes papers take a long time to prepare, and a selection committee should be aware of this fact.

It would look much weirder, in my view, if you don't list them and write a long statement in the cover letter about the lack of publications. As they said in ancient Rome, "he who excuses himself unsolicited, accuses himself".

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    I guess "feeling weird" comes from the fact that someone can add articles in preparation without any further proof or without having much prepared on them, so people might use that to artificially inflate their numbers during an application.
    – o4tlulz
    Feb 20, 2015 at 23:04
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    I've never had the sense that it is normal and accepted in my field (particle physics).
    – David Z
    Feb 21, 2015 at 2:37
  • @o4tlulz, that's exactly the point.
    – ziulfer
    Feb 25, 2015 at 11:03
  • Federico, I've followed your advices. Finally, I listed the publications in preparation and wrote an explanation about each one them. In addition, I highlighted the fact that results of these works have already be presented in oral communications. I also explained that more papers are coming, and I preferred to do not list them, as I am not going to be the first author and I am not in charge to handle the first drafts.
    – ziulfer
    Feb 25, 2015 at 11:14
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    @ziulfer Best of luck for your application! Feb 25, 2015 at 11:33

If you are nearly finished with your papers you are preparing, you can always send them to show that things are in the pipeline. Just make sure to put a note saying "in preparation: DO NOT DISTRIBUTE" or something similar in your manuscripts.

Depending on your area 2 papers is not bad, especially if they are really good papers.

  • Knowing my co-authors, they won't be OK with that. But you gave me an idea. I will review some old presentations I have related with the publications and put some of the news results that are going to be published. It is not the same, but at least they are going to see the results.
    – ziulfer
    Feb 20, 2015 at 16:13
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    @ziulfer I would ask your co-authors. I once had a co-worker who had great fear for being scooped, but in this case it shouldn't be bad. Do you personally know the person you are applying for? If you are applying for a postdoc position, then you can trust that person to keep your manuscript to themself.
    – Memming
    Feb 20, 2015 at 16:23

The issue is not "how many" publications you have, but how good (and relevant) they are.

If you have two publications that "hit the mark" in your field, you're fine. The rest can be explained by the fact that you were doing a lot of coursework, or maybe teaching.

If someone has a bunch of second-rate publications in "general science," that's not going to get them very far in physics or chemistry research.

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