I am terminating in these days the first year of my PhD in computer science. As I come from a different field, I spent the first semester doing courses, and most of the second in posing the basis of the thesis project: we have a couple of results, still nothing actually published, and only one paper waiting for approval (with a very low probability of being accepted ).

At the same time I can see many colleagues who already have published a couple of papers during the first year, so I am a bit worried. Am I going too slow? How common is for a PhD student to publish zero papers in the first year?

Also consider that the length of my PhD is 3 years, and this further worries me..

  • Which country are you in? Did you come in with a Master's? – Drecate Jun 23 '16 at 18:33
  • Spain, and yes, but in a different field (math). – Ulderique Demoitre Jun 23 '16 at 18:34
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    Ask your advisor if you should be worried. He/she can give you much better advice specific to your situation than we can. – ff524 Jun 23 '16 at 18:47
  • I asked, and he says no, as the basis seems good for the next year. I wanted to know if this is common outside my group, in general.. – Ulderique Demoitre Jun 23 '16 at 18:54
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    it is normal in cs theory in particular to spend the 1st year basically bringing yourself to the level for doing real research. – Dima Pasechnik Jun 23 '16 at 19:16

In my experience (in environmental science), it is unusual for students to publish in their first year, and typically only happens if they are publishing work that was largely done before starting their PhD (e.g. from a research Masters degree).


The number of papers published in the first year by a PhD student depends on the research area, country, university, the student and the supervisor. Comparing with other students in your department can give you some rough idea about their progress. However, you cannot always compare easily. For example, a student who is pursuing a PhD in the same topic as his master degree may be able to produce paper more quickly than a student who is starting a completely new topic and need to learn everything. To know about how well your pace is, the best is to ask your supervisor about it. By the way, the number of papers it not what matter the most. The important is to publish some quality papers in good conferences and journals by the end of your PhD. Some prefer to rush in publishing many papers, while other spend more time to write better papers. In my personal experience in CS, it is not uncommon that students will be busy during the first year with coursework and getting to know the research area so they may not publish much.

  • I am wondering where the downvote came from. – scaaahu Jan 16 at 11:25
  • @scaaahu: Me too, and now there are two downvotes. – Dave L Renfro Jan 16 at 20:27

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