How many publications as an undergraduate are enough if one's goal is to do a PhD at a top US school?

Of course quality is important, but assuming all are "high enough" quality (e.g. in a reputable well known conference but not world class) should a student try to publish more given that he can?

Maybe publishing in different sub-fields shows one has a broad understanding of the field?

For example one can publish a paper with a professor as his Thesis, and 1-2 extra papers with other professors working with them as research assistant.

Is there a point where one has "proved" he can do research and there is no need to publish more? Will graduate admissions view 2 vs 4 publications much more positively?

Edit: I am talking about Computer Science

  • 3
    @New_GUY: "I am not asking how many are needed." Then please edit the title of your question, because it sure sounds like that's what you're asking. – Pete L. Clark May 19 '17 at 21:32
  • 3
    @NET_GUY: Admission at top US universities is extremely competitive. There isn't any fixed number that will guarantee admission, so more would always be better (assuming of course that they are good papers). – Nate Eldredge May 19 '17 at 21:35
  • 4
    I don't understand. You are not asking how many are "needed" but rather how many are "enough"? – GEdgar May 19 '17 at 21:48
  • 2
    I have no idea what the "top 10% of applicants" means, except perhaps "the applicants that were offered admission". – JeffE May 20 '17 at 1:43
  • 2
    Is there a point where one has "proved" he can do research and there is no need to publish more? — I believe that's called tenure. – JeffE May 20 '17 at 1:50

Publications are not generally a requirement for admission to a PhD programme.

The top applicants (i.e. the successful ones) will have usually demonstrated their ability to conduct research. This may be demonstrated in their own statement of purpose or their recommendation letters. Publications are another similar happy by-product of the research process.

I do not think it is wise to compromise on quality by rushing to publish lots of papers at this stage.

If you can publish one well developed paper, that will certainly be well received by an admissions committee- provided that all your other "components" are also very good (I assume you are talking about US PhDs, so these components will be things such as GPA, GRE scores, recommendation letters etc).

Publishing (for example) four rushed, poor papers in different subfields may speak to your lack of focus or attention to detail- not good qualities in a PhD student. At this stage, quality over quantity is best.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.