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I'm a fourth year student in an Experimental Psychology Ph.D program with an accepted MA also in Experimental Psychology from a different program. I'm posting here since I'm about to graduate in May 2024 without any publications and only got a conference poster in 2023 and should have another in 2024 during my Ph.D. I plan on trying to get my dissertation published at some point after I write it up completely and defend it.

Long story short, after some reflection on this post I made months ago, I agree that there's a general lack of productivity: Conference, poster, and publication gaps due to COVID and poor advising. How to explain for the future?

All throughout my time in graduate school, I didn't work on multiple projects first a variety of reasons. During my MA, I waited on others to tell me it was important since advisors were a thing (I had no idea that they did not work that way though). First two years of Ph.D, my advisor told me she wanted me to focus on just elective coursework (year 1 of Ph.D only) and my project to qualify for candidacy. Now, I can't say I have much of a reason other than poor stress and emotion management to the point its affected my energy levels and I've found myself not eating a lot and taking frequent naps. I've noticed some improvements health wise lately, but my cognition (or "brain fog" as some call it) is horrible. I'm neurodivergent (autistic, ADHD-I, and dysgraphia) as well, which is another reason why. I'm convinced I've experienced autistic burnout for a little over a year and that's a big reason why (and processing the ambiguity alongside struggling with self guidance). I'm also a full time visiting instructor at a small liberal arts college since my funding ran out this academic year and that's taking a toll on me.

After discussion with family, friends, and peers, I'm cutting my losses with this line of work and want to move on to something else. I'm not dropping my Ph.D since my fellowship I have mandates that I graduate or I have to return $11k to my state. The reason is because, for me to get autistic burnout, I have to keep doing things above what I was sustainably capable of for an extended amount of time. The fact I achieved so little during my Ph.D (other than my fellowship and visiting instructor position) and got burnout is what's telling me I need to move on. I saw another answer in my last post mentioned a lab tech, which is something I wouldn't mind doing (eye tracker hardware, software, and E-Prime 3.0 for experiment creation) at all if there is a job market like that in the social scieces or in other fields.

I do not want to do a postdoc given that I don't have a publication record at all and that I likely won't be able to produce enough in the same way I wasn't very productive during my Ph.D. I think if I had something with clearly defined performance outcomes and was less ambiguous as to whether I know I'm doing well that would be ideal (e.g., a lab tech position since I know what a finished product would look like in this case). One example I can think of is someone who graduated with just their MA from my current program and became a research assistant at eXponent, a major company. He's essentially doing the research assistant and lab management work for a private company that recruits participants. I could see myself doing something like that. I'm just not sure if I'd have the qualifications given lack of publications and low Ph.D program productivity though.

Welcoming any thoughts or opinions.

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  • I've never heard of Experimental Psychology, what sort of work does it usually lead to?
    – Kilisi
    Dec 8, 2023 at 21:37
  • @Kilisi I have two notable examples but its not generalizable (I'll explain why here in a second). Many of those who have an Experimental Psychology background become data analysts in fields that require analyzing survey data or something similar. Others who have a ton of publications become professors or work in academia (but they generally come from an R1). I am a bit of unicorn because I only two took statistics grad courses. That said, Experimental Psychology is not exactly generalizable at all because someone has the flexibility to develop niche skills. Hope that answers your question.
    – zzmondo1
    Dec 8, 2023 at 22:43
  • Does you institution have resources or support for neurodivergent folks Dec 8, 2023 at 23:58
  • Are you against doing a postdoc solely because of your productivity concerns? Or, rather do you not feel like doing one? Dec 9, 2023 at 0:01
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    @MichaelMcFarlane I'm against a postdoc because of productivity concerns. If I'm already at my capacity just by teaching and data collection alone (not even writing because I was too burned out to write), then I'm confident I might get fired because I'm having difficult managing multiple projects at the same time. I'm barely keeping it together with full time teaching on top of all of this. To be honest, I really don't know how I'm going to make it through next semester even. I need the money and to build my CV with this gig but I achieved very little still.
    – zzmondo1
    Dec 9, 2023 at 2:50

1 Answer 1

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You don't actually say in your question what you do want to do, only what you don't.

Consider abandoning academia entirely and moving out into "real" work. Once you leave academia, nobody will even care what papers you have published. You then have the opportinity to find a career that suits you and the skills you have.

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  • @simon_B I do want to become a lab tech or a research assistant of some kind. The guy I knew at eXponent was the example of what I would like to do.
    – zzmondo1
    Dec 9, 2023 at 16:57
  • To get a lab tech position, simply start applying to companies that have those positions. It may take a bunch of applications, but the more you apply, the more likely you are to get such a position.
    – David R
    Dec 10, 2023 at 15:24

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