This question is a real evergreen and seems really hard to answer (it is hard). I typically say: aim high in quality, do not overdo it in quantity, and do not waste anything by not publishing it. I am lying sick in a hotel room in Austria and I am bored. So, I decided to explore my own citations from the last 7 years.
Here is what I did: I listed all peer-reviewed publications where I am a co-author, and noted for each paper: number of current citations, year of publication, kind of paper (workshop/poster/demo/phd forum; small conference / small journal; top conference / top journal; book chapter; technical report or Arxiv), off-site (journals, TR, etc.) or on-site (workshop, conference, demo, etc.) whether this was a cooperative effort from outside my group, and whether it was a survey or not. I first calculated the number of citations per year to normalise for time. Then, I calculated the correlation factors between each of the factors described above and the number of citations per year.
Here is what came out. First, the correlation is clearly positive for top conferences / top journals (0.3) and even more for surveys (0.5). There is also a positive correlation between cooperative efforts and citations per year. For the other factors, the correlation factors are towards zero or even negative. What does this mean? It actually confirms what I also said before, but now it is scientifically founded 🙂
- Focus on top conferences and top journals. It takes some more time to go through the review rounds, the review process takes time, and you might need to re-submit several times before finding a good “home” for your paper. But it is worth it; keep going and do not give up! You might also need to work on your scientific writing, on your experiments and methods.
- A survey is a great way to start your publication record and publish results from literature studies. Do it!
- Do cooperate with people outside the lab. This is a proven method to increase your visibility, your network and your citation record. This lies simply in the fact that such papers have more authors from more labs, and all these people will take care that the paper is cited and propagated.
- Posters/demos/small conferences are a great way to present your work, get feedback and increase your network. Here, the focus is NOT on citations. However, growing your network and discussing your ongoing work is VERY important, not only for young researchers.
- Now, I need to cope with the results from non-top journals. It seems like those are not really citation runners. However, some universities require their PhD candidates to have at least X papers in journals, which is not easy to achieve in the short time with top journals. Thus, you can try to diversify: one-two top journals and the rest in conferences and non-top journals. If this requirement is not important for you, then focus on top journals and top conferences only (but you can submit also demos / posters to those top conferences, the network and the colleagues are important, not how long the paper is!)
I hope this helps somehow to build a proper publication strategy. In the beginning, focus on a survey and posters / demos /workshops / conferences to get feedback asap. Then, go for top journal publications. This will require also some time and task management. Think about how to schedule your work. You should identify several bigger tasks (2-3) you need to address for your PhD. Then, you should focus on the first and follow the publication strategy above. Once the work is in the review loop, start with the second task, and so on. They need to overlap while you are waiting for reviews and juggling with different papers in different (top) journals. Good luck!