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02/28/2013

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Marcus Arvan

Hi Matt: any specific issues you'd like to hear about (learning how to navigate the publishing world? dissertation advisors? etc)? I'm sure a lot of contributors probably have useful experiences to share -- but sometimes, for my part, I just don't know what readers might find interesting!

Matt DeStefano

Marcus, those are great examples of the type of advice that I find useful. Some other general areas that I would be interested in: teaching (ideas for fostering good discussion, online sections, building course syllabi, deviation from standard philosophy curriculum, etc.), research (obviously this will vary quite extreme from person to person and will be dependent upon interests, etc.), would include questions like: What are your habits of research like? How do you decide what to spend your time reading?

Although, I'm sure that most personal experiences, even only tangentially related, would prove useful in some way. I'm fairly dedicated to keeping in good shape, and I never really considered it to be directly relevant to success in graduate school. However (as in the post about 'working with your legs' indicates), I've found that when I'm not disciplined about going to the gym or getting other forms of exercise, my philosophical work (and interest!) also tends to suffer. It seems like a silly question to ask "What's the ideal workout routine for a philosopher?" but I think that the advice that comes from a personal report about the relationship between fitness and mental acuity would be immensely helpful.

Anon Early Career Peep

Thanks to Matt for this post, which encouraged me to go back and read the posts by Marcus that were linked above. In one of them, Marcus gave some advice about coming up with the Big Idea you need for your dissertation. That's definitely one way to go about it, and I know some people who have been very successful that way. But if that seems daunting, let me suggest another method that worked for me.

Start by writing a *very specific* paper on a small, but *novel* issue (i.e. not a paper that just fiddles with part of a well-developed debate). What you may find (what I found) is that this paper will give rise to other papers: the task of writing the paper will reveal other questions that need to be addressed/details that need to be developed, etc. I'll emphasize again, I think it's likely this will be a more successful strategy if you're pushing that first paper out in a somewhat unique direction. The point is just that this strategy can help you begin the project in a tight and focused way, and let it grow into the Big Idea, instead of working the other way around. It worked well for me, and it might work well for others.

Apologies for the anonymity, but all this being confessional on the internet stuff freaks me out, probably for no good reason.

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