First, faculty don't really advise PhD. students about a larger research trajectory in their dissertation phase (or at least no one ever advised anyone at my school about that). I haven't been able to land a tenure track job yet, but if I had there's a good chance I wouldn't get tenure. I completely hit a wall after my dissertation and I realize in retrospect that while my project was good for a couple of very solid papers it wasn't a publishable book and there wasn't much to do after that. (I could have strung it along into another paper or two I think but I was sick of the topic myself). My point is that in the preliminary phase of the dissertation where I was narrowing my topic down no one even mentioned this as something to think about. If anything people urged a more modest and self-contained project so I could get some papers out of it, get it done, and get out. I'm not blaming the faculty; it's natural to focus a lot on getting your students the first job and forget what comes after it given how bad this market is. But grad students ought to think a bit more about the long term prospects of their research than I, or most of my cohort, did and if they don't their advisors ought to give them a hard nudge in that direction.
I wonder how many people have had a similar experience. As I explained a while back [see here and here], this is something I worried might start happening. In the early 2000's, a new trend began in my department and others: a move away from traditional, book-length [300-400 page] dissertations to much shorter [100-120 page] "star-paper" options--dissertations consisting of several related publishable papers. As I explained in my earlier posts, I distinctly recall many senior faculty being horrified by this trend. In their view, the purpose of a dissertation should not be to publish a few papers, but to [A] develop a broad, sustainable research program that can last many years, even decades, and [B] develop PhD students' abilities to develop those kinds of research programs in general. In other words, the purpose of dissertations--as I was taught in my early grad school years--was to avoid precisely the problem the above commenter alludes to. And indeed, the people I know [in my cohort and others] who went the traditional book-length dissertation route haven't seemed to run into these kinds of problems: they seem to have had little problem sustaining their research output.
So I can't help but wonder: is this indeed an increasing problem? Are people coming out of grad school increasingly finding themselves in our commenter's position, feeling unprepared to keep a sustained research program going? If so, what should be done? There is of a course a dilemma here. On the one hand, it's important to publish early and often to get a job--and writing a book-length dissertation might not be optimal for that. On the other hand, it's important to keep publishing after one gets a job--and a "star-paper" dissertation might not be good for that. Is there an ideal middle ground? Perhaps. Perhaps the answer is that grad programs need to do both: perhaps have a two two to three article "star paper" requirement as a Masters Thesis, and a traditional book-length dissertation for the PhD. The only problem then, of course, is that although this might better prepare students both for the job-market and sustaining a research program for tenure, it might mean longer time to degree to the PhD. Still, I'm not so sure. Getting people to learn how to write a series of publishable papers at the Masters stage would probably better train grad students to develop and write a PhD dissertation--the stage of grad school that is the biggest hurdle to actually finishing the PhD [it took me over three years to come up with a topic for my PhD thesis, and I think I might have been much better off in many ways had I needed to do a three-paper MA thesis].
Anyway, what do you all think? I'd like to ask: do people find themselves in the above commenter's position? If so, did you do a traditional book-length dissertation, or a "star paper" option? I think it would be helpful to see, at least informally, if there are any obvious trends here.