A reader writes in,
I have read The Philosophers' Cocoon and I've got some really good advice from there (for example about publishing). For my knowledge there is one topic that has not been discussed before: publishing before grad school. I was wondering if you or any other contributors have any advice about this?
I am from a small European country with few chances to do a PhD in philosophy with funding. I have applied to universities in my country but I did not get a funded position even though I have published an article in a top journal of my field of specialisation [editorial note: I can confirm that it is a top journal in the AOS] . I was wondering if I should apply to PhD programs outside my country. I’ve got a few questions about it. How useful is it to have a peer-reviewed publication when applying to grad school? Can it be bad for the applicant to already have a publication – or a few – when applying to grad school (I’ve got a few papers under review as well)? I have two Master’s degrees (one from philosophy) from two different universities in my country. Is there a chance to get a funded position from the U.S or U.K, since I do not have an undergraduate degree from a prestigious university, but a publication in a well-respected journal? If I need a writing sample when applying, can it be my published article and would that be good? Is there any general advice on whether I should apply to the most prestigious universities, “middle league” or just decent universities?
Some good questions! Any thoughts from readers?
Obviously, this person does have some grad school experience, having done a Masters in philosophy--but my general thoughts are these: it seems to me perfectly fine to publish before grad school if one publishes in a highly-ranked journal. However, I think it is probably advisable to stay away from publishing anything not in a top journal. This is for two reasons. First, given how much prestige plausibly plays a role in grad school admissions, publishing in a non-top-ranked journal might not be looked at favorably by highly-ranked programs. Second, since one has not done a PhD yet, if one publishes outside of a top-ranked venue the chances are significant that one may publish something of low philosophical quality--the kind of quality that could potentially hamper one's career prospects later, or which one might simply regret later on.
In terms of whether the person should submit their publication when applying to grad schools, my thoughts are that they probably should, since it is a very good journal (although it is a fairly narrow AOS). I'm also inclined to think that because they have a good publication and the academic job-market is so difficult, they should apply to highly-ranked programs as well as any other programs with a good placement record.
But these are just some of my thoughts. What do you all think?