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Hi Chike,

I think that for most people the right path to follow is the path that you took. If you turn the dissertation into a book without publishing any parts of it, it will be hard to get it into a top publisher and hard to get people to read it. Since you rarely need a book to get tenure, it seems like turning the dissertation into a book is a good way to waste some of your most valuable resources (i.e., time and raw material for future research). That being said, you might be able to get a few papers out and a book proposal in before a tenure decision is made or in order to move to a more attractive department prior to tenure. In my experience, trying to publish parts of my dissertation led me to improve upon old work and think about new topics to discuss in future research. If I had just put the dissertation out as a book (as if that would've been possible), the research would have been a bit stale and the writing of a book that much more tedious. I don't think it's the norm that people emerge from graduate school fully formed, so taking your time and publishing papers first strikes me as the sound policy for most young faculty members.

Jenny Szende

I was given the advice not to publish more than 3 articles out of the dissertation, because then it still remains publishable as a book. If too much has appeared in print, and is already available, then the need for the book will be low. On the other hand, as Clayton points out, publishing at least a few articles in good peer reviewed journals will also be necessary to create the demand for the book. So, balance is the key. But, as you point out, the book project is likely not to be necessary. And you may want to save that time, stress, and emotional energy for the next big project.

Kyle Whyte

I know some folks who did something like this. After graduation, they did 3-4 years of post docs. During that time, they published some articles, but then also tidied up the dissertation and published it as a book. I can't really say how this affected them in terms of their career or how difficult it was, given that it is not the norm for someone to have a book going up for tenure. I just mentioned this because in some of the comments above, the issue is about writing a book while you're in a system job. Whereas the folks I know did the bulk of their book writing in postdocs. Another thing that I want to mention is that, it seems, focusing on converting your dissertation into a book during a tenure clock can, in some cases, make it appear like you haven't done anything new while at that job. I'd say most jobs want to see what new research you've done, or what new directions you're going in, since being in that job. It's a given that part of what counts for tenure are published versions of work you did before, however, there should also be the published work of research you did while being in that job. Focusing on turning your book into a dissertation can make it seem like you've really not done any new research while in that job, and that you're making your dissertation serve too many roles. That is, you got a Ph.D. with your dissertation, you got a job, in part, based on what your dissertation is on, and now you're going to get tenure, with a dissertation converted into a book. I have seen some folks at various types of schools who have done just this, though maybe even more extreme. Their dissertations got them a Ph.D., then a book contract made them an attractive candidate for the job they got, then the actual book, fully derived from their dissertation, was the major part of their research bid for tenure. So one dissertation moved them all the way through to tenure. Maybe the second edition will help them get full professor!!!!

Mark Alfano

I turned my diss into a book (forthcoming in February 2013). It was a pretty big effort -- at least as much work as writing the diss in the first place. Some of that was revision, but I also added three chapters and deleted two. As others have already said, it's hard to get a publisher to look at your manuscript if you haven't published any of the chapters as papers, but they also don't want something all of the chapters of which have been published. 2-3 seems to be ideal.

Jonathan Ichikawa

I think that the time to write a book is when you have sufficient material for an excellent book. I don't think it's a great idea for any pre-tenure philosopher to plan their research around an intention to write a book, rather than articles. The occasional dissertation is good enough and exciting enough for it to be worth converting it into a book, but I think that's pretty rare. (Mine definitely wasn't.) And as you say, it doesn't really matter very much whether you have a book. It matters a lot whether you have good publications in general.

I've been devoting a lot of my research time to a book project over the past couple of years. I can see the impact on my CV: my paper publication rate is much lower than it was before I was working on the book. I wouldn't want to be in that sort of position without getting a good solid paper publication record first.

(Since you asked for anecdotes, my experience was this. I went from grad school into a multi-year research postdoc; I developed several ideas from the dissertation into papers, and also slowly began expanding one of those ideas into a book (with a co-author); during this time I also started my TT post. The final book project is determinately a different one from my dissertation, although one can recognize chapters 8-10 of the former as deriving from chapters 3-4 of the latter. My dissertation was a bit more piecemeal, and less booklike, than many.)

Jeremy Pierce

My advisor encouraged me at my defense to submit a book proposal based on my dissertation while submitting one article from part of it. It's a genuine contribution in the details, but it's in the general category of views that are currently dominant on the subject, and no one has published a book-length defense of such a view (other than one aimed at undergrads), which I find remarkable. The less-common views have gotten full books. It's also at the crossroads of analytic metaphysics and the kind of social philosophy that's usually more informed by continental or pragmatist stuff.

I defended August 2011. I submitted the article and book proposal fairly soon after defending. I'm still waiting to hear on that article. In the meantime, a publisher offered me a book contract, and I've submitted two further articles and heard back on both. So I've been working on the book in addition to these articles (and the revisions can go to both), but I'm not sure I have anything else from my dissertation to publish. Since I'm still on the market for a tenure-track job, I can tell them I'm under contract for a book, and presumably I'd be working on revisions for it during such a job, but it would be out fairly early in the tenure-track job if I end up with one next fall.

I'm also one of these weird mixes in terms of AOS. I do metaphysics and philosophy of religion, but my dissertation was on the metaphysics of race, so I also do social philosophy (but not really political). I have interests I haven't been doing any work on for years. So my further research will likely be in very different areas than my dissertation, which will help support my other AOSes. But the book is occupying my attention and preventing that. At least the revisions for articles can be incorporated into the book.

The two major areas of revision involved one section my committee was harsh on during my defense but not to the level of requiring revisions to pass. That took a bit of a rework. I've also added a section on stuff I've discovered since defending at various conferences, and I've reworked the chapter structure to shorten each chapter and have more chapters, which is supposed to be helpful if any of the articles get published (in terms of how much of the book the articles appear to be).

Some of the articles I submitted have also received comments, and I presented one section at the APA, and those comments have taken the most time in my revisions, because they've pointed me to literature I needed to explore more fully. But this is the kind of thing I would need to do for this material as articles, so doing it for the book isn't additional. It's just that I'm doing it and incorporating it into both. The hard part is keeping coherent, self-contained articles and also a unified book with revisions in both, and I end up just revising one and then saving it as the other but then changing back little changes referring to earlier chapters and such. In the end, it's almost seemed like I had to vet it through a different committee for another defense but this time the people have very different concerns. It doesn't seem much different from what I was doing when I made changes based on committee members' comments. We'll see if that's different once it goes through the review process, but the manuscript transformation before initial submission doesn't seem to me to be a new kind of thing.

Chike Jeffers

Thanks everyone for your responses. Very interesting hearing people's various perceptions and experiences, and it was particularly interesting to hear about what revising the dissertation into a book has been like for Mark and Jeremy.

And Jeremy, as you can guess, I'm very excited for your book to come out and for us to continue some of the debates about metaphysics of race that we have already had on your blog and through correspondence!


I've been devoting a lot of my research time to a book project over the past couple of years. I can see the impact on my CV: my paper publication rate is much lower than it was before I was working on the book. I wouldn't want to be in that sort of position without getting a good solid paper publication record first.

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