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Generally, big disadvantages. The committee (certainly) and other faculty will have read your writing sample, and they don't need to hear you read it or give a talk on it. It'll make you look like a one-trick pony. The general rule is to give a job talk on something different than your writing sample. It's possible, however, to give a job talk that *partly* incorporates your writing sample, but only if it plays a minor part. (This is what I did, for example.)


Also keep in mind the possibly different audiences of the writing sample and the job-talk. Especially at SLAC's it is very common for the audience at a job talk to be made up of non-philosophers. You may be evaluated on your ability to communicate outside your discipline as well as to other experts in the field.

Lee Walters

Ideally you'll have at least two really good pieces of work, and you should use one for the talk and the other for the writing sample for the reason Rachel gives.

But if you only have one really good piece and one other not so good piece, then there is a trade-off to be made between maintaining quality and showing that you have more than one idea. I think you should use the best piece for the writing sample and then it is a judgement call about which piece to use for the talk. I'd go with the other piece assuming it is still of good quality as they will have seen your really good piece and know what you are capable of.

Marcus Arvan

As Lee pointed out, *ideally* you'll have more than one piece of really good work. In that case, what Rachel says sounds right: give your talk on something other than your writing sample (so that you don't look like a one-trick pony).

That being said, I've personally known more than one person who has gotten a TT job at a top-25 university who gave their job talk on their writing sample. Second -- and I think this is the crucial thing -- if you only really have one awesome piece of work (your writing sample), give it on that. The worst thing you can do is give a bad job talk. Even if you look like a one-trick pony, if you give a great job-talk on your writing sample, you'll look good. Conversely, if you give a job-talk on a much lesser piece of work, you'll look really bad.

So, in short:

(1) If you have more than one really good piece, make your job talk something different than your writing sample.

However, (2) If your writing sample is the *only* awesome piece of work you have, give your talk on that rather than on a lesser piece.


Thanks so much for your help with this, folks!


I have heard that giving a talk on your writing sample is a bad idea for the 'one-trick pony' reason offered above. Here is a related question. I know some folks send two writing samples. Perhaps you have a publication in Amazing Journal, but it is not exactly your main area of research. So you send the article in Amazing Journal in addition to your more typical work.

Is it then bad to give a talk on one of these samples?


Honestly, I still wouldn't if you can avoid it. The interplay of the two writing samples and your job talk is where you get to show that you have a "coherent research program." So use the opportunity (if you can).

There was one position where I was brought on-campus that asked for "all" my publications. I laughed because I had 7 at the time. So I emailed and asked if they were serious: they said send us your best 3. OK, so they have a fistful of my publications, so what the heck am I going to do for a job talk?

Essentially, I gave 3-4 talks in one: I gave snippets from a number of papers (one at the time unpublished) that represented my overall argument for my book (revised from my dissertation). Fortunately, one of my publications puts forward my central view, but I don't have a paper out there that shows how everything fits together. This means that in a job talk I can show how everything fits together in a coherent narrative, and it's not something that they've read. So I took the focus off of my overall view, and put the focus on some pieces that aren't highlighted in the writing samples they had.

This takes a little bit of work, because you can't just read a paper that doesn't exist (but I don't *read* papers anyway), but I think this is a strategy that can work for *anyone.* A few people had some blank stares when I told them what I was going to do in the 45min I had to speak...but they were pleasantly surprised when I pulled it all together. I had 4 on-campus visits, all with the same talk, and every question period was a little different, but very lively. Rather than offering a single, relatively narrow argument, I laid out a research program (with 3-4 arguments interspersed). Lots to chew on.

Marcus Arvan

Rachel: I think your idea here is a great one to bear in mind. One doesn't have to give "a paper" (that is, one of your pre-existing papers) as a job talk. Talks can, and often do, differ in how much they try to accomplish. Some are on single papers, others are "agenda setting." And I can certainly imagine that in some regards -- as Rachel suggests -- the latter may be more impressive in the context of a job talk. After all, research schools in particular are looking for someone who is not just going to publish a paper or two, but make a career out of their research project(s). So I can certainly imagine that doing what Rachel did could pay big dividends!


Thanks. :)

It also works for more teaching-focused schools and liberal arts colleges (which is the job I eventually decided to take).

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