Our books

Become a Fan

« What is complexity science? | Main | Minds Online Conference, session 2 »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


(1) No
(2) 0
(3) No
(4) No

Recent Graduate

(1) Yes.
(2) At least one for every referee report that you have received yourself. More if you have the time.
(3) Yes. Or, at least, it can be, provided that you are sufficiently knowledgeable about the area in question.
(4) Complex question fallacy. Don't let your title of "graduate student" deceive you. If your graduate stipend is sufficient to cover your living expenses, then you are being paid a living wage to study and teach philosophy. You have a job in philosophy. (And if your grad stipend does not cover your living expenses, leave your program.)

A. P. Taylor

1. Whether or not your degree has been conferred is an entirely arbitrary way to gauge your qualification to peer review philosophical material. If you are in the dissertation phase, and the review is in your "wheelhouse" chances are that there are very few people on Earth as qualified as you are to make the call, and even fewer who are more qualified (and for all you know, the few more qualified may have already passed due to business). So buck up.

2. In at least some cases, you might be getting asked to do the review based on the recommendation of your thesis advisor. It happens like this: the editor of Journal X sends the paper to your advisor to review, your advisor says "I can't, but I have a grad student working in this area whose skills I think very highly of, why not send them the paper." And then you find it in your email. So just getting asked to do the review might be evidence that someone thinks you are qualified to do it.

3. Purely out of self-interest you should do it; if it is for a good journal (i.e. if people you've heard of have published in it), then think of your C.V. It cannot hurt to be able to say on your C.V. that you have been asked to review for a few decent journals.


I'm a grad student who gets fairly regular requests to review, and I accept a few of them. Those who worry that the reviews will be poorly handled haven't been paying attention to the ways in which faculty reviewers have been behaving (i.e. terribly). I suspect that most grads will be anxious to do a good job and will arse it up far less than faculty reviewers, 1 out of 3 of which use the opportunity to be condescending, or self-aggrandizing, or just superficial.

I like doing reviews because I like hearing what others are thinking about and because it forces me to re-familiarize myself with topics I really should be familiar with. All told, it's not that big of a deal, and if you're well into your 4th year of grad school and don't have the confidence to do a review, my only suggestion is that you acquire that confidence, pronto. You're going to need it very soon.

Justin Caouette

Thanks for the comments thus far folks.

AP - I have "bucked up". I accepted. In fact, I have yet to turn down a review as the reviews thus far have been in my wheelhouse. One manuscript review (250 pages+) and two journal articles in the past year.

Given that I am new to the profession I thought it would be a good question to ask here at the cocoon as to how often I ought to be doing this sort of thing this early on.

Also, I agree that it nice on a CV but publications are even better, and these sorts of requests take time away from the publication process, a process I am just becoming familiar with. Manuscript reviews are a big time drain. I think a book review is a better CV line for the same amount of work (and you get a small pub out of it). But what do I know?

Joseph - I agree. But I think editors also know that grad students are more than willing which brings up some issues of exploitation. Given that we are so willing to crack into the field we are more likely to say yes. But, given that we are also not being well paid and have to publish early on and dissertate and pick up second jobs to live comfortably it seems like it's a question worth asking: how much should we be doing this?

Nick Byrd

Thanks for asking this question Justin! It seems that not all of the commenters are of the same mind. It's not surprising given that people will disagree about many of the variables involved in these questions.

I think Justin's more recent point is central to the issue: certain tasks take time away from other more important tasks. Bottom line: there simply isn't enough time for a grad student to capitalize on every opportunity.

So, another question might be about prioritization. E.g., (5) insofar as the following graduate student duties can be ranked in terms of priority, how would you rank them?

publishing, presenting at conferences, attending conferences (i.e., when not presenting), refereeing, public outreach, [your suggestion here], etc. (notice that duties which are typically required by the departmental — like coursework, dissertation, and assistantship — are not in this list).

I imagine people will still disagree about how to rank these, but if a common ranking manifested, that would go a long way to help a grad student prioritize their opportunities.

Justin Caouette

I agree, Nick. And thanks for that question! At the end of the day it seems that most would agree that we should be reviewing when we are ready. However, the question you ask then becomes central. When should reviewing take precedence? If the journal is very high ranked and we haven't done it before? Do any of the first 3 that are asked of us so we can show that we are established in our subdisciplines? Given how many hats we have to have on these days it seems like an important topic to disucss for those of us trying to wear the right hat at the right time.

Aaron Thomas-Bolduc

I have a slightly different concern wrt Justin's question: it seems to me that taking on unpaid service duties like reviewing is only worthwhile if you are going to be accepted into the profession. The concern is then that, given the dismal state of the job market, and the dismal pay of graduate students, we should only be doing things for free under two circumstances. 1) it will make a significant positive difference when applying for TTs (publishing, editing books, etc) or 2) the reviewer in question has already been guaranteed admittance to the profession.

2) will only obtain if you have already received a TT offer or something similar while ABD.

So (possibly rhetorical question), why should I provide a free service to a profession (not to mention publishers) that may throw me out on my ass, or down the abyss of perpetual adjuncting?

*I don't mean to imply that Justin doesn't have a good chance on the market, I think he does.

Henry Lara

Yes to all four of those. I think that being a good reviewer has little to do with whether you finished your Phd or you are a Master's student. (Or even a senior undergrad!) Your feedback can be as good as, or as useful to the writer, as that of a Phd holder with little time or inclination to do a good review. In many cases, as already pointed out, your feedback is likely to be even better.


You should not do things you do not want to do. When you are asked to referee a paper, you can say no.
But as you stay in the profession, even tenuously, if you keep sending your own manuscripts to journals you should expect to have to review others' manuscripts.
Generally, you should feel honoured to be asked to referee. But you should also be qualified. As someone already mentioned, when graduate students and young scholars are asked to referee it is often because one of their mentors or supporters recommended them.
When reviewing job candidates' files, we are most interested in publications. But once you are looking at a pool of candidates who have all published in decent places, then it is noteworthy that some are refereeing and some are not.
Refereeing for high status journals is obviously better than lower status journals and publishers. But from the referee's point of view, I have reviewed lousy papers for the range of journals, from Mind to ...

Michel X.

I agree with recent graduate that we owe at least one review per referee report we've received. Probably a little less as graduate students, and a little more as professional philosophers. I also think that conference-goers owe reviews (for journals as well as conferences), although I'm less certain about the relative rate. They're time-consuming, yes, but I think that the habit of putting them off makes them seem like worse time-sucks than they actually are.

So question (4) seems misapplied to me: it's not a question of whether the discipline has done us the favour of giving us a job yet, but rather a question of whether it's done us the favour of reviewing our work.

Manuscript reviews are different. They're much more time-consuming (presumably! I've never done one), and I don't think graduate students owe them at all, unless they've already managed to publish a manuscript. As for book reviews... as a graduate student, I treat them more as a favour to myself than to anyone else. I mean, you get a free book out of it, some publication experience, and you put your name out there. That's really, really good for you, even if it doesn't do much for your CV. I wouldn't do more than two in one year, though. Not that that's likely to happen consistently anyway.


"the more I get asked to do things like review manuscripts (Springer)"

Last year Springer's revenue was €1 Billion. Think long and hard before you, as a graduate student, offer them a service for free...


The press I am affiliated with always offers book credit for manuscript reviewers. Is this standard among presses? And I take it there's no analogous benefit offered to journal reviewers?


A number of presses offer either X dollars, or 2X dollars worth of their books.
Some journals offer a discount certificate on a book, or access to another service they own or operate, like Scopus.

Justin Caouette

Great feedback everyone.

Yeah, I received 150$ for the manuscript review (still haven't used the credit). Most of their books are more than this price, at least the books I would buy. So, I'll likely never use the credit, it's in an email somewhere...



A lot of academic libraries buy their books from Amazon. So, if you're willing to spend 10 minutes making a seller account, you could very likely sell that $150 book for between $40 and $60.

Kate Norlock

A bit late to this party, but just fyi, those of us who are still paying off student loans may often be better off with half the cash than all the books, if that makes sense. I.e., a publisher will usually offer $X in books or $X/2 in cash, for manuscript reviews, and I usually find that if they suggest in recompense ONLY books in $X amount, I can just say, "Hey, my student loan company would so much prefer cash, so can I have $X/2 in cash instead?" I've yet to receive a 'no'.

On the main question: I'm often resistant when I ask a tenured philosopher to referee a journal article, and Prof. Tenured both declines and recommends that a grad student referee instead. If Prof adds a comment to the effect that their particular grad student is writing on exactly the same content, okay, but I still don't ask unless I exhaust a long list of PhDs first. Referees should have expertise in the area of the submission, and preferably a record of publication demonstrating that expertise. Besides, refereeing is a time-consuming service to the profession, and I am surprised when professors seem to think that graduate students have duties of service.

Occasionally, a graduate student *does* have publications in the area in which I need a referee, and expertise. But it is almost always the case that PhDs are more appropriate referees, with much more expertise, and with far greater benefits from the profession (and thus duties to the profession).


"Last year Springer's revenue was €1 Billion. Think long and hard before you, as a graduate student, offer them a service for free... "

Speaking of this, why in the world aren't reviewers for for-profit journals & presses (so most of them) offered an honorarium? I'm *not* counting a voucher for *their* product. I'm talking cold, hard cash.

Er, let me rephrase that. I know *why* don't they do that -- they don't have to. How could we as a profession encourage/force/pressure them to do this? Could we all boycott for-profit presses, refusing to provide them with free labor and reserve our labor for the open access journals?

I think it's a bit too much to ask people not to *submit* to for-profit journals -- they need pubs for their career and there are so few open access journals. But the "i won't do *unpaid* labor for you" approach by referees, I don't see that much cost to doing that and it could be effective?

Or has someone already tried this and I'm late to the game?

Justin Caouette

Interesting suggestion, anon.

Also, I wasn't clear. I didn't receive 150$ cash. I received a 150$ credit on their titles (which I haven;t claimed as of yet).

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Job-market reporting thread

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Job ads crowdsourcing thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory