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I would say that if we are actually at a point where an *undergraduate's* non-elite publications would be looked down upon by any department whatsoever, then it's time to blow it all up and start again. Surely that requirement is as absurd as it gets!

Marcus Arvan

Hi Joe: I appreciate the sentiments behind your comment, but three quick thoughts.

First, I may be wrong! Maybe grad admissions committees wouldn't care. This is why I figured it might be good to open this for discussion. :)

Second, absurd things can be actual - so even if we think we should change things, there's still a question of what individual candidates should do given actual conditions.

Third, it is not obviously absurd to me to think one should not try to publish in professional venues before one is ready (undergrad or grad journals seem to me one thing, professional journals another). Further, it is not obviously absurd to me for an admissions committee to wonder about the judgment of someone who publishes, say, poor work in a professional venue before receiving professional training!

Personally, I don't think I would hold it against an applicant, but at the same time, it is not that hard for me to see how someone could. But again, I might be totally off on this!


This comment is only tangentially related, but seems appropriate enough here: It would probably be a nice addition to the culture of philosophy if faculty started writing essays with their undergraduate students. Certainly there are faculty tutorials or independent studies that can either result in or be geared toward writing a professional publishable paper. It is a nice way to introduce advanced students to the process of publishing and acknowledges their contribution, even if it is somewhat less than the faculty member's.


Being able to publish anything in a journal that matters as an undergrad without serious help from faculty is probably impossible but for a few geniuses.

What you don't want to do is publish in a crappy place, as I think that could look bad.

You could try to publish in an undergrad journal, but I'm not sure if they count for much of anything.

I would concentrate on other things.


Whoaaa!!! I should have read more carefully. You have a paper in a top journal for your AOS, BUT COULD NOT GET A FUNDED POSITION IN YOUR COUNTRY!!!!????

Is it just a review article or a short 1-3 page response?

If it's a real, full length article, I would think you should have no problem getting into a funded PhD program at a top university.

However, prestige bias is a huge problem in the US and UK. They often prefer candidates with fancy undergraduate degrees over candidates who have shown the ability to actually produce philosophy.

So, who knows. Being from a non prestigious university will hurt you. But if you've got a real article published in a top place for your AOS and cannot get a funded position in a top 30 program that's an indictment of the field!

If you cannot get into a top 30 program, I wouldn't do the PhD. It'll be almost impossible to secure a permanent position.


I would fore sure apply to top places as well as others. I think you have a great shot. The process is crazy though, so if you can apply to 10-20 schools. The closer to 20 the better your odds. I really regret only applying to 8 schools.

Carlo Ierna

I think there are large differences per country. In Europe it is normal to have done a (2 year) masters before starting a (3-4 year) PhD. I don't think people care much about where you did your BA (or what your grades were). I too did publish before applying to a PhD position (through a personal grant) and my publication certainly helped me get the funding. Things might be different when applying to a grad school or a job opening, but for getting grants (including PhD grants) my experience is that any and all peer-reveiwed publications certainly help.

Kenneth Pearce

Conventional wisdom is that publication in a student journal or presentation at a student conference helps a little, or in any event certainly doesn't hurt, when it comes to graduate admissions (but is not as important as other factors). How could publication in a professional journal – even a lower-tier (but still legitimate) professional journal – not be like that but better?

For the record: I had a paper accepted to a good specialist journal (Religious Studies) before applying to grad school, and now I have a PhD and a job. Usual caveats: sample size 1, correlation is not causation, a billion other factors in play, including a lot of luck. But I really can't imagine that a publication in a legitimate journal would hurt you. (Of course, different admission committee members might have different opinions about which journals are 'legitimate', and it could certainly hurt you if a particular committee member thinks the journal in which you published is not a legitimate journal.)

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