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+1 to Marcus's advice.

Getting a research *program* going is a bit different from getting research done and published, since it requires you to identify bigger-picture themes or concerns. Sometimes you can get there pretty quickly just by thinking about what topic you'd like to give a book-length treatment, and why. But I think a lot of the time, it's something we only really start to identify once we've already got a lot individual pieces out there, and someone or something prompts us to think about how they all fit together. It's hard to come up with a research agenda a priori; it's a lot easier a posteriori.

On the general publishing front, I'd say that your first quick source of pubs is your dissertation. The research is already done, and has been peer-reviewed a few times. The only thing left to do is to break it up into article-appropriate chunks. That can take some time, especially if you didn't write it with that in mind, but it's still faster than writing something new from scratch.

As far as writing from scratch goes, I'd suggest:

(1) Keeping a document/notebook/whatever where you keep track of paper ideas as they come to you. Just blurb the idea, make a note of what prompted it, and note any extant research that comes to mind which you should consult or cite. When you're out of ideas, have a look at that list and see what speaks to you.

(2) Start by writing those small, technical, quibbly replies. At 3k-4k words, they're appropriate for Analysis and Thought, and other journals which publish short pieces. But also, crucially, they're conference-length (not to mention a friendly length for peer comments). So now you can shop them around a bit, and see if others can't help you expand them into a more substantial article. Plus, once you've got something like that nailed down, it's easier to see if you can work it up into something broader. So, for example, maybe your dissent over X is actually inspired by a broader disagreement over the constraints on a practice P, the intelligibility of some background assumptions, etc.

I don't set out to write papers that are 7.5k words long. I set out to write a solid 3k-ish paper, and then think about what more there might be to say. Sometimes it's obvious, and sometimes I only get there after having shopped the paper around a bit and hearing what others have to say on the subject. The downside is that this strategy can take a little while to bear fruit, and once it does, you tend to have a bundle of stuff coming out all at once. The advantage, however, is that you've got something to show at each step in the process (besides which, it's much more pleasant to build a conference paper than it is to cut up an article so that it fits the time slot). And conferencing helps to build up a file of paper ideas, too. If you're cutting up your dissertation, then that will buy you some time to work up from shorter papers.


I forgot to add that if you're really stuck for paper ideas, you can draw inspiration from conference and special issue CFPs.

Recent grad

To add on to your comments on teaching:

I've started spending two meetings on readings I used to spend just one on. It's been great on a number of fronts, including increasing student comprehension and willingness to do the reading. But it allows helps me think about the material in ways I feel I can often turn into a paper. For example, I now sometimes teach the Experience Machine over two days and we look very closely and very critically at the three reasons he gives not to plug in (whether they're good reasons, whether they all reduce to the first, whether there are other potential reasons, etc.). There's a lot there.


I agree with Michel that publishing research and developing a new research program are distinct things.

For most people (there are exceptions), the dissertation sets one's research *program* for several years. Hopefully it is also the source of some publications; you work a couple of chapters or portions of chapters into stand-alone articles. But even after you've done that it typically continues to set your research program, insofar as you're developing papers on ideas related to the dissertation. (Sometimes these are ideas one had to set aside in writing the dissertation in order to make it more focused; often you're continuing to read and to debate the issues after the defense, and you get more ideas there; etc.)

Developing a second research program (which often doesn't happen until near or after tenure) is a separate issue. For most people it seems to develop organically in some (possibly only tangential) way out of one's first research program. But "organically" means in part "slowly" here. I'm not sure how to do it quickly, though Marcus's advice all sounds good to me.

The OP reader

Thanks all! Much appreciated! I will take this advice into account--both the specifics and the encouragement it provides. I will definitely look for opportunities to add variety to my teaching that can open up potential new areas for work, and I really like the idea of slowing down working through the material. In future semesters, I think I will try to switch around between ordinary pace readings and slower readings so the students see both versions--and so that I maybe get some new ideas! And I'm gonna keep the conference-and-smaller paper work going. Get a bunch of those bubbling, and just keep faith that they'll build.

Thanks again! (And I'll keep watching around here for other ideas. The more strategies the better!)


I think this is good advice in general, its always a good idea to "write what you teach and teach what you write" insofar as is possible. I also really like the idea of reading outside of philosophy, and while you're at it, why not incorporate some of that reading into your courses? My upper division electives the last few years have been about 60% philosophy and 40% psychology. This is not only really fun and useful for me, but I think it also makes philosophy appealing to a much wider range of students. (I think this can be done in an intro course as well, but probably not to that extent). And with more and more interdisciplinary philosophy journals out there, this can provide good fodder for research.

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