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possibly unlucky

Sorry if this has already been addressed, but I would love a discussion of the way in which SEP/PhilCompass articles are handled. I think most view a publication in SEP or PhilCompass quite favorably (I'm always impressed by such publications) and these publications allow the author to exert a fair amount of influence over the subfield (unlike traditional journal articles, these reference articles can be read by hundreds, if not thousands). Yet the process by which credit and influence are distributed is, to me at least, extraordinarily opaque. I've only had experience with PhilCompass, but my sense is that the subeditors have a tremendous amount of autonomy and so there is no standard practice. There's no review system or procedure in place, so those who don't personally know the subeditor may not be guaranteed serious consideration. In my own case, I had to just cold email the editors. In one case the editors told me to come back in a year (a year!) if I hadn't published my article and they *may* reconsider it. In another case, the editor just ignored me. Have people had similar experiences or am I just unlucky?


Has anyone coached an Ethics Bowl team before? I just found out I will be next year, and I have no idea how to do it well.


It seems clear to me that students benefit a great deal from having many chances to apply what they've learned through frequent assignments, scaffolded essays, etc. I'd be curious to know how Cocooners with hefty teaching loads balance the desire to do all that with the demands of teaching three to five courses or sections a term. Do you stagger assignments between your courses and sections? Do you use a lot of peer-grading? What else?


Hi possibly unlucky: do you think that the Compass/SEP process is more unfair than other invited publications are? I think that almost all Compass papers are invited (but fairly rigorously peer reviewed). I'm not sure what I think about invited publication venues generally, so don't take this as hostile, but I guess I'm wondering whether you think there is an important difference. (I think that the SEP is also invited, but I don't know much about that process.) I haven't published in either of these places, but I've published in an invited but peer reviewed journal that is looked upon fairly favorably (I think) and I'm not sure whether I think this is unfair (genuinely--it's not that I think it isn't, it's more that I don't know what view I have about whether there should be no invited publishing). One argument in favor of there being some invited publishing is that I think a lot of people feel that they can't get their best work past standard journal referees, and end up publishing it in invited places (I have heard this from a lot of people and it is consistent with my experience--that anything too new, unusual, bold, etc. has trouble with referees at every journal). But I think there are a lot of arguments against invited publishing, and of course the previous argument does not apply to Compass or SEP since the emphasis is not on new work/arguments in those venues.


I wonder what folks think about monograph dissertations in comparison to three-article model dissertations.

I wonder because it seems as if having three articles are more likely to increase once’s chances on the job market in comparison to a monograph.


I'm not sure I follow the main point of Possibly Unlucky and Anonymous; several issues seem to be raised. Perhaps here's a question: Given that invited publications (not just Philosophy Compass and the SEP, but stuff like Oxford and other handbooks, as well as Phil Topics, Phil Issues, etc) are, well, *invited*, is it worth early career philosophers' effort to try to position themselves for such invitations? I've definitely seen some (usually well-placed) early career people snag slots in some of these venues. But at least when I see this, I don't count it as a sign of their research ability; I (mostly) see it as signaling their social network. Do search committees share my view, or can one of these lines on a CV make a difference?


My experience is that invited publications count for a lot, as much as peer-reviewed journals for lots of research places. It is all about proving you are a member of an elite club, not some impassioned judgement of who is objectively best.


I should count they only count for a lot if they are in elite places which typically does include philosophy compass, philosophical perspectives, philosophical issues, and anthologies by Oxford.

tea cup

Invited things count, of course. But IF a junior candidate only has invited stuff, it is often assumed that they are getting these invitations from their powerful supervisors.
As for yourself, just concentrate on placing some good blind-refereed articles in some strong journals and let the rest take care of itself.

Perpetually Anxious Grad Student

For Jobbed,

As I'm still very early in the process of being involved in academic philosophy, I have no experience teaching EB. However, I was a student for 3 years in an Ethics Bowl course. Our structure was this (There were two teams and the time between beginning of term and the regional competition was ~10 weeks):

Week One: Going over how to argue well and ticking the boxes on judges scoresheets and likely ethical theory discussion (Before cases are released).
Week Two: Case distribution (usually split equally amongst students democratically; our system was unusual as we collectively had individuals cover 3ish cases each, but most others had a clearer division of labor and spoke in each of the 15 cases).
Weeks Three-Six: Case preparation, rotation of presentations at random. Discussion of weaknesses and criticisms of positions.
Weeks Seven-Ten: Both teams would meet and mock having the actual competition. Feedback from the instructor is necessary here as it will help strengthen arguments.
Somewhere in the last group of weeks, we would have a "mock night" in which invited faculty are the judges for a practice round in which the two cases are chosen at random or not told to the students, but relating to a judge's research interests.

James W. Quinn

Would it be possible to discuss the letter-of-recommendation system and its moral, practical justification? I have been enduring horrible situations—from plagiarism and unpaid labor to sexual harassment—in order to be able to apply for some jobs that require three, if not five, letters.

person who did an article diss


If your department and committee will allow it, I don't see any reason to do a monograph dissertation, and many reasons to do an article dissertation. The two biggest advantages of the article dissertation are:

(1) You will prepare material for publication much faster.
(2) You will finish your dissertation faster.

Most people need publications to be competitive on this market, which is why (1) is good. And the earlier you can go on the market, the more chances you'll have on it, which increases your overall odds of success--so (2) is good too.

I'd be happy to chime in more about this, but I think the reasons in favor of the article diss are so strong that it isn't even a discussion. The main response people give in favor of the monograph diss is, "Well, if you do the article one, you won't get the experience working on an extended project involving a single topic." But if you don't have publications and multiple legitimate chances at the market, you won't ever be working on any project at all, because you'll be unemployed.


I’d love to get some advice about external readers. How important are they? Are they mostly useful as potential letter writers on the job market? Is it possible or desirable to have more than external reader?

I ask these questions because of my own current predicament. I am a second year Ph. D student who went through an MA program at a different institution. I am beginning to start working on the prospectus for my dissertation. I’ve talked over these ideas with the professor I worked with primarily from my MA and we’ve gotten along really well. He is enthusiastic about my idea for my dissertation and offered to be the external reader, even though my program does not compensate these readers. I happily accepted.

This last year I’ve participated in an exchange program with a European institution. I’ve been able to work with a rock star in my field and we also get along very well. Elements of my dissertation is influenced by her work and I think she would potentially be interested in working with me after I return to the US this Fall.

Would it be ridiculous of me to ask my dissertation director whether I could have two external readers? If it helps, I know the first reader would be on board with the idea.

possibly unlucky

Hey guys,

Thanks for the comments. I agree that these concerns go beyond SEP/PhilCompass. There are many prestigious invite-only publications out there. I guess I picked SEP/PhilCompass because they seemed particularly problematic. As I mentioned, not only are they prestigious venues (and so publications will likely count toward tenure/promotion), but articles published in these venues can help shape and frame entire sub-fields in a way that your random article published in a prestigious invite-only journal (likely) won't. In my own case, I was interested in summarizing and evaluating an up-and-coming area of x-phi. To the best of my knowledge there are no good systematic reviews of this corner of x-phi, although with each passing year more and more is published in this area. So there's a sense in which the editors (without any accountability or established procedure) were rejecting a whole sub-field without so much as a constructive comment.

Further, and this may no longer be the case (I haven't checked their website recently), but I found it extraordinarily difficult to even determine whether PhilCompass was invite-only. My understand is that they aren't invite-ONLY, as they do consider unsolicited proposals, although many of the articles published in the journal are the result of a personal invitation from the subeditor. My sense is that a journal with a hybrid model of this kind should have a system in place to deal with unsolicited submissions. Maybe they do, but from my two encounters with the journal it seems as though they do not.


Seimok - rather than have this person as an external reader, I tend to think it would be better just to have them as a letter writer. If they are on your committee everyone knows they have a vested interest in speaking well of you, and the letter will not be as powerful as a simple outside letter.


I would be grateful to read a post on how one coming out of grad school or a post doc should prepare for starting their new tenure-track assistant professorship in the states, with an eye toward getting off on the right foot for securing tenure painlessly.


Excited new prof.

My request relates to Eddie's. I was wondering if anyone would have advice about what (not) to do during your first year as an Assistant professor on a tenure-track. I'm starting this fall at a regional comprehensive in the U.S.

Old prof

Excited and Eddy,
What NOT to do in your first year: do not agree to do all sorts of committee work, and then not deliver on what you said you would do (be realistic); do not hide problems with your teaching until they are so big the dean hears about it (get help early); do not assume that your new institution works like the ones you have been at in the past (ask questions); do not stop researching (show that you can balance research with full time teaching ... it is also the only way to get out of a bad place if you need to leave); do not go out drinking with your students or say inappropriate things to them; do not trash your colleagues to other people on campus (wait at least a year for that ;).

Excited new prof.

Old prof,

Thanks! Do you have any advice regarding what kind of committee work to accept and what kind to avoid? It's not easy for new profs to know how many hours per week sitting on committee x or y will end up taking.

old prof

there are things that everyone - or almost everyone - in a department at a regional comprehensive has to do. Do those things first - advising majors, etc. Then do something in the department if the opportunity arises, and then do ONE thing outside the department, on the campus at large, where you might represent your department. Ideally, this will put you in touch with others on campus with whom you share interests. I served on the Woman's Studies board, for example. But other such things will arise.


I am a graduate student currently planning on applying to transfer out of my current program because I am unhappy there. However, I also recently received a large sum of money to attend a summer institute from this program. Am I right to think that I should inform my program of my intention to leave and deny the funding for the summer program?

Recent Grad


Don't inform your program in any official way of your intention to leave. Until you actually accept an offer from another program, continue on as if you're going to finish where you are (i.e., attend the summer program). You never know whether your applications to other graduate programs will be successful. You could very well end up staying at your current program and so don't want to provoke any unnecessary resentment among the faculty there. Do inform professors you want to write you letters and hope that they will be understanding and discreet.


No, no, no! Do not tell them. Please don't do this to yourself. You are under no obligation to do so and it will only cause you harm. Follow the advice of Recent Grad - but I would add do not ask for a LOR from someone who you expect will not be supportive.


@Amanda and Recent Grad,

Does it change anything significantly if I would have no intention of finishing at the program even if I got shut out in my applications? I guess maybe if it would cause resentment maybe I shouldn’t inform them in case they would contact people in other programs about my application? But wouldn’t they find out regardless?

I’d really love to get more input. If I’m honest, I’d really like to stop at my program as early as this fall so I can go live with my wife for a year rather than be at a program I don’t intend to finish at. It also just feels unfair to the faculty there.


Here's a third "don't". As long as you're a student there you can do the things students there do, and get the things students there get. That's not being greedy.



It looks like you are looking for a specific answer. So if you don't want to do the summer thing, then don't do it. There are plenty of things more important than philosophy.

That said unless they specifically ask you in the summer program if you plan to continue in the fall (in which case you shouldn't lie), then I don't think you are doing anything wrong and I would be surprised if anyone held it against you. But you know your environment and the people better than I do, of course.


Sorry — I wasn’t trying to look for a specific answer, and obviously I’d like to go to this summer thing, and I thought that adding more information would be helpful. I appreciate everyone’s advice, it’s a great help for me in a stressful time.


I recently received a rejection from a top 10-20 journal after an R&R. I then received notice that my manuscript had been sent to the Transfer Desk. I had never heard of this before. So my question is, is it a good thing for it to be sent to the transfer desk? Should I take advantage of this given that I could send it to a top specialty journal in my field? Or should I revise it in light of my rejection comments and resubmit to another generalist journal with a great reputation?

Recent Grad


Even if you're sure you won't finish at your current program, I still would advise against announcing that you're applying out. I've seen faculty react poorly to this situation, and, needless to say, that's made life a lot more stressful for the grad students involved. So turn down the funding if you want, but I recommend coming up with another explanation besides that you plan to apply out.


I will be curious to hear what others say about the transfer thing. I recently got something like this for the first time too. From what I could tell, it is just a way for journal publishers to try and get papers published in journals that don't have that many submissions, or to otherwise keep the paper with the same publisher. I do not think it is a good thing, and I would just submit it to whatever journal you think would be best.


I'm starting my PhD in fall 2019. I already have a MA. I'm relativley older than your average student. So, I'm planning and hoping to finish my Phd in 4 years. I know this is difficult and will require tremendous work. I've talked to the DGS and other faculty there. They seem to think it's doable but it'll be difficult. I guess, my question to the community here is.. are my expectation unrealistic? Is expecting to finish within 4 years a pipe dream? How common is it or whetehr it is common at all?


Smoose: It is possible to finish within four years, but I am not sure it would be to your advantage. As you know the job market is very competitive. So getting a job typically requires both publishing and teaching experience. Those I know who rush to finish their PhD typically don't have time to publish and get teaching experience. Hence they end up having to spend a couple of years adjuncting or something like that, when they might have been better off as a grad student. Even more, your PhD can get "stale", so you look like a better candidate if you recently finished your PhD than if you have been out a while. With the competitive job market staleness is becoming less of an issue, but it is still something I would think about.

Wizened Grad

Smoose: What Amanda said, plus the following. Speaking from my own experience, I seriously underestimated how long it would take me to settle into a dissertation topic I found interesting enough to think about over a period of several years. I also underestimated how long it would take me to sound reasonably authoritative and intelligent about the content of my work. A lot of those skills only come about through an extensive marinating process that 4 years just doesn't seem sufficient for. I also entered my program with an MA, and I thought I would do my PhD in 5 years. It took me 8. I am still learning what my dissertation is about after writing the thing, and it has only been in the last year or so that I can confidently tell a non-expert what it is that I work on.

Of course, you might be less uncertain than I was about what I wanted to do, and maybe already can articulate your philosophical interests better than I could back then. But this is certainly the advice I would give myself if I were asking your question a decade ago!

Marcus Arvan

What Wizened Grad and Amanda said. When I entered grad school I naively believed I would finish in 5 years. It took me 8. This is very common. I’ve seen many a talented grad student take far longer than they ever expected—and some never finish at all. My sense is that these just aren’t the kinds of things anyone can predict with any accuracy, and so if one is to enter a grad program with realistic expectations, the rational thing to believe is “this could take me anywhere from 4-8+ years, and there’s a very real chance I might not even finish—since these things have turned out to be true for many talented grad students in my position.” If this sounds horrifyingly pessimistic, good. It should. It’s the reality. I ran into an old friend from grad school at the Pacific APA yesterday. Like many students from my (top 15) grad program—including me—their career hasn’t gone at *all* how they expected. Even though they finished and (just now) got a tenure track job, both took much longer than they ever would have fathomed. I’ve seen this happen so many times that I just don’t think it is at all rational to expect to finish in four years. Hope for four, plan for 8. If you can’t do that, don’t go into the program.


It's also worth remembering that your time to completion doesn't just depend on you: it also depends on your supervisor(s). And, unfortunately, they can't and won't devote as much time to you and your work as you can. They will have different priorities, and it may take some time for them to get back to you on your work. Depending on how long they take at various stages, and on how long it takes to incorporate their feedback, that could add quite a while to the process. A dissertation is a cooperative endeavour.

Pretty much every PhD student in the UK has a Master's degree. Officially, a PhD there takes three years, but almost nobody manages that. In Canada, most PhD students have a Master's degree too. Officially, our programs are four years long. Almost nobody finishes in four, and very, very few people finish in five. It kust takes however long it takes, and setting yourself up for the increasing demands of the job market takes more time.


Thank you everybody for your feedback. I forgot to mention that I've already been adjuncting for a little over a year now. Also fortunately, my advisor is also the guy that I'm the GRA for... and from what I understand he is very good with his students and most of his recent grads have finished in 5 years. I understand that I can plan all I want but things can go very wrong and not my way at all. I have a pretty decent idea on what I want to write about or do research on. However, I've taken all your advice and info here to heart and will definitely remember them. But the potential issues that you guys mentiond seem to be things that I figured the types of problems I'd run into. I'm hoping that I can work my way through these issues. I will most definitely stop if I can't finish in 5 years MAX, a little to old to keep stretching. Anyway, thank you for all your feedback. Much appreciated.


Smoose it definitely helps that you have been adjuncting. But you do want to keep up at least a couple of courses while in the PhD program, so your teaching is fresh. And publish. So maybe aim for 5 or 6. I went into the PhD without a masters and finished in 7 - I could have finished earlier but with a free year of research dissertation funding it didn't make sense. I would evaluate what your CV looks likes before finishing, and only finish if you know you are a strong candidate. Another option is to go on the market and plan to do an extra year if you don't get a job.

All that said, even if you are older, 1-3 years is really a short amount of time in the grand scheme of things. It really will make little different whether you are 39 or 42 (or whatever) on your first year on the job market, by the numbers, but it could make a big difference in how prepared you are. So just keep those things in mind. You are devoting a lot of your life to this either way, so be sure that devotion is ultimately well spent.

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