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You obviously have to focus on doing what you need to do to get the remaining requirements out of the way. But other than that, use this time:

(1) to read widely, and outside your AOS.

(2) to develop good work habits (e.g. write at least a little every day, early on; figure out a sustainable reading pattern that works for you, etc.).

(3) to start working your ideas up into conference papers (which can work on publishing a little later; but baby steps!).

(4) to start regularly attending and presenting at the conferences in your AOS. The point of 'networking' isn't cultivating a list of people who will do you favours; it's to become a known quantity in your AOS. Start building your relationships to other grads in the AOS, as well as to the more established people in it.

(5) to set up your PhilPapers account so that you get regular updates on conference and publication CFPs, and so that you get a regular digest of new articles of interest in your AOSes and AOCs. If you haven't already done so, that is.

I think that auditing classes is valuable, and worth doing (but not overdoing!). Auditing one a semester (or every couple semesters) is a good way of giving your post-coursework life a little structure, and a little structure is a very good thing. It also keeps you active in the department. But it's also a great way to get you reading and thinking about work outside your AOS, and giving you some grounding in other subfields. Or you could join/set up a reading group for the same purposes. Just feel free to sacrifice the class you're auditing on the altar of your research productivity when dissertation progress demands it.


Just to follow up on Michel's last point ("Just feel free to sacrifice the class you're auditing on the altar of your research productivity when dissertation progress demands it") in a couple ways:

- Don't read very hard for the courses you audit. Sacrifice that reading time on the altar of your research productivity on a weekly basis.

- Make sure you do some work on your own stuff before and after you go to a class that you audit. Don't let that class be the "main event" for the day that tires you out or lets you feel like you've achieved something substantially productive for the day. (I think I did some of this.)


To follow up on my original comment, I intended it with the sentiment "well, if you must ...". Really, I don't see much value in trying to read widely, or take a bunch of courses, in graduate school. I agree with Marcus that the dangers of getting sidetracked and not learning to do your own real, professional-level research are too big. After coursework your goal is to figure out how to write publishable philosophy papers and get the dissertation done. It's also your time to develop your own views on a topic and start to mature them. There's a new mindset and set of habits you need to cultivate. You can read widely later, as other opportunities arise (e.g., teaching new courses, joining reading groups w/ friends).

Part of my thought also was that courses, if done purposively, can contribute to that professional development. For example, you want to work on X; you have specific interests in question Y; professor Z is teaching an advanced seminar on Y; you take it, and the sessions lead you to new angles on Y, introduce you to other new work on Y, and give you space to deepen and develop your ideas on Y with instant feedback from Z and others. You audit the course, only read what's necessary, don't do the assignments, and just sit and chat as it helps you. That sounds productive.

Fwiw, I graduated on time without the sidesteps Marcus mentioned, and I maybe sat in on 4 or 5 seminar sessions (not whole seminars/classes) total after completing coursework.

A final thought: in line with many of the posts on this blog, and what Michel says above, you also should be focused after coursework on networking, and cultivating alternative careers outside academia. Get an internship, join the consulting club, take a programming class, volunteer to be on an IRB, etc. Figure out how to cultivate a dissertation project with obvious overlap in some practical area (the ethics of AI/big data, epidemiological modeling, the spread of fake news and partisanship, climate change, etc).

As I started, take courses if you must, but make sure there's a point to it and it's going somewhere. There are so many productive and exciting ways to spend your time after coursework, and (as Marcus says) so many dangers and new challenges to face, that coursework should be your 5th or 6th priority at best.


Also, this line sticks out to me: "Should I do something like take one grad seminar a term, just so I keep learning?"

You don't need to take a seminar to keep learning. You should find yourself self-teaching. I learn all the time just in the normal process of doing research, participating in reading groups, reading others' work, being a journal referee, etc.


My situation post-coursework was similar to what Marcus shared: I studied for comps, passed them, and then was supposed to begin work in my prospectus. My problem was, I didn’t know what I wanted to write about. My advisor suggested I sit in his grad class that semester, so I did, and it was in the course of sitting in on that course that I developed what became my dissertation. The idea that sparked this wasn’t that connected with what I thought I might write on, but nevertheless intrigued me. I think this is not an unusual story; I know several people who have similar stories. So, for me, I found courses post-coursework very philosophically generative.


I think the answer to the question largely depends on how much course work you did before now. I did one year of courses in an MA, and 2 more years in my PhD. I was done with course work. I was ready to move on. I think you have to keep your eye on the ball - the point is that you are supposed to finish the thesis. And course work is generally a distraction. If there are courses that you should have taken, then you did not do the course work part of your program properly.

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