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06/02/2020

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Anon

I have seen some discussion online (Reddit) recently discussing the trade-off between focusing on a strong PhD thesis and focusing on publishing papers. The posters agreed that focusing on publishing papers and putting the thesis second (either by having it be a collection of papers or just putting significantly less effort into it and only aiming for a pass) is better in almost all disciplines, though a number of philosophers claimed that it was strictly inferior to do that in philosophy (citing reasons of book potential, hidden gem applicants, etc). I would love to hear input from someone with experience in hiring comment on this trade-off.
Thanks!

Teaching

I will be teaching a summer course to a group of talented high schoolers in a few weeks. My impression from the department and the university is that I am *supposed* to teach the course as if my students were college-attending. But I am not really sure if that is feasible, pedagogically and practically speaking. (Worth noting that given the ongoing Covid-19 situation, the course will be delivered online.) I was wondering what other philosophers’ experience is like when it comes to teaching pre-college students, and if any tips or suggestions could be offered.

Sam Duncan

Teaching,

I've done a few of those sorts of classes over the last few summers and I'm doing another one this summer. I think you can probably teach the course more or less as you would otherwise and it will work okay. High school students who take classes like this tend to be extremely motivated and well-prepared relative to other students their age. So they can definitely handle difficult texts and college level writing assignments pretty well in my experience. However, they are high school students and have the emotional maturity of high school students. That means that discussions will sometimes be a bit more difficult than would be the case for a class of college students. You might have to do a bit more to keep them on track, they might have a little difficulty engaging with certain topics, and they won't have the level of life experience to draw on that other students might (this is especially so when compared with students at community colleges like mine who often have a lot of life experience). They also tend to be a little more hesitant to engage in discussion than traditional college students. So while I wouldn't dumb a course down in any way for these students you might rethink the topics depending on what you usually cover. Some topics that work well with other students might not work as well with them. Unlike most classes the students will usually know each other as well. In my experience, this is generally a good thing since it obviously checks any inclination to jerkiness. I can imagine situations where it might create some awkwardness though.
They're also pretty grade motivated. Most of these students in my classes have done pretty well and the rare slackers have accepted their grades. But I've heard about some particularly vicious grade grubbing from colleagues who've taught these classes. So you might be ready for that.

Grad Student

In many ways conferences moving online is a great thing for increasing accessibility to junior academics who otherwise might not have been able to afford conference travel. But there are some pitfalls to the new medium that I think we should flag for more senior academics and it may be worth discussing strategies to help mitigate such concerns. In particular, I'm thinking about how Zoom meetings make it much harder to approach speakers and more senior academics during breaks. Some conferences I have attended specifically encourage participants to keep discussions going during the breaks, but this is a recipe for academics who already know one another well to form an 'in group' breakout room that might prove doubly hard for relatively unknown academics to break into. When these groups form in an in-person setting, it is easy enough to hover around and find an opportune moment to join the discussion. In a virtual setting, however, there is an additional epistemic barrier, since one may not even be aware that such discussions are taking place. One concrete step virtual conferences could take is to leave Zoom meeting rooms open after talks and encourage those who wish to continue the discussion not to break out into new Zoom rooms. Simply continuing over email is also relatively exclusionary. Minimally it is worth bringing the concern up so that more senior academics can be aware of the way in which virtual settings can rob junior academics, particularly those of us less likely to ask questions in a large Zoom meeting, of a valuable means of low-stakes participation.

Charles

Any philosopher here interested in co-authoring papers in political philosophy? Could we have a fixed thread in which people interested in this kind of opportunity could 'advertise' their work in progress or projects?

co-author

Charles
I would discourage people from just collaborating with scholars they have not had contact with before. Co-authoring is a very intimate relationship. Even though I have published with people I have never met in person, I established a relationship of sorts - building trust with them - before we embarked on a collaborative project.

Nous Kid On The Block

I'm a grad student polishing up a paper I hope can become my first publication. I haven't submitted anything for publication before and I would be interested in hearing how more experienced philosophers think about choosing a journal for their work. Obvious considerations include (i) whether you are responding to work published in a particular journal (ii) the prestige of a journal, (iii) the reputation of a journal in terms of turnaround time, etc., (iv) whether the journal typically publishes 'work like yours,' whatever this amounts to in terms of quality, subject matter, methodology and the like. I'm sure there are things I'm missing and, of course, I am largely curious about how people weigh these considerations and others.

Although I'm mostly just interested in hearing how people think about this sort of thing in general (I will of course ask my advisor for thoughts about my specific case), I'll mention a few specific features of my situation in case it's helpful for people to have something to react to. My paper is on a frequently-discussed topic in mainstream analytic moral philosophy. It is largely devoted to discussing two recent articles published in top journals (one generalist, one specialist). I'm relatively early in my grad school career, so I don't at this time feel a tremendous time crunch to get the thing in print (i.e., it wouldn't be the end of the world if I aimed high and had to slog through a few rejections).

Norms about self-plagiarism?

I have two papers with some overlapping portions of text. What happened was that a section of one paper (A) ballooned as I was revising it, and turned into its own paper (B), but it shares some text with paper A. In other words, part 1 of paper A is a condensed, summarized version of paper B, which shares some text. Paper A is currently under review.

What are the norms here? Should I rewrite all portions that they share? Is it bad form to have shared text? It feels totally pointless to go through and rewrite the shared portions, just for the sake of different language, but I also don't want to do anything that's not above board. Thoughts?

firstTimer

I will be the primary instructor for a class with graduate student TAs for the first time this fall. The TAs will be responsible for grading but there will be no recitation sections. I was wondering if readers could share tips about working with TAs -- how often do you meet? Do you try to calibrate grading standards? How? Should TA supervision be seen as an opportunity to teach grad students about pedagogy as well? Any advice for a first timer would be much appreciated!

anon

I did almost nothing re supervise the TA. I let them grade by their own standards, and had them come talk to the class about how they would grade. But maybe that's just me!

G

I'm curious about how people decide whether to submit to a conference during the time of COVID-19, especially conferences that are planned for in-person meetings. Take the APA meetings for example, esp. the Eastern and Central. I am almost certain that I will not want to travel to big cities like NYC or NOLA next year. But it would be great if (a big IF) I could get a chance to present a paper to others online. Is it okay if I submit to a conference when I know (or am almost certain) that I only want to participate remotely? (It will be bad if this becomes the norm. But was about during the time of COVID-19? I am curious about what others think.)

skyped-out

G
I would recommend that you do not submit to a conference if you have no intention of going to it in person. Put casually, it is douchy. Put more professionally, I think it is unlikely you will gain much from the experience. Certainly, if I am at the conference and I have a choice between hearing a person speak, and hearing a recording or skype/zoom talk I would take the former. I spend far too much time on-line now. I do not want any more of it. And at one point I think it looks silly on cvs when people list talks at conferences which they did not REALLY go to. If this is the new reality, and all talks are like this, then, ... But it is not yet the new reality, and I do not want it to be.

assistantR1professor

I am a somewhat new assistant professor at an RI university with a PhD program. I am supervising a thesis, on several other committees, and I have taught several graduate seminars. I have been a bit surprised by the way some graduate students interact with professors - notably, they seem to be unnecessarily shooting themselves in the foot. I will add that I am an easy going person, and I try my best to not let any of my personal judgments affect how I treat students, but of course, no one is perfect. And I know many other professors who don't have the same views as I do, i.e., they think it is okay to hold certain types of behaviors against grad students. Since this is a forum for early career philosophers, I thought my experience might be worth mentioning and perhaps discussing.

1.When professors provide comments on your work, at least reply to the email and say something like, "thanks for your feedback." If the professor works in your area, it is wise to attempt to have a conversation about the comments once you have had time to digest them. For one, you can often learn a lot this way and improve philosophically, and two, this professor might be writing you a letter. Responding to comments shows a certain type of motivation and willingness to learn, but can also convey to the professor that you are improving, and depending on what you say, they might be impressed by your response. No reply at all risks irritating the professor, and it also makes if far more likely they won't think anything about you either way, positive or negative, and this makes it much harder to write a strong letter.

2. If you need to drop a graduate course, send the professor a quick email. Maybe you are dropping because you don't like the professor and the course. That's okay, but it still seems pragmatic to send an email of the type, "I wanted to let you know I dropped your course. For various reasons, I realized it just wasn't the best fit for my schedule this semester. I hope this won't cause disruption." Letting the professor know is simply courteous. Often graduate students are assigned to do various things in certain weeks of the course, and this needs to be rescheduled if a student drops.

3. Do not just disappear from your committee. If you are having a hard time getting work done, at least send emails and try to communicate the trouble you are having, or that you are indeed thinking about and trying to move forward. For one, your professor might be able to help. And two, it is hard to write good letters for students when you don't know them well and you don't know their work well. Reading drafts over a couple of years is a way to get to know a student's work much better than just reading the final dissertation draft before you are ready to defend.Besides, if you plan on going on the market ABD you had better have given your committee enough material so they can write a decent letter.

4. When there are emails about the program asking for feedback and ways to improve, reply! There are a lot of complaints on here about how departments run their grad programs. However, several anonymous surveys were sent out to our graduate students about ways to improve the department and the response rate was very low. There was plenty of time to do the surveys, and several requests for responses were made. While the department might not always listen, they might listen sometimes, especially if they are going to the trouble of asking.

5.If you are taking a grad course, and your professor offers to give feedback on uncompleted drafts, take advantage of it! Getting feedback can prove to be very difficult, and it is wise to take advantage of any opportunity that is made easily available.

I know graduate students are in a very rough position. And as I said, I do my best to not hold anything of this against them. But it is also prudent to behave in ways that will maximize your learning experience.

Of course, I am only one person. I would be happy to hear from other grad professors - maybe my experience is off base, or maybe I am just expecting too much.

Soon-to-be Applicant

Circling back to a post you made back in April asking about department’s plans to limit admissions for incoming graduate students, I would love to know if any more people have heard confirmation or reliable information about what might happen with certain departments this upcoming admissions cycle! Also, does anyone have any idea if departments will actually be transparent about these changes, or if soliciting information from departments in the fall regarding limited admissions would be something acceptable/appropriate to do?

I am writing in my capacity as student to recommend that my teacher be...

I know of someone who asked one of their former undergraduate students to write them a letter of recommendation that focused on teaching. They'd use this letter rather than a teaching letter from a faculty member.

When I learned about this, it made a lot of sense. Often faculty really have no clue about your teaching and aren't terribly motivated to learn about it beyond being told about it during a 10 minute meeting. Students, by contrast, are well positioned to speak about your teaching. Using a letter like this might also appeal to places that value the outlook of undergraduates (e.g. places where undergraduates are involved in the hiring process).

All of that said, it is somewhat odd, though perhaps it is more common than I think.

Do people do this? Do people think it's a good idea?

Postdoc

I want to include more "visual supports" (tables, figures, graphs, illustrations, etc.) in my papers. I feel like I can make my points more easily with figures or tables. Yet since this isn't a standard practice in philosophy (at least, when compared with other fields, where papers without figures or tables are uncommon), I don't know if that would make a tangible difference. I was wondering if other philosophers who include visual material in their papers have noticed whether that makes a difference in terms of journal/referee/readers reception.

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