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06/02/2020

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mixed

I find the question a bit odd. If you do a dissertation that is a collection of articles (or aiming to be) then to act on the one goal, is to pursue the other as well. Most programs in phil of science (I think), encourage students to write publishable papers, which can be folded into a thesis. I think it is a function of the fact that they are influenced by the sciences, where such dissertations are the norm.
But, as Marcus says, for those coming out of programs below the top 10, you had better have published something. When I worked at a teaching college, I do not think anyone would get any consideration for a full-time position (even for a 1 year contract) without publications.

Humanati

The advice that I always received was to prioritise publications. (Though ideally, you wouldn't need to have decent publications at the cost of a Phd that just scrapes a pass!) The basic rationale: at least at places that value research, demonstrating the capacity to publish your ideas is incredibly important; it's increasingly more difficult to get a job without publications. Search committee members will also be interested in your PhD project, of course, insofar as they're interested in your research program. But insofar as they're going to actually take a close look at your work, it's more likely to be your writing sample and published work. There might be some differences in this depending where in the world you are, though. Perhaps if you have no publications, but you've done an excellent PhD at a fancy institution and gotten yourself some fancy letters from some fancy people, then you'd still stand a chance at securing a job at some places in the US. In the UK, however, they're often very concerned about the REF and the publishing potential of their candidates; having no publications when applying for a research position there significantly reduces your chances.

Daniel Weltman

I prioritized my dissertation because I assumed I would not get a job either way, and I wanted to focus on writing the best dissertation I could. That was intellectually rewarding but a terrible idea professionally. You want one or more good publications when you go on the market. Even if you're at a fancy Leiterific program your dissertation doesn't matter except insofar as you can turn it into publications (and except insofar as your committee and thus some/many/all of your letter writers are writing letters based on it, etc.). So you might as well have one or more good publications rather than bothering to make the dissertation perfect.

Moreover, there are ways to do both without just being able to do both independently. Namely, choose a dissertation topic that you can simultaneously turn into publications, like a dissertation with chapters that can be articles or a dissertation that is effectively a series of article stapled together (which is an option in some programs).

Everything worked out fine for me but I am an exception. In general I think anyone who wants to continue working in philosophy after the PhD should prioritize publishing at least one good article during grad school. Aiming even higher than that is even better! The dissertation doesn't matter unless it becomes a book or articles someday. If it can become articles someday it might as well become articles right now. If it's going to be a book, then the book can wait. You can revise your dissertation once you're a professor. First you need a job.

That's not to say you should write a bad dissertation. You should at the very least write something your committee likes. But I think you should try to assemble a committee (or at least obtain an adviser) who is on the same page as you about the importance of the dissertation versus publications. Work with someone who will support you when you spend time trying to publish, rather than someone who will be disappointed if you don't sink every last hour into your dissertation. If you're not in grad school yet, pick a program where the culture encourages grad students to publish rather than a program where they are encouraged not to publish.

Back in 2012 Marcus's point about not needing to publish if you come from a fancy program was probably more true. The market's so brutal now that I bet it's less true these days.

All that of course is just my (uninformed) opinion. If others disagree then probably they are the ones to listen to, not me. But I suspect at least some people have something like my view.

Finally a professor

I would add that a good idea I don't see pushed much in philosophy is to follow economists in really emphasizing what they call their 'job market paper.' Beyond publishing, which I think is more important than a good dissertation, grad students should make sure to have one chapter/article that is clearly their best work, so that they can submit that as a writing sample. This is obvious to economists, but for some reason not really pushed by philosophers, though I don't see why we shouldn't push our students to do so. Having one specific chapter/paper that they make sure to polish the hell out of, so that they can submit it later on to jobs, seems like an obvious thing to do.

Chris

Just to follow up on "Finally a professor" - I thought the standard advice was to have TWO really good papers - one as writing sample, and a second for a job talk. Of course, one has a bit more time to get the second polished piece.

swingline.

I think dissertation work matters in at least two ways: (1) getting you good letters and (2) making you a good philosopher (where this includes being able to speak well and confidently about your work and go to the mat with critics). Both are relevant to the job market and both can be achieved by a dissertation whether it is a monograph or a series of papers stapled together (spoiler alert: you probably won't do any actual stapling).

So to that extent, dissertation work is not divorced from professionalization.

I should also emphasize the phrase *dissertation work*. Speaking from limited but probably generalizable experience, it seems to me that the precise and final form a dissertation takes is not very important. Probably even your advisors won't read the final version word for word. What matters, especially in terms of (1) and (2) above, is the years of work that go into the dissertation. Especially, the many meetings you will (hopefully) have with your advisors will convince them (and you) of your philosophical mettle. This is good in itself but it will also strengthen your applications.

Add to all that a focus on cultivating an awareness of how one will turn the dissertation into stand alone publications. Again, that seems doable whether your dissertation is a monograph or a series of papers.

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