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David Brink

Like much planning, it’s helpful to identify the destination and work backward to where you are. You should try to get a clear sense of the tenure expectations at your department and figure out a plan for getting there. At my R1, we expect every productive faculty member to produce an average of one to two articles per year or their equivalent in book chapters and the like. We attach more significance to substantial articles/chapters and distinguished venues. So, for the normal tenure candidate over a six year period, we would expect 6-12 articles. 6 would be at the low end and potentially problematic, unless the articles, venues, and external letters were uniformly great. So I tell junior colleagues to aim for 9-12. In recent years, all our junior candidates have made tenure, and most have had at least 9-12 articles, sometimes more. So, at my institution, 9-12 articles/chapters would be the goal. Unless you publish everything you write in a timely manner — most of us don’t — you should probably aim to work on more than two papers per year, in most years. But this is on average. There will be other demands on your time, notably teaching. And teaching is very labor intensive, especially at the start of one’s career when much of what one teaches is new. To make room for research, it’s important over time to try to teach courses you’ve taught before and limit your new courses to one or two per year. If you can do this, it’s likely you’ll have more time for new research later in TT job. Also, I think many of us find it more difficult to start new papers while teaching, unless perhaps it’s connected with something we are teaching. It’s easier to revise existing papers than create new ones while teaching. If this is your situation, you’ll want to make sure that you use non-teaching time (e.g. the summers) to start papers that you can nurture and polish while teaching.

hopefully helpful observations

Good questions, and I'm not sure how helpful this observation will be, but for what it's worth, I find that there is a lot of variation among subfields, even across R1s.

I work in history of philosophy, and concerning (1), my rule is to have three active paper projects going at all times, being sure that I send out exactly three papers for publication review per year. (My own acceptance rate has been exactly 50%.) Among (e.g.) my applied ethicist friends, that number needs to be closer to ten.

Previously I had a (non-TT teaching) job at an R1 with a strongly analytic profile. There, the norm was to publish tons of articles, usually around ten in top or good journals, to get tenure. Currently I have a (non-TT teaching) job at a strongly continental R1. People here need to publish a book with a university press to get tenure, and articles are viewed as far less essential, more like secondary support for the book-centered portfolio.

So my point, it seems, is that there will be a lot of variation across subfields and institutions.


Like Marcus, I write three or four new papers a year, and then these kick around in various states for a while. I've had as many as eight under review at a time, but three is more typical. (I'm also somewhere where research doesn't matter at all, however.)

Years ago, on the CHE forum, a user in English posted her 2-2-4 rule for R1-level publishing: 2 major and 2 minor items a year, plus a book every four years. (Major = articles and refereed chapters, minor = book reviews and solicited/less refereed chapters, public pieces, etc.) That doesn't *quite* seem right for philosophy, but I've always thought it was a useful way to set up the goalposts. Say, 2-1-6, with the goal of exceeding that a few times?

hopefully helpful observations again

In response to Michel above, I find this 2-1-6 idea very interesting, but the '2' seems high to me in my subfield, i.e., history of philosophy. I have had years in which I've published two major works in two top-five journals, but I really feel like I'm flooding the marketplace when I do that, and I notice that my peers tend not to do that (and get better jobs than mine).

My sense is maybe that something like 1.25-1-6 might be right for history of philosophy, but maybe that's too low and I wonder what others think.

anonymous tenure track at R1

I'm at a (well-regarded-in-philosophy) R1 on the tenure track (am in a good position to get tenure so long as my external letters are good) and, while I tend to work on 4-5ish things at the same time, it takes me multiple years to finish a paper. I don't produce very much. I think it's important to balance the arms race against actually producing things you are proud of and think are excellent, getting many many rounds of feedback at conferences/written, etc. But this also matters at a lot of places instrumentally to the tenure process more than people might think. If you are at a place where external letters matter a whole lot (many many R1s!) you really need to think hard about the quality of your papers--not just quantity and publication venue--and make sure that lots of people in your subfield's community think that they are good. The most important thing is to talk to people doing similar work to you in your subfield, and to talk to as many people in your department and in other humanities departments in your university about expectations for tenure, the university's process, what the administration cares about the most vs. your department, etc. (But, if these things are especially weird, of course you need to balance that against being a desirable candidate for jobs if you need to move or are denied tenure.)


Hopefully: just a chime to say that my anecdotal impression is also that history subfields also operate at a gentler pace. Or, at least, the non-German ones seem to.


I'd second David Brink's approach: try to determine the requirements they have for you, and work backwards from there. My institution is a research school, and the general expectation is one publication a year. I normally finish (not start) a paper every four months, so I would have three new submissions a year. Given how hard it is to publish, that amount is good for the one-a-year expectation. But the expectations may be different, as other people have pointed out, in others areas (e.g. history).


Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my question. Your responses are very helpful. I was actually worried it was a sign of me being all over the place if I were to start 3-4 papers per year so I'm happy to know it's actually normal!


When yall say your acceptance rate is x, do you mean that on average an arbitrary submission is x likely to be ultimately accepted from where you send it, or that 1-x of the papers you have written are in the drawer and will never see the light of the day?

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