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Imposter in your midst

I'm around midway through my PhD, and have been struggling more than I normally do with imposter syndrome. It's put a real damper on my ability to work. What's the point if I'm not going to do work that others would want to read? And why should I risk revealing how little I know?

I've also been pretty convinced by the cognitive scientist Barbara Sarnecka's analysis of imposter syndrome - found in her book, the Writing Workshop - not as the result of something going wrong on the side of the individual, but as the result of something going wrong in the environment. Those struggling with imposter syndrome aren't usually making bad inferences about their own abilities from good data, but good inferences from bad data. We overestimate the success of others, and so underestimate our own, because we're only ever told the success stories.

I'm wondering if anyone has advice on combatting this kind of bad data. I'm especially interested in what I, as a graduate student, can do about it.


I'm about to go on the job market and my student evaluations are not the best. I mostly have averages from 3.5-4 out of 5 (at my university 4.2 is the overall average). I don't want to lie or obscure this fact, I want to own up to it and discuss how I plan to do better in future. But I don't know if that is a good strategy.

I'd love to hear from anyone who has been in this position, and how they handled it.

Or if you have hiring committee experience, how you would think about someone who has somewhat below average scores discussing that fact.

A couple of notes:
1. I know that student evaluations are not a good indicator of student learning. And student learning is the most important thing.
2. I suspect my student evaluations aren't great mostly for personality reasons and because of my own social anxiety getting in the way of engaging the students well.
3. However, there are plenty of people who are both great teachers and get great student evaluations, and I believe we should all aspire to that. Students can learn from and like you.
4. I believe that given some time and without the direct stress of a thesis I will be able to work on the issues that I think are affecting my student evaluations and do better, while also teaching more effectively. But I'm not there yet.
5. This wouldn't be an issue for someone with an outstanding publishing record. But my publishing record is good (2 paper in top 15 journals) but not outstanding.


I wonder whether it is considered permissible to send a revised version of a manuscript after it has already been sent to peer review.

Some background: I recently revised and resubmitted a manuscript to a journal, and the editor already sent it back to the reviewers. Since then, I noticed that I could significantly improve two paragraphs of the paper to elucidate a crucial principle for my argument. The changes I intend to do would not affect the conclusion but only make it clearer how I arrived there. I am worried that my paper might get rejected if the reviewers find these two paragraphs confusing.

Do you think it makes sense to contact the editor and ask I could reupload the paper in this kind of circumstances? If not, what would be my best course of action?

Curious to hear what others in the field think of this or whether someone has done something similar.


What are the standards of honest co-authorship in philosophy? I have recently been asking around to fellow grad students, and in one case, one person reported drafting the entire paper by themselves, receiving feedback by their supervisors, and being asked to add their names as co-authors. In another case, the student recounted a similar story, except this time they acknowledged that the more senior person's ideas were what made the paper worth submitting to a journal in the first place, even though the student wrote the draft entirely by themselves. In a third case, the student researched and wrote all but the introductory/'background' sections of the paper, but the paper is still billed as an even co-authorship. Are these students being exploited, or is this normal?


What is more helpful in terms of landing a TT job - teaching experience and having an affiliation or publications?

Here's why I ask: I'm nearing the end of a year long research postdoc. My publication record is pretty decent, as is my teaching record (4 publications in good journals, multiple years of teaching different courses at 4 different institutions). I am, of course, applying to jobs now but I'm operating under the assumption that I'm not going to land anything. Assuming that's the case, I'm going to be faced with a choice. I can adjunct while trying to keep up with research, but if the future is like the past, the amount of teaching I'll need to take on to keep the lights on will almost guarantee that my research progress will come to a halt. Alternatively, I can take a non-academic job that pays reasonably well that would allow me to keep writing and trying to publish. But from the outside, that will look like I left philosophy. How much does being unaffiliated hurt you on the job market?

I realize the answer to this question likely depends on whether one is trying to land a job at a teaching school or a research school. However, I'm just trying to land any job I can get. I also realize that, ideally, I'd just teach and research. Unfortunately, adjuncting means taking on 6+ courses per semester at different institutions, commuting 400+ miles a week, not to mention while having no benefits. Under those circumstances, I just won't be very productive research-wise.

What's the best route to go with an eye to making myself as marketable as possible?


I am also interested in the kind of question eye-to-the-market raises.

I love philosophy, but "taking on 6+ courses per semester at different institutions, commuting 400+ miles a week, not to mention while having no benefits" seems like an outcome to be avoided at pretty much any cost. If it comes to something like that, I will cut my losses and find some other job, even if that means never getting back in to academia.

But there are still less extreme versions of this choice, and I'm less sure what would be best in those cases.

On the one hand, assuming one's teaching evaluations and dossier look good, it would be strange if additional teaching beyond multiple years at 4 institutions would make a big difference. At least as evidence of sufficient teaching abilities, more teaching after that has drastically diminishing returns, right? So unless you expect to make significant and demonstrable improvements to your teaching in your next job, I don't think it should help your chances much. (But who knows how search committees actually would weigh this? Not me.)

On the other hand, it seems to be very rare for someone to go for a couple years without academic employment but come back and get a decent academic job. Jared Warren is the one case I know of, but his body of work (and pedigree, for that matter) was really exceptional. Probably there are others that I don't know about, but I assume they are few. Why is that?

I expect part of it is just that not many people seriously attempt to come back. Those that leave may reasonably want to focus on their new career and leave the horror of the academic job market behind. Others perhaps keep trying, but aren't able to keep publishing in a way that increases their chances. And maybe they only apply to very attractive (and so super competitive) positions. And perhaps their academic network decays in ways that harm their chances.

But I also suspect there is a bias against such candidates. Something along the lines of "Oh, I guess they couldn't get any job that year, they must not be that good" or "I guess they aren't truly dedicated to the profession". In the current environment these assumptions are absurd, so I don't know if anyone thinks them explicitly. But my own worry about taking some other kind of job and trying to publish my way back into academia is that this kind of bias would put me at a significant, perhaps insurmountable disadvantage. (So if people think there actually isn't this bias, please say!)

I think this is a shame. One of the worst things about the academic job market is the rootlessness it all but requires. Want to settle into a community before you're in your mid-30s? Want to live near your aging parents to help? Want to start raising a family and not have to worry about picking up and moving every year or two for who knows how long? Too bad!

Besides making people suffer, this is also a real selection pressure unfairly excluding certain kinds of people. Perhaps one could argue that some degree of this is inevitable and/or beneficial overall. And at any rate it would require major structural changes to really reduce. But a bias against people who go without an academic job for a while so they can stay in a particular region (and not have adjunct 6+ classes a semester to do so) makes this worse for no good reason.

One final, maybe more useful thing: if there is this kind of bias and some of it stems from people assuming one isn't sufficiently dedicated, I wonder if doing some regular public philosophy/outreach would be a good idea to improve one's chances.

teaching portfolio

How does one summarize raw quantitative data from teaching evaluations across different institutions and therefore different evaluative scales? Does one include one summary per institution in the teaching portfolio?

Phil Osopher

I'm interested to know how many unpublished, abandoned papers people have.

I'm 10 years post-PhD. My papers are in top-10, but not top-5 journals (think: Phil Quarterly, Phil Studies, Synthese, etc. not: Mind, Nous or Phil Review). I have two article-length papers that I worked on for a long time, presented in public, etc. but which never got accepted anywhere (probably a few more false starts that I decided I couldn't turn into full papers, but my question isn't about those).

I currently have two more papers I am periodically submitting, but which aren't resonating with referees. One got an R&R from Phil Studies, but I stuffed up the revision and it got rejected. It's been rejected from about 8 other journals too.

So I'm approaching 4 papers that look like they will end up on the scrapheap. How does this compare with others?


Serious proposal: every job should only ever require a CV and Cover Letter.

Only request more documents at the short list stage.

Less work on the candidates and search committees.


I have a question about deciding between whether to pursue a postdoc or teaching the year after finishing a PhD, with an eye to (hopefully) landing a TT or permanent job within a few years. What would be more competitive on a CV for TT jobs/future jobs in general: A 1-year full-time adjunct position or a 1-year postdoc? I have teaching experience already and fewer publications. My goal would be to get a permanent position at a teaching-focused university, but I know a postdoc will likely help improve my publications. Thanks for any advice!

Word limit

I'm revising a paper(major revisions). The criticisms and comments I received are all incredibly useful. However, I cannot possibly address them all because of a strict word limit of the journal. What are your strategies in cases like this? Can you tell reviewers "your comments x, y, and z are useful, but I could only address x and y because of word limit" ? Should I tell the same thing to the editor?

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