Our books

Become a Fan

« Norms for checking on the status of conditional acceptances? | Main | "What Grad Students Wish They'd Known About Doing a PhD" »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Johnny Brennan

This is simply anecdote from the perspective of an author, so take it with a grain of salt.

I graduated from Fordham University, an unranked program, in 2021. During grad school, I published four peer-reviewed articles in venues like Philosophical Studies, European Journal of Philosophy, and Social Epistemology. I have published two more papers (one of which is forthcoming) since graduating. I have not experienced any hint that I was desk rejected because of where I was doing my PhD. Most of my papers were published in the first journal I submitted them to, after several rounds of R&R. I have had papers that were desk rejected, and while it is within the realm of possibility that it was because of where I was doing my PhD, these other experiences lead me to believe that I was desk rejected for other, legitimate reasons.

I do think (through personal experience and anecdata, granted--no proof) that there may be some level of search committees rejecting applications for TT positions simply based on where they got their PhD, but I have not experienced this with regards to publishing papers.

I'd love to hear more from others, though.


I think it is a bit naive to think some editor is going to write in and say they routinely reject papers from grad students from lower ranked schools without even sending them out for review. Think of the outrage this would cause.
Perhaps a different related query might be better.


While I think there's plenty of prestige bias out there, this does not seem to me like a place where it's likely. (Though there are a few specialist journals with notoriously clubby publication practices.)

Grad student work does seem more likely to get desk rejected, however, because grad student work is less likely to be ready for publication, less likely to have developed the trappings of a publishable article, and are more likely to misjudge a paper's readiness or their choice of venue. And it's plausible that students from low or unranked programs may be working on topics that get short shrift in most top generalist journals.


For all its flaws, in my experience anonymous review in philosophy works well. Lots of desirable professional experiences are closed off to people who don't already have desirable positions, but publication isn't one of them. (Anonymous reviewers are sometimes incompetent, but even at their worst they are almost always incompetently judging your merits, not your prestige.)

I say this based on my experience as a long-term community college adjunct. It's hard to write much, but when I do write something publishable, I have not had trouble placing it in good journals despite a professional position even more stigmatized than grad student.

My guess is that Michel has this one right. It is hard to produce publishable work while in grad school, and it is hard even to recognize the difference without more experience than grad school typically provides. Just keep at it. And to put your own mind at ease, take Marcus's suggestion to submit to 3-anonymous journals.


I am an associate editor at three journals, and I could not care less about the question of who wrote a paper. Editors also do not usually google the people and their university when a paper arrives (at least I don't). When a paper arrives in my case, I carefully read it when I have sufficient time at hands and ponder the question of whether reviews are likely to be positive -- if yes, it goes out to review, if the paper is not ready, has flaws, is badly written and thus unclear, not original, etc., it is desk-rejected. No point in sending out papers to review that will almost certainly be rejected.

I agree with Michel that work of PhD students may more likely be rejected because it wasn't as good and ready for publication as authors think etc.

Perry Hendricks

I was in an unranked program and I never experienced a problem like this. (I got plenty of rejections after review, though!) It also seems implausible that this would be the basis for a desk reject! But I’m no editor, so maybe I’m missing something.


I did my PhD somewhere you probably never heard of. I got 4 papers published in second-tier journals (like Synthese) during my PhD. Of course I got many rejections too. I feel like, most of the time, papers were refereed based on merit.


I'm also skeptical about submissions from unranked PhD programs being rejected simply due to their source. I would imagine that PhD students from higher-ranked programs get desk rejected less. But I think this is because PhD students at various high-ranked programs are given good advice about getting papers past the editor's desk. In fact, my own desk reject rate plummeted after I started looking closely at, and emulating, the presentational style of grad student/recent graduate papers from MIT, Harvard, Rutgers, & NYU. I highly recommend it.

J. Roles

Like Michel, and others, I feel journals are one place where philosophers get a roughly equal hearing. Of course there are lapses, and bad behavior, but compared to other contexts - hiring, granting bodies, conference programs and invitations ... - journals seem like a paradise. It is almost as is referees were behind the veil of ignorance.


I was going to write a long analysis but eventually decide to give only a succinct summary below:

JPhil, maybe not; other journals, yes! In my experience.


This was probably about 4 years ago, and I don't remember exactly all the details.

A couple professors I got along with were curious about whether or not there was a correlation between university prestige and publication. Perhaps as an excuse to give a master's student some funding, they decided to request an RAship, which I ended up with, to collect data that could help answer this question.

I compiled a spreadsheet of a bunch of journal articles. The information collected included each article's university affiliation, as well as the university's ranking in the latest PGR at the time. I also recorded whether the university was unranked, and maybe some other information that may have been relevant to the analysis.

I listed every article from the current issues at the time and from the issues through maybe a few years back. This was all tedious, so I ended up only doing this for a few journals that were generally highly regarded (like Phil Review, Nous, and Mind).

I didn't know how to do the statistical analysis on it, so that was left to one of the professors, who did know how. According to him, there was a ZERO correlation with prestige (based on the PGR ranking or unranked) and being published; and not only that, he emphasized that it was something like VERY conclusive. (I don't know the statistical language, but maybe a high confidence level or something.)

Of course, it was just the few journals and a narrow time period of publications, so not a very comprehensive study, but it seems to align with what people are saying here. I asked what we would do from there, and my professor said we could possibly write a blog post on this or something and submit it to a philosophy website, as it could be a worthwhile affirmation that the review process did its job concerning this particular issue. But I think the origin of the question was just mild curiosity, and nothing more came of it.

I'm glad to share this information with you in this comment thread!

Will H.

David, I would like to see the raw data of your study! When someone claims that there is ZERO correlation between x and y and that the study was VERY conclusive, we should question the accuracy of those claims.

I wonder how your study would have accounted for grad students who completed their PhD at a highly ranked program but who were employed at a non-ranked or lower ranked department. Would they have been counted as being a part of the lower ranked / non-ranked department, or would they have been counted as being an alumni of the highly ranked program?

Since I am compiling data on this very issue because I have a similar suspicion as the original inquirer, I will post some data in the comments shortly.


Will (and everyone!),

I must apologize; I found my old files and I discovered the question I was looking into at the time was NOT what I had said (bad memory). The correlation we were seeking was not between prestige and publication likelihood, but prestige and citations--that is, do articles from ranked universities get cited more than non-ranked universities. And for that question, the answer was no (according to my professor and the data collected).

I've made a copy of the spreadsheet which you or anyone are welcome to access and copy for yourself if it's helpful anyway. It doesn't have data on the university an author graduated from, only the university(ies) found on the article.


Notes to help read spreadsheet:
The spreadsheet lists where a university ranks in the 2017 PGR US ranking, the 2017 PGR English-speaking ranking, and the PGR US ranking at the time the listed article was issued.

"US" marks a US university.
"ENG" marks a university in Canada, UK, or Australia (does not include US).
"INT" (international) marks any other university not in the above two categories.
"100" means the university is unranked.
"51" means it is ranked only as "outside top 50."
"NA" means ranking doesn't apply (e.g. a non-US university for the US rankings).
"?" shows up only for "PGR US time of issue" and means the ranking was not found, since older rankings may or may not have been available.

(100 and 51 were just chosen to help with ordering/sorting.)

This spreadsheet was finished March 2019.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Job-market reporting thread

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Job ads crowdsourcing thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory