Tanke and Ames Dissertation and Publication Talk


  • Difference between getting a good job at a decent school and just being another application is “stuff”. Build your CV with publications. 
  • Publication makes the difference between those who get fellowships, visiting appointments and the like and those who don’t.
  • Try to publish prior to the dissertation process. During the process try to adapt chapters or sections so that they can be published or presented at conferences.
  • Importance of learning how to write for publication. There’s a difference between a seminar paper and a journal level article. Talk to professors about how to work a seminar paper in a publishable paper. 
  • When choosing journals to submit to, do you look for bigger names or likelihood of actually being published? Its different at different stages of your career. Think about best place for essay first. If its a paper in continental philosophy, start shopping it to the better known titles in continental philosophy. Take a run at the top titles first. Optimally, for our situation, try to have one publication in a graduate student title (like CrossCurrents), one in an Eastern oriented title, one in a Western oriented title. Maybe try to have a book review or two also. Show that you can do what everyone else can do, but that you also have something that no one else has (like non-western skills). Reviews are a good way to get started. So are translations.
  • Don’t pass off book reviews as articles. Treat them as book reviews. They demonstrate that you’re coming up to speed and that you’re conversant with secondary literature. 
  • Book review: talk about what the book is about. Then give critical comments about it. But don’t trash it. Be careful of being hypercritical.
  • Book notes are different from book reviews, but they’re equally good for the CV. Book notes are just descriptions of the book. There’s no real critical aspect to it.
  • Its easier to get published in non-Western than it is in traditional Western philosophy.
  • Reviews and notes should generally be on books that have been published within 2 or 3 years.
  • Rely on faculty for working on making a paper publishable and making contact with the publisher. Also look at back of journals for publication procedures. Journals will tell you how they want it. 
  • Journals love papers that reference previous publications in that journal!
  • Opportunity springs naturally from getting involved in the scholarly conversations.
  • Earlier you get started, the better off and more secure you’re gonna be.


  • You’ll live off your dissertation for several years. It’ll form your worldview and should be mined for publications.
  • Establishes your credentials. You’ve staked out an area that hasn’t been approached in quite the way you approached it before. You’ll become the go to person on that topic.
  • Pick a manageable topic. Should be summarizeable in two or three sentences. Be clear on what your thesis is, what your contribution will be.
  • Spend a good amount of time on your proposal. Summarize your thesis and give a chapter by chapter synopsis. It will be helpful to have that when you begin writing. You’ll probably go back to it often.
  • Difference between a dissertation and good dissertation that could be a book is that you go back and emphasize the distinctions, language, and contributions you’ve made.
  • The more you invest in the proposal, the more you save time in the writing process.
  • There’s a difference between a nebulous statement of interest and a proposal that has a clear cut point. 
  • You should be animated by a love and passion for your topic. Make sure it is your topic, not one pushed on you.
  • One way to avoid the problem of limbo, sitting between the end of coursework/exams and the proposal while still trying to make money to live and such is to have begun thinking about the proposal early, during your coursework, and having your coursework be oriented towards what you’d like to dissertate on. Coursework and exams are the scaffolding on which to build the topic.
  • Convene a meeting of your committee to brainstorm your topic more thoroughly. 
  • Keep balanced your teaching, writing, and coursework.
  • Treat the classroom as your laboratory. That’s where you can test out your ideas.
  • The dissertation process is about demonstrating that you’re a colleague.
  • Be cautioned about trying to please everyone and respond to every objection in the dissertation itself. 
  • The proposal should have a clear statement of the thesis, maybe a bit on methodology or why you’re dealing with the issue you chose, and a chapter by chapter summary. Usually the first chapters will be clearer and more well formed than the last chapters. That’s ok. You don’t have to have it all thought out before your writing. The writing is itself the thinking out. You should have a sense of where you’re going but the writing is formative. 

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