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Thursday, December 6, 2012

How Much Should You Publish In Graduate School?

Clarissa's comment on next-to-last post or maybe three posts down is an excellent one. You should start crafting your cv the minute you hit graduate school. Students sometimes want to start publishing right away, so what value do conferences, publications, and other kinds of activities contribute to the academic cv?

Regional conferences, conferences for graduate students, etc... . These are good for practice, up to a point, but you don't want to clog up your cv with too many of them. Do maybe 2 regional talks and zero in conferences where the only other participants are other student.

National, international conferences. These are fine. If you give a talk at the MLA or LASA, you are putting yourself out there. Once again, be wary of giving a lot of talks without having publications to back them up. Talks should be based on serious dissertation research.

Journals edited by Graduate Students / for Graduate Students. It is fine to be involved in editing these, but avoid publishing anything there. If you have anything good enough to publish in a legit journal, then you are wasting your article. If you don't, then you shouldn't be publishing at all!

Legit journals. So that brings us the gold standard journals. They usually have print versions (are not only on line). They are recognized by everyone in your field as THE journals in which to publish. Those publications help your career. Even having one or two is better than publishing 10 book reviews, or going to 10 mickey-mouse conferences, or writing 10 encyclopedia articles. You want to avoid having a lot of publications that aren't refereed articles. These pad your cv but are hardly worth the line that they take up.

Chapters in Books Edited by Your Advisor. Be careful. Everyone knows who your advisor is and why you got your article published: you are his / her student! If you have a half dozen of these, then you could be seriously stigmatized.

Translations, interviews, book reviews, encyclopedia articles... Don't bother with any of these. The exception is if you are a serious translator of really valuable texts, like the primary texts of a great literary tradition.

So how much should you publish? As much as you can, but your work should be in the good journals, it should reflect your professional identity (the field you are going to make your mark in), and it should not have "grad student" written all over it. Write and publish for the next stage in your career, not the stage you are in now.

The padded cv looks impressive for the first 20 seconds. It is bulky, but once the reader submits it to academic semiosis it fades quickly. Little is more discouraging than looking at a list of twelve publications on a cv and concluding that they don't add up to anything very substantial.


Clarissa said...

Also, if your thesis advisor or the Chair tell you that "you are not prepared to start publishing," "it's too early to think about publishing", and "you will have all the time in the world to start publishing after your dissertation defense", they are either not your friend or they went on the job market such a long time ago that they have no idea how things work today.

People who graduate even from the very best schools but who have empty CVs with nothing but their dissertation do not get hired. They just don't.

Jonathan said...

Also, you don't want your first publications after being hired to come out your third year on the t-t job. So you have to have a publication plan already in place long before you are hired.

anthea said...

Clarissa may have some good points but I have to point out who is going to be paying the graduate student to attend those conferences??

Jonathan said...

She didn't say anything about conferences, only about publications. Graduate students can sometimes get funding for conferences from the Graduate School (at my university), or they can drive to regional conferences and have room-mates.

But, as I say in my post, you shouldn't use conferences in place of publications.