How to Plan Your Research and Writing Trajectory on the Tenure Track

This is a re-post.  Various readers and clients are looking ahead to the new jobs they are starting in the fall, and I want you all to have a very firm handle on the nature of a tenure track research trajectory.  This post is written from the perspective of an R1 book field, so please get your own tenure expectations in writing from your department head as soon as you can.  And then, as this post explains, work BACKWARDS from Spring of your 5th year to plot out a writing and research schedule.

**This is my last post until I return from summer vacation in early August.


Today’s post is a Special Request Post for Ana and Lauri, who both wrote in requesting advice on how they, as new assistant professors, could best plan out a research trajectory.

I was actually a little startled to encounter this particular query. For myself, my research trajectory as an assistant professor was relatively clear. But by the same token, I landed in a good and supportive department for my first position, a department in which senior colleagues took pains to make sure that the expectations for tenure were clear.  This might not be the case for everyone.  And actually, as Department Head, when I had my annual meetings with the assistant professors to go over their research trajectories, they got so. stressed. out.  But they thanked me later–yes, they ALL got tenure.

So, I want to share here some general advice for thinking about a pre-tenure research trajectory. I am going to limit my comments to book-based fields in the humanities and social sciences at R1 institutions.

Now, before I begin:  any discussion of your research trajectory must begin with a discussion of your tenure expectations. These will vary according to field, department, and university setting,. You must schedule an appointment with your department head, and get, in writing, a clear picture of your tenure expectations. In addition, attend any and all workshops held on your campus about the tenure process, especially anything organized by specialized groups such as the Center for Women and Gender Studies, etc. You want to see this thing from as many angles as possible, as early as possible.

Now, once you have a clear sense of the expectations, sit down with your dissertation and other research, and map out a plan.

For the sake of this blog post, I am going to assume that you need a book and five articles for tenure, with your case starting in Spring of the 5th year. This is a relatively rigorous set of expectations, most likely seen at an R1 institution, but not the most rigorous imaginable. However, if you do confront more rigorous expectations than these, chances are you’re at a super-elite institution that has relieved you from quite a bit of teaching and service, and awarded leave liberally.

Of the five articles, three will most likely be based on the dissertation research or closely related work. Two will then be on a major second, post-book project. Be aware that a second major project is a critical element to a successful tenure case at a research institution.

Lay out a timeline, working backward from Spring of your 5th year, which is when the tenure file will be sent out to your external reviewers. At that time, you need your book and all of your articles to be published or in press. The reviews will come back in Fall of your 6th year, your department will vote on your tenure in or around September, your file will be submitted to the College in or around October, and then wend its way through upper committees, with your final decision coming to you in about May.

It takes approximately one year from first submission to a press to having a book reach the stage of being “in press.” Therefore, the book mss. must be finished and ready for submission, at the very latest, by Spring of your 4th year.

Working backward yet again, we know that you will undergo a Third Year Review in Spring of your third year. At that time, it will be quite apparent whether or not the book is shaping up to be submitted to a press within one year’s time.  Your third year review committee will judge the state of your manuscript very severely indeed.  Your article production will also be examined at this time.

As you can see, there is very little room for missteps in this timeline. What there most definitely is not room for is switching topics in mid-stream. If you have a dissertation, then that dissertation needs to be the foundation of your book. I understand that some assistant professors find themselves bored with their dissertation topic and involved with fresh new research early on the job. Rarely, very rarely, does that work out well for the individual’s tenure case. The new research must be kept aside as the major second, post-book project.

Basically, an ideal research and writing trajectory will look something like this:

Year One: Start work on the book mss.; Apply for research leave

Year One Summer: Article #1;

Year Two: Book mss.; Apply for research leave (if you didn’t get it yet)

Year Two Summer: Article #2

Year Three: Book mss.; Apply for research leave (if you didn’t get it yet)

Year Three Summer: Article #3 and book mss.

Year Four (ideally on post-third year review automatic research leave): book manuscript completely finished and submitted.

Year Four Summer: Article #4 (on new project); Possible research and fieldwork on new project.

Year Five: Book revisions and copyediting, and Article #5 (on new project)

As you can see, the key to maintaining a succcessful research and writing program is research leave.  It is not possible to reach the standards of productivity expected of young assistant professors in this day and age without leave.  You must prioritize applying for internal and external leave over all other writing in your first and second Fall semesters.  If you are unsuccessful in obtaining external leave within the first two years, speak to your department chair about the possibility of an automatic post-third-year-review leave, or negotiating, minimally, one semester of teaching release.  Do not consider applications for leave time as in any way secondary to the other writing that you do.

As you develop the articles for publication, one of the best and most efficient methods for getting them written and out, is to commit yourself to presenting them at major national conferences in your field. You don’t have to have a 35-page mss. with full citations and bibliography for the conference itself (unless, I’ve learned, you’re in philosophy, in which case you need those just to apply!). The 12-ish page double-spaced “paper” for presentation can suffice. But those 12 pages should be the core of an actual journal submission.  In good time, get that article expanded and submitted.

The early set of articles is tricky because they must build excitement about the coming book, but not reveal its contents.  It’s critical that they be in the highest status journals you can get into, as they establish your voice and authority, and lay the groundwork for the reception of your book.  They also help build credibility for you to get the contract for the book at the best presses.  Note publishers will likely not accept your book for publication if more than 50% of the manuscript has been previously published as articles.  Thus if it’s a 5 chapter book, then two chapters can have been published, but if that number rises to three, then it will be difficult to sell the book project.

The second major project does not have to be in book form for most tenure cases (we do hear of some Ivy Leagues expecting two books for tenure), although it does need to exist in article, conference paper, and grant form.

The second major project needs to show a natural development of the research trajectory that you began with the dissertation/first book, a kind of organic move forward, while still being quite new and original. In other words, deep thematics remain consistent while the topic is clearly distinct.

As you can imagine, a major squeeze happens in Year Four Summer and Year Five, when you must produce refereed journal articles on this new original second project, without any real time to conduct new research. Sometimes the second major project is a product of a certain amount of smoke and mirrors, and some creative thinking about how to conjure up a major project without doing lengthy fieldwork or research, or going overseas.

Thinking ahead about this squeeze, it is good to begin thinking about the second major project while still in your first year on the job. Begin a file for it, start reading some of the literature, and eventually, in year three or so, start presenting papers at panels on the new project. You want to have the core of an idea that is feasible and plausible by Year Four, so that AS SOON AS the book manuscript leaves your desk, you are ready to hit the ground running on two new publishable pieces on the second topic.

In general, plan to submit all of your best work to refereed journals. Chapters in edited collections are significantly lower status in a tenure case (particularly at an R1), and can sink a weak case.

It goes without saying that your tenure case cannot rest, if you are at a research-oriented institution, on an edited collection.

I understand that edited collections can serve for tenure at teaching or lower ranking institutions. However, if you have aspirations to move to a higher ranking institution, then the edited collection will do you little good. And beware—the edited collection takes at least as much time as a monograph, and often more. These are the reasons, as you know from this post, that I advocate just saying no to edited collections until after tenure.

There are countless other considerations in planning a research trajectory, but many of them are too individualized to be discussed in a general post. Readers, if you have some tips, however, please do contribute them in the comments!

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How to Plan Your Research and Writing Trajectory on the Tenure Track — 48 Comments

  1. Great tips. In addition to research leave, you should also be writing regularly. Many people find that writing every day before going into the office is effective. As little as 15 minutes a day can yield results. If you can find 30 minutes to an hour things will keep moving.

    The thing most likely to keep you from finding that time is that your personal expectations of what good teaching look like are way higher than what anyone else realistically expects of you. Teaching will expand to fill the time available. Don’t make that first 30 minutes a day available.

    • thank you, thank you, thank you. I want to repeat this for emphasis: “the thing most likely to keep you from finding that time is that your personal expectations of what good teaching look like are way higher than what anyone else realistically expects of you. ”

      If you cut some serious corners on teaching, it will bring you to about just the right level of what everyone else in the dept is doing, and what is the actual expectation for you.

      And yes, writing is just like exercising. You have to do it every day, even if onlly for 15 min. Just knowing that you DID it makes your day go better, your mental state improved, and your momentum for the next day that much stronger.

      • As a grad-student, with a deliberate overachiever strategy, I agree with the analogy that writing is like exercise, the more you do, on a regular basis, the easier it gets. It’s that first few months (or years) spent building the habits that are the challenge because you will see so few tangible results. One book that makes a convincing case for rigid writing schedules is Paul J. Silvia, How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (Washington: American Psychological Association, 2007). Silvia breaks down the various specious arguments that slow down academic writers and backs up the scheduled writing with various studies that prove that this is, ultimately, the most efficient process. The more you write (and the more regular you are about it) the more ideas you have, the more efficient you get at research, reading, drafting, editing, etc. and the more confidant you get with your own work. This is important because you will need to maintain that enthusiasm when you start getting those rejection letters and heartless referee reports. As Silvia says, the most published authors in your department will also be the most rejected authors, it’s the way the system works but you can’t win if you don’t play (although, the alternative, suggested by The Wire, that if you do not play, you can not loose, also fits, but that’s a different blog entry, isn’t it?).

  2. Good plan. I like your long-term strategising. A lot of us don’t do enough of it!
    However, your timeline seems to assume stepping into a T-T job straight out of the PhD. What about those (such as, ahem, myself) who have been out several years, already have a book, and other publications. I have been given to understand that, should I land a tenure-track job, most of the stuff I already have won’t count for tenure since it was published before arrival. So what advice do you give to those in my situation?

    • Katrina, that is correct. What counts for tenure is only what you produce *while at* the tenure track position. That means that you would need to produce yet another book and set of articles in your time on the new job. Your previous productivity might earn you some “credit toward tenure,” but that is a double-edged sword, because if you have fewer years of probationary period, then you have fewer years in which to get your tt tenure case in shape—ie, the new book and new articles. So credit toward tenure is something to be approached with extreme caution.

      Sorry–it’s depressing news. but it’s true.

    • A followup to the above: you actually need to negotiate all of this at the time of hiring. You can focus in those negotiations on having some of your previous work count toward tenure, and negotiate very precise expectations for productivity while at the tt job, and number of years to do it, but it HAS to be in writing and reaffirmed regularly with your head, or else by the time you actually come up for tenure, any informal understandings will have been forgotten, and you will be judged the same as all other tenure cases.

  3. This blog is incredibly helpful. (I’m not normally found of such cliched superlatives. But it is just so true in this case:) I’m not yet on a TT trajectory (and, hey, may never get there), but this post helps me think about my post-diss “research agenda” in a whole new way. Had I read your post a year back, I would have produced a much better “research goals” answer during a job interview (no job offer). A ton of thanks, Karen.

    • I’m really glad to hear that, ABD! I didn’t really think about it, but yes, this trajectory plan is actually critical from BEFORE you get the job, since it will shape how you answer interview questions!

      I guess I’m just a little shocked at how few people seem to know what I’ve written about here from their own advisors or senior people in their tt program. I would have thought that this was common knowledge. No?

      • In my program, if you are a good enough scholar, then good writing will flow and jobs will happen. Mentoring begins and ends with scholarship quality policing. This gate-keeping approach solidifies grad student’s “merely a student” mentality. We think we are not yet good enough to plan out a whole career in our field. We think that because our profs think that. But one has to get beyond this mentality to land a job, as you so well explained in the post “how not to act like a grad student.” Good advising is plain rare! Hooray to this blog!

      • Yes. People in my graduate program complained that faculty didn’t “professionalize” us well enough but I got all the standard info that is now written in advice books and blogs. I’d heard it before because I’m an academic’s child, but it was also given out in graduate school, a lot, and all sorts of things were done to bring people into the profession, really and truly.

        This is perhaps why I sound so bitter when I listen to that advice, because (a) just because you do those things, doesn’t mean “success,” and (b) most of these things apply only to certain kinds of schools.

        What I think graduate schools should in fact advise about is career in terms of type of school. They don’t know, though, because they only know about their own type of school, or so it seems, and they do not want to even think about the kind of place where in fact many of the PhDs they produce will actually teach.

        I have a panic disorder because of this. I have heard so much, expressed so vehemently, about how things should be and how disastrous it will be if they are not and if I do not do x, y, and z … and I have listened to these statements while observing that I am in situations where x, y and z are really not feasible … and the cognitive dissonance is just too great.

  4. Great advice for someone who lands a TT job at a research I school (and good on ya if you do). The reality is that there are many, many more people who will be hired (hopefully on teh TT) at other types of higher education. No one writes about those positions.
    I admit to procrastinating on writng so I try to do at least one conference paper a year. Forces me to produce something decent that I can work on further.

    On research and the assistant professor…
    The key advice from Karen is “understand the expectations of your institution”. I’ve spent my career at SLACs and now at a directional public universities (SW, SE, NW, NE state). Someone attempting the timetable proposed here won’t be spending the time teaching, advising students, and doing the service work that *really* gets you tenure at those places. Look around you before you “cut corners teaching”. If your department values teaching, you should too. I was told in my first job (a SLAC): “yes, you have to publish something, but you won’t get tenure if your teaching is substandard”. Although faculty with substandard teaching evals usually don’t make it past pre-tenure review at non-research I’s, a good research record might allow someone to squeak through in the hopes that the candidate can still improve. If your pre-tenure committee says, “work on your teaching” (and this is said far more often thant “increase your research productivity”), take it to heart.

    At SLACs and regional public unis, hiding from committee assignments will mean the faculty on the tenure committee won’t know who you are. This is not good at places that still consider themselves a “community.” We, the tenured faculty, will try to protect you from service work,but we can’t ask the adjuncts to do it so you might as well pitch in. Unless the people on the promotion committee have their heads in the sand, they’ll expect it (and your department should discuss the burderns they have placed on you in their letter to the tenure committee).

    The nature of scholarship can also be quite different in the world outside research I. Sure. we celebrate the colleague whose manuscript is accepted by a top journal or university press. However, research published with (often undergraduate) students is just as valued. Tenure committees are often looking for an active scholarly agenda that enriches your teaching rather than sheer volume.

    Don’t rule out presenting at and publishing in state and regional venues. At my school(s), going to the national meeting doesn’t count that much more. The attendants at these meetings tend towards mid-career and senior faculty who are still active scholars but who don’t want the hassle/politics/posturing of the national meetings. Editors are the same. The quality of the papers is quite high although the topics are not as trendy. I can count on careful, thoughtul comments from the discussants/reviewers.

    In sum, at most schools, the party line from the tenure committee still emphasizes research productivity akin to a Research I. The reality is something else entirely. People are awarded tenure all the time with very skimpy publication records. If you want to publish the lights out , there is a place for that, but make sure you know the score before you hide away.

    • Polisciprof, thank you for this! Would you be interested in converting this comment into a guest blog post? I think it would be incredibly helpful to so many of my readers who aren’t at R1s. Please email me at!

      • I have been reading this website for a while and it has been very helpful especially during my job search. Thank to the advice here, on my first year on the market I was offered a TT position at a SLAC and I am very excited about what comes next. Advice here (and most other websites) address the R1 experience. Is there specific advice (like Polisci’s post above) that is geared towards those who are on the tenure track at SLACs?

    • Polisciprof took the words right out of my fingers, so to speak! Everything in this comment is applicable for my SLAC and most other teaching-intensive institutions with which I am familiar.

      Five books won’t get you tenure here if your teaching evals, both student and from dept chair, aren’t good, and we are very much expected to be active members of the campus community in addition to maintaining a research agenda, which is far more modest than the one outlined above.

    • I also want to add another reply to this: At R1s they will talk the talk about “good teaching” but DO NOT BE MISLED!!!! you will never, ever get tenure based on stellar teaching if your publishing record doesn’t look more or less like what I’ve described here. Nobody will say in public or in writing, ‘teaching doesn’t matter and won’t get you tenure,’ but it is true. Proceed with caution.

      • Hey – they say it all the time!!! I’ve been hearing it since forever!!! I heard it in person just the other day!!! Nobody but some undergrads and the general public think you get tenure for “good teaching.” BUT you need decent teaching. You really do. If, for instance, your courses are so bad that students take other ones and yours don’t make, it’s OK if you’re in a large department, you just teach required courses. If you’re in a smaller department and your courses don’t make, it means there won’t be enough upper level courses offered so that students can get through the major in 4 years. So the department will lose majors and you will be a liability they can’t afford to keep around.

        • Here is my other thing about this. I was harangued for the first 30 years of my life about how teaching didn’t count for tenure, and I know it. I’m not that interested in teaching, either, so it seemed fine. But it did make me unduly nervous in graduate school, all the tsk tsk about how you shouldn’t spend time preparing class, but really you needed to do well because you needed to keep funding. Of course I didn’t overspend time, I spent the right amount of time, but I was fearful about any time I spent because I’d been harangued so much about how I shouldn’t, I might flunk my orals if I did a decent job preparing class, etc.

          Then, in professordom, it turned out you were supposed to be super teaching oriented. I still haven’t gotten over the shock.
          I am *still* angry / fearful about preparing class and I procrastinate about it or overdo it, one way or another, because there was so much exhortation and pushing around about it in graduate school. Your advisor just wouldn’t let you go teach your class in peace and then go on to the next thing — you had to hear about how you wasted time teaching your class.

          I do not know who these people are the professors are talking so stridently, about how you should never prepare class, or whether there really are PhDs who imagine they will get tenure at a university for teaching. I seriously think the assistant professor who doesn’t realize it is a straw man and punching bag for the full professor who wants to pontificate.

  5. CONTRARIAN SPEAKS: POLITISCI prof is right. So maybe I’m not such a contrarian after all. I’ve always found expectations for teaching and service to be much higher than I could ever have imagined or was ever advised they would be by senior persons, and that questioning those expectations was what got people the ominous your job is in danger letters. People get dumped at 3d year review for teaching all the time and I’d love to do it at an upcoming tenure review, actually, although I won’t try.

    Right now, for instance, I am teaching 5 courses that have to be good and have great evaluations if I am to be promoted, and writing an external grant in which I am, essentially, begging for library books to be bought in a field that has not been bought for by the library this century. If I get it, the funding will be very much appreciated and will help my unit a lot because we need to show we are bringing in as much external funding for the institution as possible in the current panorama.

    About publishing your dissertation and so on: it’s never hard to find out what tenure expectations are for research. What is hard is to get good advice that actually speaks to your situation. To publish in English in a US university press you have to have a topic that the editors think will sell enough copies. That is not every foreign topic, or every foreign author, especially if you’re in lit and doing a single author study. I wasted a lot of time obeying this advice about how I had to publish my dissertation as a first book, because I would not have time to do anything else and so on. It took a long time until anyone said look, nobody is biting because that book has to be published in Spanish … that author doesn’t have enough English language readers, there isn’t even an authoritative translation. Before that I just had advisors goading me that it might not be good enough, but it was all I had and could do, so I just had to sell it somewhere and sell it in English. VERY unrealistic and destructive.

    About advice to graduate students: professors who give it are professors who have a lot of grad students, and those professors have no idea what most professor jobs are like (how could they? I didn’t since I always studied at R1 type places). What you really have to do is be a good citizen in the Politisci Prof type way, and have the 5 articles and book. 5 articles and book are not a lot nowadays and in my field might correspond more to a “directional” school than an R1, depending on the particular department in that school.

  6. And so if I get it together I will write my own contrarian post but I also have contrarian ideas about service, by the way. How does anyone believe anything was established in universities — by fairies, while they sleep?

  7. OK I am back to hogging this thread (sorry) but I have figured it out.

    What graduate students and assistant professors actually need to know is not that research matters – they know that – but that research and teaching will be played off against each other if for any reason you aren’t liked, aren’t considered sufficient, etc. If you’re liked then much is justified, but if not or if research is borderline then teaching will be used to hang you, or in other situations the converse. This is what really goes on and it is harder to explain that than it is to just tell people research is first.

    Which it is for other reasons — it never fades and always follows you, and that is what I think matters more to say than “it gets you tenure.”

  8. And also: on long term planning: no amount of long term planning can prepare you for the realities of workplaces which do not believe in it / will do what they can to disrupt it. Really, you have to keep goals in mind but go with flow, otherwise you will break down. There is too great a distance between what your R1 professors teach you is right, and between the world you will encounter, which is one they would and do turn their nose up at if they were even capable of seeing it. The problem is that according to them, you must take any TT job and be grateful, but you must also behave in it as you would in their place and produce as though you were. If you don’t, it was because you had “poor time management” (say they).

    I am also really not convinced about the value of making assistant professors cry and having them thank you for it later. Frankly, coming from someone who herself quit a tenured position at an R1 because it was killing their soul, it doesn’t sound like a good strategy for life.

    Again, planning is great but this whole mode you recommend sounds like a straitjacket from before the B.A. forward. In my experience people who do well *at R1s* are actually kinder to themselves and more flexible, willing to change their ideas, willing to deviate from plan when their material demands it. In my own case, trying to do things in the ways you recommend here only led to block: what if your material demands a shift, and you refuse to do that? How in the hell is that scholarship?

    Finally: I wonder whether the graduate students professors make fun of, who don’t believe their tenure case will be decided solely on research, might not be right / know more than the professors. If they’ve gone as undergraduates and/or for the M.A. to the type of place most professors work, they are probably more aware of real working conditions and real tenure requirements than their advisors are. So the advisors make fun of them and shame them for allegedly not knowing what they are doing … but in fact they MAY know.

  9. And again … sorry to sound so crabby in these comments, I know things are really rough in ANTH, we have someone with greater achievements than the rest of us that we can’t get a TT line for and yes, he’s under megastress. There is just something about the tone in all of this — “I’ll make you cry, but you’ll thank me later,” “keep to the straight and narrow, or you’ll come to grief” that I think graduate students already get enough of in their own institutions and that I think contributes directly to the academic atmosphere you yourself describe as “soul killing.”

    • Simon, I do not know of such a website, which is not to say it doesn’t exist! But in terms of being targeted for you in particular, I’d say the best source of info is actually the other faculty in your department, and in affiliated departments. They’ll have had experience with campus, regional and national grants in previous years, and will likely be able to set you on the right track.

  10. I’d love to see this sort of schedule based on needing ~10 articles during this time.

    Does this sound right?

    Year One: Apply for research leave

    Year One Summer: Article #1

    Year Two: Article #2; Apply for research leave

    Year Two Summer: Article #3

    Year Three: Article #4.; Apply for research leave

    Year Three Summer: Article #5 and #6

    Year Four (ideally on post-third year review automatic research leave): Article #7 and #8

    Year Four Summer: Article #9 (on new project); Possible research and fieldwork on new project.

    Year Five: Article #10 (on new project)

  11. This argument that teaching schools value teaching any more than R1s is far off the mark. Look at what they do–not what they say. Nine times out of ten, “teaching schools” are measuring teaching by means of student evaluations. When they tell you to improve your teaching, what they really mean is that you should bring your student evaluation scores up and reduce your complaints.
    The time-honored way of reducing student complaints is to give away grades like candy. Any student who can fog a mirror gets at least a C.
    The way to bring your student evaluation scores up is to be “easy” and “fun”. This means that you should only lecture enough to maintain the impression among students that you are an authority figure. Everything else you do should be “fun”, which means it doesn’t require much thinking.
    And preparing a “fun” and “easy” course is much less work than actually teaching students to think. It’s harder to bullshit in math and science, but teachers in most humanities and social science disciplines can prepare a class in five minutes. Project a video off youtube. Have a discussion about how we feel about the differences between men and women. Bang, you’re done.
    In summary, Dr. Karen was right. Focus on research, even at a teaching school. Publications and supervisory administrative experience will get you another job if your current job goes south. Student evals and committee work count for next to nothing on the job market–even at teaching schools.

    • This is reinforced in the guest post, “Behind the Scenes of a Job Search” –which exposed just how ‘important’ teaching is at so-called teaching schools.

  12. To return to the situation for recent Phds who do not yet have TT jobs, how does the publishing schedule translate for them? I need to have 1-2 articles from my diss published just so that I can be in the running for TT jobs. Assuming that I land a TT job in the next year (any delay will mean further publishing to stay current), do I still publish 3-4 additional articles from my diss? Won’t that scare off publishers who worry that Ive already published too much of my diss? What are my alternatives?

    • What you need is a book, whether or not you have the tt job. So move ahead on the book before getting the job. it’s true that that then ‘shoots your wad’ re the book in terms of tenure, because once you get the job you may well need a new book (it will depend on a) the caliber of the school, and b) what you negotiate with them a tthe time of signing the contract), but that’s what needs to happen to stay alive and current on the market while searching for the tt job, when you’re out of the phd.

  13. Along the same lines as Jyoti’s comment:
    For someone who just graduated and is planning on going on the market for a second year in a row (either with or without a VAP position — obviously with postdocs this is entirely a different scenario), would you recommend pushing forward with producing and submitting publications, or just producing them but holding on to them until at tt job is obtained? I’ve heard two schools of thought on this:
    1) Have an article or two in your back pocket from your non-tt/post-graduation year ready to submit the minute you sign the tt contract so that you get a head start on tenure requirements, and include in your job application materials communications to that effect (manuscript completed, planning to submit to such-and-such journal, etc.)
    2) Submit the article(s) right away to journals when you’ve finished writing them to show that you can produce publishable work and are remaining current in the field.
    Would already having a (strong) publication or two on your CV make a difference in this decision? What if the previous publication(s) is/are from earlier projects, and you have yet to publish anything from your diss. research? In particular I am thinking about these questions from the perspective of someone who is going to be looking for SLAC/teaching-focused positions such as polisciprof described above, rather than R1 positions.

  14. Quick question: what happens when your dissertation fails to be the basis of the first book either because it is really bad or because it has partially been scooped? Is there hope?

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  16. Nuts-and-bolts question: if you are applying each year for research leave, when does this leave occur? Are you meant to be taking a semester off each year for research (which sounds like… a lot), or is this just funding for the summer?

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  19. First of all, love your blog. I think you’ve just talked me out of an edited collection! A couple of post requests if you have time, or I’d love your advice in response if you don’t mind:
    1. I am in the political science/labor studies field. In economics it’s quite common to do your dissertation as three essays rather than a monograph. This cuts down on the word count significantly and means that you have written publishable journal articles sooner than if you do a monograph. But on the other hand I’m not sure if the three essays style is looked down upon when looking for a TT position. Do you recommend this format for a PhD and why or why not?
    2. I am just wondering if you have a research and writing trajectory plan for PhD students? i.e. assuming a five year PhD, what should I have accomplished year by year to put myself in the best position to find a TT position at an R1 university? Do you recommend just focusing on research or should I also aim to win teaching awards, organise a conference or conference panel, edit a journal and so on?
    Thanks in advance for your advice, I hope to see these in a blog post sometime soon.

    • please read my column, Graduate School is a Means to a Job, in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. That’s a 5 year plan for grad students!

      The 3-article dissertation is well regarded in many fields and will not be a problem for you.

  20. This blog is invaluable and I can’t stop recommending it to my peers. TPII has helped me net a TT humanities position at a top tier SLAC and once there, it has been instrumental in my securing 3+ fellowships. For that, Karen, I am truly grateful!
    A word, though, on tenure expectations at the often derisively described “teaching” schools like my Midwestern SLAC: most of the new hires here are from top 5 PhD programs. We were hard-wired for publishing and arrived, in most cases, with articles published during grad school. It’s been difficult even for those of us who truly LOVE undergrad teaching to readjust our expectations in line with a tenure formula that places teaching (well) above research and service very close to both. Like the above poster, I, too, was told upon hiring by the Dean: you can get tenure here without a book. But you will not get it without superior teaching. Not ‘fun’ or ‘easy’ or ‘nothing lower than a b’ teaching, but exemplary, challenging, game-changing, transformative liberal arts teaching. And office hours until the cows come home. I’m still trying to follow your R-1 plan in case I have a shot at moving out of a too-small, scarily un-diverse town. I know you’re focused on R-1s, but I still want to say (for the huge number of us who land elsewhere): at some very good schools, it really isn’t always/chiefly about books and peer-reviewed journals; for TT people like me it is perilous indeed not to realize that and plan/publish/teach accordingly if we want to keep the job we actually got. Thank you. Again!!

  21. Hi, does the institution affiliation mentioned on papers accepted for the publication matter? I graduated last year, and have four forthcoming articles all taken from my dissertation. Since I am currently in the job market, on my articles I mentioned the university that I graduated from as my affiliated institutes. By the time that I will have a job, the articles will be all out. Do the articles help me get tenured or not, since they were published before I get officially hired and another university is mentioned on them? If they don’t, is it wise to ask the journals to postpone their publication? Thank you so much for your help and tips.

  22. Pingback: Weekly Happenings – 21st August 2015 | Tufts University Postdoctoral Association Blog

  23. It’s sad to read these comments as a student. I’m starting to understand why all my fancy professors are such terrible teachers. They are just there to get their golden handcuffs. Might I remind you all that we go to university to learn? To be taught something? I feel for you that you have to get all this writing and research done. But “cutting serious corners in your teaching” is just rude when we are paying 50 grand per year for your “expertise”. I got to this blog because I wanted to understand what all this tenure business is about. Now I understand that tenure is an award for bad behavior.

    • Don’t blame the faculty. It’s the administrators, and behind them (at public institutions), the state legislature, who have steadily de-emphasized the pedagogical mission of the university. The vast majority (76%) of those who teach you are not even on the tenure track (the group this post is about), but are adjuncts who are paid below Walmart wages with no benefits, job security, or often even an office. This is because adminstrators and funders have decided that teaching doesn’t even deserve full-time staffing, but should be shunted off to an impoverished part time population paid so poorly they may well be living on welfare and food stamps. Meanwhile, the small number of remaining tenure track faculty, to protect their jobs, have to conform to institutional values to keep their jobs, and the majority of institutions value research over teaching. It is outrageous. Direct your fury where it belongs–to those who have chosen to reduce our institutions of higher ed to quasi=corporations that only provide lip service to any kind of educational mission for tuition paying undergraduate students.

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