Friday, December 4, 2009

Post-Defense Dissertation Questions

For how long after your defense can you expect questions directly about your dissertation? Is there a certain amount of elapsed time after which you won't be asked about it anymore? Do the questions merely decrease in frequency or intensity over time? Or do they hang on at a pretty much constant rate as long as you're still looking for your first tenure-track job? What gives?

--Mr. Zero

28 comments:

JuniorTTProf said...

It would seem to me that questions may start with dissertation questions but they will be more interested in your recent research; or where you diss. has lead you presently in your research. This is natural since many of us extend our dissertation into new research avenues that we are actively working on now.

Good question, though, and I'm interested in the ensuing discussion.

Anonymous said...

The two times I've been on a search committee, the opening question was (in short form) 'Please tell us about your research.'

First-timers naturally began by talking about their dissertations. Others naturally began otherwise. It would have been rather weird, and worrying, to hear someone more than, say, two years beyond the defense interpret this as primarily a question about the dissertation. Candidates more than, say, four years beyond the defense naturally didn't mention the dissertation at all.

A general rule: if you're more than a year or two beyond your defense, be prepared to talk about your research project as just that -- your ongoing research project (or projects). Frame your project in terms of papers you've been writing, or a book manuscript, not in terms of your dissertation.

A-158 said...

What Anon 9:04 said.

FWIW, I graduated in Spr 07. I sent my diss abstract out for Dec 06 and 07 job seasons. By 08, I was sending the diss abstract with a new project outline. This year, it's just the new project outline, and a writing sample from the new project, to show that this project is more than a dream I'm having.

Anonymous said...

Random Question:

Do you all read this as a PFO or a notification letter?

"Thank you for applying to the position of assistant professor of philosophy at Coastal Carolina University. The committee will be contacting those people they hope to interview at the APA no later than next week.

We appreciate your interest in our position and wish you the very best in your job search."

Filosofer said...

I read the Coastal Carolina email as a notification. If it's a PFO, it's the worst-written one ever.

I think--and hope!--it's safe to interpret it as "If you don't hear from us sometime next week, well, PFO. But for now you're still under consideration."

Anonymous said...

"Thank you for applying to the position of assistant professor of philosophy at Coastal Carolina University. The committee will be contacting those people they hope to interview at the APA no later than next week.

We appreciate your interest in our position and wish you the very best in your job search."

This is the most passive of passive PFOs ever. It doesn't even say you're no longer being considered.

Anonymous said...

Anon,
11:23. It's not a PFO, but after next week (if you are not called) it will serve as PFO.

On an unrelated note, there are a lot of fucktards that hold tt jobs in philosophy. Given the anxiety associated with the job market does this fact provide comfort (e.g., "oh good, maybe I can get a job, too") or resentment ("I can't believe that there aren't enough jobs to go around and still many jobs have gone to complete morons").

Anonymous said...

I received that PFO from Coastal Carolina and they also called me to schedule an interview. So I don't see it as a PFO at all.

Polacrilex said...

Anon 12:49: As with any other field, the fact that you mention simply reiterates that 'fit' means more than most people would like to admit, and there are many places where morons simply fit in with other morons. I am reminded of this not just by academic departments, but especially by business people. I often wonder: how is it possible that THIS person makes so much money doing something that takes very little skill, education, etc.? I then remember that most people are not hired because of their skill, education, etc., but because they seem harmless to the people hiring them. In other words, they are believed to fit right in.

Anonymous said...

To some of the recent commentators dismissive of those they sneer down their noses as--now what was that deeply reflective term?--"fucktards"? (And I am unaware of any stats supporting the fucktard claim. Thus I question the claimant's rationality. Self-provided disqualification for being a philosopher?) I recently CV interviewed someone who obviously would agree that far too many are hired who do not deserve academic employment. After the connection was closed, the department chair put it succinctly: "What a blowhard." There was no further comment or consideration.

If you think that tangibly communicable geniality and collegiality are not highly treasured along with an expected passion and intellectual prowess in philosophy, then please get ready to get that cabbie license. Not that that attitude carried over there will secure many tips anyway.

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but...

Is the APA fucking serious? There isn't an overflow hotel for the Eastern??!! Know what the rate is to stay at the hotel without the APA discount? $600 per night!!

So the APA says: if you are among those who are trying to book after the APA rooms are sold out...you're fucked! And we knew we'd fuck a bunch of our members because we knew we couldn't get rooms for them all!

Fuck you, APA. You're a steaming pile of shit.

A-onefiftyeight said...

Different Question:

How many job apps did you send out this year vs. last year for the winter job market? (I'm talking pre-spring JFP.)

Last year: 50+
This year: 20

Ben said...

Going back to the original question, or at least something like it, I'd been wondering about my application materials.

I'm currently two years out from finishing my dissertation. In that time I've been teaching and working on publishing stuff related to my thesis and in other areas.

In my current application package, my CV still includes a thesis summary (labelled as such), rather than a more general research statement. OTOH my covering letter includes only a brief mention of my dissertation, with a direction to see my CV for more details, and otherwise focuses on where I want to go next.

Does that seem a defensible division to people out there? Or should I worry that people who only look at the CV won't see that I'm moving on from the thesis?

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:46,
I suspect that you are exactly who "fucktard guy" was talking about.

Let's examine your reasoning.
I'm unaware of a study on x, therefore I question your rationality.
Further conclusion: you are disqualified from being a philosopher.

This is laughable for lots of reasons. For example, why would your being aware of studies bear on anyone else's rationality? Why would a study be required to support this sort of claim at all. Sometimes a great deal of anecdotal evidence is sufficient. Everyone of us in the profession certainly knows tons of people who are extremely unskilled philosophers (not to mention the scores of working philosophers who produce virtually nothing and still get or will get tenure).

Just a thought: are you aware of a study that supports your department chair's claim that your interviewee was a blowhard? If not, don't forget to question the chair's rationality and deem him or her disqualified from being a philosopher.

Anonymous said...

5:46,

"tangibly communicable geniality"
Hysterical! I don't know when I've read a phrase that more loudly screams "I am a fucktard" than that one. That is awesome, thank you.

12:49,

Seriously, I think the answer is that at first it may provide comfort, but once you've gotten four nibbles without landing an actual job (which is the experience of the large majority, I'd say), you will have become enraged at the fact that fucktards are employed as academic philosophers and you are not.

Filosofer said...

Ben, if you're landing interviews in this market, in spite of being TWO YEARS away from finishing, then you are awesome enough that it doesn't matter what the answer to your question is. And if you're not that awesome, then you won't land any interviews in this market because you're two years away from finishing, regardless of how your question is answered.

Anonymous said...

Hotwire.com lists 4-star hotels in the times square/ west midtown area for ~$175 on the nights of the convention. You can probably get cheaper via priceline. The APA should've booked an overflow, but it's not as dire as people are making out here.

Anonymous said...

Filosofer, I think Ben meant he finished two years ago.

Anonymous said...

I am continually amazed at both the number of employed fucktards and the number of outrageously gifted philosophers sadly oppressed and unemployed. They express themselves so well on blog comments. What gives.

I think Anon 5:46's colleague expressed it well. Blowhards.

Seriously though, there is no question that the number of talented philosophers who are unemployed is painfully large. But I think the problem primarily lies in the fact that the pool of qualified applicants for TT jobs is just too big. What you may perceive as substantial differences in talent between yourself and the fucktards are likely not nearly so great (perhaps non-existent) to even the most competent search committees. Some recognition that one may be seriously fallible in assessing both your own abilities and the abilities of others may be in order here.

There are certainly under-qualified philosophy professors, but I doubt they are so common as reasonably inspire such resentment.

Anonymous said...

Ben,
I can't imagine that merely having a dissertation precis (presumably) at the end of your CV will be a liability, given that you've got more stuff in progress (presumably labeled as such, and toward the beginning of the CV), and that you describe further research in your cover letter. It's not something that will look weird at first glance, such that you won't get a second look. It's also not something that actually hides what you're doing now.

Filosofer said...

My bad. Ben, if that sounded snarky, forgive me!

Anonymous said...

If you purchase through Hotwire, or any related site, you get things like this:

"All bookings made on Hotwire are final and cannot be cancelled, refunded, exchanged, transferred, or changed, even for a fee. "

Since interview calls will go out the next couple of weeks, we don't know how many days/nights we'll need to be there, so it'd be crazy to book the hotel for four nights when you can't cancel. But if you book through the Marriott (which you can't do anymore since the APA block is sold you), you can cancel whatever nights you like with a 48 hour notice.

So yes, the APA sucks.

Anonymous said...

I'd second 10:19's comments. I'm often amused how obviously comments on this blog smack of sour grapes. I'm on my second market run this year after failing to land a TT last year, so I certainly feel the pull of self-serving assessments. But I think its important to be humble and recognize that people bring different talents to the table, some of which may not be obvious from a casual assessment. And remember, sometimes the most difficult fucktard to identify is the one in the mirror!

Regarding the hotel fiasco, as people have brought up on this blog: https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=123811098516950918&postID=3543111795063565577 a job seeker could have easily booked a room in advance and canceled later if interviews didn't materialize. But that strikes me as seriously unfair to others who would have missed out on the conference hotel in the interim. Not to mention that strategy could end up landing the APA expensive attrition fees (which they were apparently trying to avoid by not contracting with an overflow hotel). Did the APA give any advance warning that there would be no overflow hotel for this conference? I've never known there not to be one in the past, so would have just assumed there would be one this year. (Thankfully, none of this affects me personally, since I have friends in the city I've been planning on crashing with.)

Anonymous said...

"...if you are among those who are trying to book after the APA rooms are sold out...you're fucked!"

I don't understand how anyone can find themselves without a room for the APA, and therefore "fucked". Every year I go, either to present a paper, to hear papers presented by others, or a couple of times for job interviews, and I've never been without a room.

It just requires a bit of planning. As soon as the APA hotel announcement comes out (October?) I call and make reservations for the 4 days of the conference. You're allowed to cancel up to the day before without any penalty or fee. If I decide not to go for whatever reason, I just call and cancel at the last minute.

Intelligent people (including philosophers)should be able to figure this out! Whining about not having a room is just a failure to plan properly!

Anonymous said...

"But that strikes me as seriously unfair to others who would have missed out on the conference hotel in the interim. Not to mention that strategy could end up landing the APA expensive attrition fees..."

I disagree. I think it is fair to book a room if one thinks they will need it. And the rooms will not be left vacant if cancelled, even at the last minute. Someone will rent it --quite possibly a philosopher who calls at the last minute and would have been told there were no room. The room will probably not go vacant in any case, and the APA will not have to pay for it. If that is mistaken, I'd be interested in hearing it from someone at the APA and I'll consider changing my practice of early-booking.

Anonymous said...

Maybe a better solution to the hotel problem would be to make it a practice to notify candidates about interviews more than two weeks in advance... One ought to acknowledge that the present practice of last minute notification does put the APA in a bit of a bind.

Ben said...

Thanks to those who answered my query. (In case my original post wasn't clear, yes I do mean coming up to two years AFTER finishing my thesis.)

I guess that being back on the market just makes one obsess over every little detail, which probably isn't healthy. I suppose any job where I have a chance, I won't get dismissed just because the last page of my CV is a 'thesis summary' rather than 'research agenda'.

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