Skip to main content


Showing posts from November, 2005

"Trained for Nothing"

I just finished reading " Trained for Nothing " by Joseph Heathcott, in the Nov/Dec issue of Academe. This is the best article I've read so far on the job crisis in academe, particularly in the humanities. He makes the case that the "guild model" of training graduate students to become future tenured professors is no longer feasible. This is particularly true in the humanities, although the number of tenure lines is drying up in all disciplines. I despair that articles like this are being written by assistant professors and dissertation coaches, and that nothing substantive is being done at the higher levels of administration. How bad does it have to get?

The Job Interview

This week's newsletter is about the job market, in particular the job interview. Here are some further hints gleaned from various web source. Do your homework on the institution interviewing you! This is mentioned too many times to quote sources, and it's just plain common sense. Here are some good general interviewing hints from the Hiatt Career Center at Brandeis (I couldn't resist that name.) Dave Johnson at wrote a column, " Urban Legends of the Job Search ," in which he wrote a good summary of the importance of eye contact and possible cultural differences that could sway interviewers. Eye contact is crucial for interviewers to feel comfortable about you. You are judged by a number of non-verbal elements in an interview, and your ability to communicate with your eyes is one of them. Poor eye contact can result in subconscious decisions about you; the interviewer may decide she can't trust you, or conclude that you are low on energy a

The Academy's Dirty Little Secret

The National Research Council is in the process of revamping how they rate graduate programs. I posted the following comment following an article on this topic in Inside Higher Ed : Great news for current and future graduate students All graduate students should rejoice that ratings of doctoral programs will consider such data as “how students are treated and how they perform, including attrition rates and the time it takes students to complete their degrees.” As a dissertation coach, I get an earful from clients and from readers of my newsletter about mistreatment and neglect by advisors and committee. Poor advising inevitably results in poorer and slower performance by students. As a tenure coach, I hear plenty of the same stories — I have clients who can’t bear to face publishing their dissertation because it brings back memories of their advisor’s treatment of them. Some of the most hair-raising stories come from graduates of the most well-respected programs. The only way for this

A Great Post -- Strategies for Successful Dissertation Completion

Here is an extremely useful post on the Crooked Timber blog by Eszter Hargittai , with helpful additional comments by readers, on Strategies for Successful Dissertation Completion. I added my own comments on how to choose a dissertation advisor. I would also add a small addendum about the reading and literature review stage of your work -- when you are reading, don't just underline or put stars next to great paragraphs. Take the time to do a little free writing about how the article or book you're reading ties in to your planned work, whether you agree with it or not, what questions it brings up, and any other floating thoughts that come to your mind. You'll be so glad later you did this. In addition to this, free write every day, even when you're at the beginning of the process. You'll be surprised later how much of what seems like drivel can be useful in jumpstarting the writing of the final product.

Dissertation Procrastinators Rejoice!

I've just been rereading Thomas H. Benton's piece in the Chronicle (Oct. 14, 2005) on Productive Procrastination . He makes the point that you can get a lot done on other useful tasks when you're procrastinating. I've been putting this tenet to good use. While preparing for a talk (November 17) to the dissertation group at Brown, I've written articles on other subjects, written my newsletter, visited my son at college, chatted with my daughter who's in graduate school, and picked up autumn leaves. Benton offers reassuring advice for those who feel excessively guilty about their procrastinating ways: But fret not. The best advice I ever heard is that life is what we do when we are avoiding something else. There are already too many books chasing too few readers, and, perhaps, the best thing for most us to do is take some time to play with our kids, talk with our students and colleagues, cultivate our gardens, and live well. Inevitably, our best books will be the