Academic job market; writing sample question
December 3, 2017 8:06 PM   Subscribe

Hypothetically speaking: if my friend Fred is on the academic job market in the humanities, and he is asked very nicely to furnish writing samples on extremely short notice, and he doesn't quite have everything together...what would you do if you were Fred?

Let's say Fred was asked for three samples in two days. Fred has two of them locked and loaded, but wasn't expecting to need three (job ad said nothing!). Fred has been and is still traveling for various personal and professional reasons (it's conference season after all), and so he's a little behind on the project of dissertation revision. Fred did not feel like he is in a position to bargain for time, and agreed to the deadline. Stupid Fred.

Fred has a chapter that he's proud of. The content is good, and the quality of writing received high praise. Fred was in the middle of doing some serious restructuring, though, before he left for conferences. Fred has also been pretty sloppy with citations and placeholders and "note to self"-- his committee doesn't mind and encouraged him to leave that level of editing to the end of the whole dissertation process. So the chapter is good; the craftsmanship is really not. Stupid Fred.

Shoud Fred:
1) clean up as much as possible and just send it and don't say a thing
2) clean as much as possible, and send an explanation about where he is with the chapter
3) Send a cleaned up, polished conference paper based on the chapter...even though he's explicitly asked to send a chapter?
4) something else-- do tell!

I'm especially interested in hearing perspectives from those who's been on either side of the academic job market. I'm grateful for your wisdom and advice in advance.
posted by redwaterman to Work & Money (7 answers total)
 
I've been on search committees. I'd vote 2 with the caveat - don't explain much though. Excuses will look bad. Just a plain sentence about this being a work in progress diss chapter. Just fix the notes to self and placeholders.

At least in my field, it is typical for the advisor to tell a search committee how the dissertation is progressing. The committee knows he is ABD.
posted by k8t at 8:37 PM on December 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


I have also been on search committees—and I'd say that #2 is probably the way to go, and yes, don't apologize or over-explain. And I'd also say that in some ways, notes to self in the footnotes can be an opportunity: Fred doesn't have time to write the missing sections, but he can describe what he intends to do in a "note to self" in the footnotes or in the body of the text (maybe set off by single spacing, to differentiate it from the double-spacing in the text). E.g., in a footnote: "Insert here: discussion of theorist X, theorist Y, theorist Z's critique of the existing historiography on the history of underwater basket weaving; bring in gendered dimension with critics A and B; compare to anthropological approach with scholars C and D." I'd say that Fred can clean up the text, but it's not a bad idea to signal directions he plans to take it or questions he hasn't yet addressed but has on his radar.
posted by pleasant_confusion at 9:27 PM on December 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


I’ve been on both sides. I vote #1 or 2 (with a very terse note that simply says it is a draft). Something else to consider: if the committee has specifically asked for a chapter, they have probably done so to gauge how far along Fred is in his dissertation. So he really should send a chapter, and they will understand if it isn’t polished.
posted by googly at 10:09 PM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


As a former committee member and chair: #1 or #2. I agree with k8t that there is no need to be apologetic in your very brief explanation.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:26 AM on December 4, 2017


Likewise experience on both sides. 1 or 2. Just be honest.
posted by spitbull at 5:32 AM on December 4, 2017


4. Only send the two that are polished. Sending something incomplete is a 'tell' that Fred is not as ready as he could be to start a faculty job, and may be slower than expected on progress once he's there because he has yet to finish this stuff.
posted by Dashy at 6:24 AM on December 4, 2017


I would also do 1 or 2 (possibly including a link to the polished conference paper corresponding to the chapter). Both of sending something not final or not sending something at all are tells that Fred may not be quite ready to start a faculty job (and I don't see a way around sending such a tell given the constraints), but not sending something at all when they've explicitly requested a chapter is worse in my opinion.
posted by advil at 6:33 AM on December 4, 2017


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