Productive in Publishing (guest post by Jason Brennan)


Jason Brennan received his Ph.D. in philosophy in 2007. Since then, he has authored or co-authored seven books, and has two more books currently in progress. He has also written a good number of peer-reviewed articles, reference entries, and pieces for popular consumption. He’s currently Robert J. and Elizabeth Flanagan Family Chair and Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. How is he so prolific? What follows is an outline of advice he presented to graduate students at Georgetown.


Productive in Publishing: Some Advice for Academics, Especially Graduate Students
by Jason Brennan

1. Meta: Make sure you have passion
a. “Publish or perish” is misleading
b. Publishing is not the price of being an academic. It’s the point.
c. Don’t become someone’s disciple or an ideologue. You’ll have more fun and energy if you’re pushing your own view

2. Don’t let the urgent take precedence over the important
a. Write first; prep second; answer emails third
b. Prep less. Don’t let teaching be your excuse
c. Never sacrifice research to get other things done

3. Write every weekday, 20 hours/week
a. Keep a log

4. Earn rewards, then take them
a. Do what it takes to keep yourself refreshed

5. Write, don’t read

6. Write first, edit second

7. Be able to explain yourself to your hairdresser in a way he’d find exciting
a. If you can’t explain yourself in 2 minutes, then referees won’t understand you
b. Write in 12th grade reading level or lower

8. Always have multiple projects at different stages
a. When you get stuck on one, move on to the next
b. Come back with a clear head in a few weeks

9. Have 3 things under review at all times from now until you have tenure

10. Write articles, not term papers

11. Don’t take on an advisor who doesn’t want you to publish
a. That person will kill your career and sleep soundly

12. You don’t work best under pressure
a. At most, you think you do because you don’t work when there is no pressure

13. Once you have a hammer, pound in multiple nails

14. Publishing in grad school is easy because you have people issue spotting for you

15. Book publishing is a catch-22

16. Read stuff other than philosophy
a. Philosophers often rely on mistaken assumptions about other fields; easy to spot once you know other fields, and then you have
an opening for new work

17. Don’t write like a grad student
a. Good writing: 2 pages of lit review, 28 pages of new ideas, not other way around

18. Read your papers out loud. Rewrite until they sound good.

19. Page 1 has to sell the paper

20. A good dissertation is a done dissertation and a done dissertation is a good dissertation

21. For our last job, we got 520 applications. I threw out all applications without good publications.

Jeremy May, ring made from the pages of a book

Jeremy May, ring made from the pages of a book

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