Moving away from one’s dissertation area on the market?

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In our newest “how can we help you?” thread, a reader asks:

I’m a senior grad student finishing up my thesis. I’m finding that there’s not much more to say within my thesis research area, and I’ve also recently found new interest in a different and less studied area of philosophy. Would there be problems when it comes to trying to get a job that I no longer want to work on my original area of specialization and want to switch tracks on to a new topic that would require me to start almost from scratch?

This seems to me like it would be probably be a big mistake for a grad student just heading out on the market. Although I moved into a number of different research areas myself while on the market–and it seemed to help me on the market in due time–it also took me a number of years to do so. I also didn’t give up on my dissertation project, but instead took time to publish articles based on it while publishing in different areas.

My worry is that if the OP simply moves away from their dissertation, they will look they either can’t stick with a project or like their dissertation project was not a fruitful one. Hiring committees want a clear sense of who you are and why you’re likely to publish well (e.g. for tenure, etc.), and for someone coming out of grad school a dissertation is supposed to be a major piece of this picture. Again, I don’t think there would be anything wrong with the OP beginning to branch out into other areas–but abandoning one’s dissertation area for a new area altogether seems to me to be incredibly risky. Then again, if the new research program is super, who knows?

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours?

Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More

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