Thursday, September 20, 2012

the CV and your Social Media/Public Presence

In response to Kristina Killgrove's query on her friend's behalf, I'm happy to report that, in my experience, hiring committees are pleased to see evidence on your CV of "Professional and Public Engagement". These activities don't take the place of refereed publications, but they certainly do add value to your qualifications.

Professional Engagement/Activities refers to your service contributions to the profession, such as reviewing articles for journals, adjudicating grant applications, and election or appointment to offices in professional societies. Contributions to conference organization would fall into this category, too. Even if you're a grad student who is not yet contributing at this level, you should list any service that you provide to your students' association or to the student membership of your professional society. It is a good idea to separate these from public activities on your CV, although both normally would fall under the broad heading of "Service".

In the past, Public Engagement/Activities were limited to public lectures and interviews/stories about you that appeared in local/regional/national/international media (radio, TV, print). But the growth of social media and the reach of the Internet means that there are now far more ways for your research and/or teaching to be recognized. Definitely include these on your CV, but if you didn't author them they don't belong under "publications". You may need to be creative with category headings, but these could be as simple as "Media Interviews" and/or "Media Reports on my Research". You should include the title of the interview/story, and when and where it appeared. "Public Lectures and Presentations" is another useful heading.

Blogs should be treated differently. If you author a regular blog that is aimed at students and/or professionals in your field, I suggest that you provide a separate heading under "publications", titled "Blog Posts". Members of the hiring committee probably are not going to view the blog itself so you should provide a short narrative that describes the title and the nature of the blog (include the URL), along with a list of the last 5 or 10 posts (with titles and the dates that they were posted; call this "examples of recent posts"). If you have an impressive number of followers, include that stat in the narrative.

Even if you have contributed only once to a blog such as ProfHacker or GradHacker, or to other blogs that appear in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, or University Affairs (as examples), be sure to note it under the heading of "Blog Posts" or under a more general heading such as "Outreach Activities".

If you author a personal, rather than professional, blog, it doesn't belong on your CV; nor do "service" contributions that are unrelated to your professional persona. For example, coaching your daughter's soccer team doesn't belong on your CV. (Yes, I've seen this.)

Don't include reference to your Twitter feed in the body of your CV; if you list the URLs for your web site and your blog under your personal information at the top of the CV, you could include your Twitter handle there (but do so only if you tweet/retweet on professional topics; don't include it if you routinely tweet personal stuff).

Most hiring committees will be pleased to see that you take public outreach seriously (and, yes, evidence of outreach does help in tenure review). Just remember that those outreach activities do not take the place of serious scholarship. And here are two final notes of caution: 1) your colleagues may not be even half as impressed with your outreach activities as you are; and 2) do be aware that professional jealousy may rear its ugly head if you are something of a social media celebrity.

Monday, September 17, 2012

More on the job search: Padding your CV

This post is not a structured guide to crafting a CV, but deals with the phenomenon that search committees refer to as “padding” your CV. Padding will not help you get short-listed for a job but it will cause the committee members to roll their eyes.

The most commonly padded category on the CV is the publication record.

Rule of Thumb: Do not make the members of the search committee have to work to figure out your publication record.

Group your publications into, at a minimum, Books and Monographs, Refereed articles and book chapters, and Non-refereed publications. Yes, your publication record might look very slim. Maybe you have no actual publications, but you are not going to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes through obfuscation.

For books/articles/chapters that are “accepted” for publication, you should include the date of acceptance; journal items of this type don’t yet have a DOI or page numbers. Journal articles that are “in press” should have a DOI and an online publication date/year, and “in print” items will have not only the year of publication but also the journal volume and issue numbers and page numbers (you should list these in chronological order by year of publication). If you have a book forthcoming you should indicate the number of manuscript or proof pages, and the number of figures and tables, if applicable, and provide the city and name of the publisher and the date of acceptance. Note that a book “under contract” is not the same thing as “published”.

If you published in a student journal, don’t claim it as a “peer-reviewed” or refereed publication unless the journal truly is refereed and everyone in your discipline knows it. Your paper may, indeed, have been reviewed by your peers (i.e., other students), but that’s not what we mean in academia. Such a paper more properly belongs in the category of “Non-refereed publications”. If the search committee members aren’t familiar with the name of the journal, they will search it out to determine the worth of the publication.

If you have submitted a manuscript but haven’t had a decision from the editor/publisher, an appropriate heading would be “Under review,” and you can include the names of authors, title, page length, and the name of the journal or publisher to which you have submitted the work.

But do not include “work in progress” as Publications. You could have a separate category called “Work in Progress”, but don’t bother to give a full title of the supposed work/s and the notation “To be submitted to Journal X.” Frankly, we won’t give a damn, and, if you list a dozen of these works in progress, “padding” certainly will rear its ugly head. My preference would be for you to forget about listing these works on your CV but to mention briefly in your cover letter that you’re currently working up two papers from your dissertation to submit for publication, say.

Have a separate category for Conference Presentations. Do not include conference presentations (whether podium or poster) as publications. If your conference paper is published in a “proceedings” volume, your paper itself probably was not refereed, but you could check with the volume editor. The proposal for the publication of the proceedings may have been vetted, but this usually depends on the publisher. In any event, for most disciplines a published proceedings paper does not belong with peer-reviewed journal articles. More likely it would belong in the category “Non-refereed publications”.

Except in some science and biomedical disciplines, published abstracts usually don’t count for much, even if they were refereed. But if you have several of them you can have a “Published Abstracts” category and can indicate parenthetically which were refereed. An alternative would be to note that the abstract was published when you list the conference presentation.

More detailed advice on how to craft a CV can be found at

Notes on the academic job search

It’s that time of year when institutions are advertising academic positions, and you may well ask what you need to do to get your application considered seriously. I don’t have the answer, but here I tell you what I think you shouldn’t do. These are, as always, my personal opinions and should never be construed as giving you infallible advice when job hunting. But I have served on academic hiring committees in the US and Canada and these are four issues that have cropped up time and again, and probably have application outside of North America, too. Even if the details don’t pertain to your situation, please do consider the underlying principles.

1) Do not apply for a permanent/tenure-track job if you are not what they say they are looking for.

If the ad is vague enough, then by all means give it a try; it’s likely that the department members couldn’t agree on what they wanted, so they decided to cast the net broadly and you might catch their eye. But if the ad is very specific, do not try to pretzel yourself to fit the position description. You may be telling yourself,  “I could teach that,” and perhaps you could, at the level of a freshman survey course. But you should be asking yourself if you’re sufficiently competent in, and committed to, that subdisciplinary area in order to teach focused senior level seminars and supervise graduate students, and whether you’re willing to change the direction of the research that you’ve spent many years and likely tens of thousands of dollars to pursue. You should also consider whether you’re interested enough in that area to teach it year after year after year after year after year…

2) Do not apply for the job “just for practice”.

You’ll be wasting your time, your letter writers’ time, the time of the admin assistant who has to collate all the applications (which, depending upon the discipline and the attractiveness of the institution’s location, could amount to hundreds), and the time of the members of the hiring committee who will read closely, at a minimum, the cover letter and CV of every applicant. If you want practice putting together an application, giving a job talk, or being interviewed, do it in your own department, with the assistance of your supervisor, other grad students, and the coordinator of your department’s graduate program.

An aside: I oppose totally the idea that a search committee short-list one of their department’s own contract instructors, recent graduates, or ABDs, when the individual is not a serious contender, on the grounds that a) it’ll be good practice for them, and b) it won’t cost us anything to bring them in for an interview. This practice demeans everyone.

3) Do not apply for the job if you’re patently overqualified.

If the ad is for an entry-level assistant professor and you’re a tenured associate professor (you can fill in the equivalents for the UK etc.), there’s no law to prevent you from applying. There are exceptions, but the most common, and valid, reason why over-qualified applicants are dismissed in the first stage of application review is that any Dean or other senior academic administrator who is supervising the search isn't likely to accept a department’s argument that “this person is overqualified but looks fantastic”. You should look good compared to the rest of the applicant pool because you’re not being compared to your peer group! The question that the Dean is likely to ask is, “If this vacancy was advertised as open to applicants at both the Assistant and Associate Professor level, would this person be the best applicant?”

4) Do not apply if you’re ABD and miles away from completing your degree.

If your supervisor cannot write a reference letter that says something along the lines of “I’ve received a complete draft of Nancy’s dissertation and, seeing few shortcomings, I am confident that she will have completed her degree requirements before taking up the position,” then don’t waste everyone’s time. Seriously. The job market today is flooded with applicants who have their PhD in hand, some teaching experience, and peer-reviewed publications. ABDs do get hired, but they're usually special in some way (a targeted hire? a spousal hire?) and typically there is good evidence that they are near to completion. (And in those cases their contract usually will specify that the requirements for the degree must be completed within the first year of the appointment.) It won’t matter when you say you’ll complete; it’ll be what your references say, or don’t say.

There are, undoubtedly, other issues that you should consider before you apply for a job, but the above are the top four on my list.

One issue that has garnered a lot of attention recently is whether you should apply for a job at your own personal “North Dakota”. For discussions of the “North Dakota” problem, see:

Friday, August 31, 2012

How to address your professor or teaching assistant

My rule of thumb: Be courteous, and always err on the side of formality. “Yo” and “Hey” are inappropriate; you and your instructor are not peers.

If your instructor has indicated on the course syllabus that s/he has PhD, then you should address him or her as Dr or Professor. If you don’t know whether s/he has a doctorate, go with “Professor” since that is the person’s role. Whatever you do, always use the same level of formality regardless of the person’s gender. I’m Dr Lovell or Professor Lovell; I don’t answer to Mrs Lovell. Mrs Lovell is my mother. I get especially cranky when I hear you call my male colleague Doctor or Professor So-and-so and then turn around and call me Miss, Ms or Mrs Lovell.

If your instructor says to you in a one-on-one conversation, “Call me Katie,” then by all means, go ahead. But try not to put other students in an awkward position; Katie may know you because you’ve taken three courses from her and she can put your name to your face, but other students may not be in the same situation and might feel uncomfortable with that degree of familiarity. Your peers will probably think you are showing off if Katie hasn’t invited everyone in the class to use her first name. 

Your TA likely will not have a doctorate. Some will have Bachelors or Masters degrees, but some will be senior level undergraduates (this practice varies considerably). The formal form of address would be “Ms” or “Mr”, at least in the first instance, but many TAs prefer to be called by their first name and should tell you this at the first lab or seminar. If your TA happens to be another undergraduate student in your program then Ms or Mr would be unnecessary and probably embarrassing to all concerned.

If you’re going to your instructor’s office hours it helps if you identify yourself when you arrive at their door: “Hi Professor Lovell, I’m Emily Piper and I’m in your introductory anthropology class. I have a question about something you said in lecture this morning.”

Note that specific suggestions are designed for colleges and universities in North America. There is a great deal of diversity among countries, colleges, and departments as to the level of formality that is required. Unfortunately, rarely will anyone actually tell you what the unwritten rules are, and you may have to figure out the system just by watching other professor-student interactions. In any event, you can’t go wrong if you are unfailingly polite. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

On Publishing: What's your affiliation?

A brief note to students who are publishing research results: it's considered proper form to give, as your academic affiliation, the institution to which you were affiliated when you conducted the research. You can then also note your "current address" for communication purposes.

For example, if you're publishing an article based on research you conducted while a Master's student at University of X, your affiliation on the article should be DepartmentX/University of X, even if you're now in the PhD program at Department Y/University of Y. Give credit where it's due. Then, when you're publishing your dissertation results, list your affiliation as University of Y, even if you've moved on to a postdoc at University of Z.

You'll commonly see these different affiliations on the first page of publications, where a footnote or other indicator gives the "current address" or "correspondence to." It can sometimes be difficult to make it clear with online submissions, but you can always clarify in your cover note to the editor. Remember: You don't want to inadvertently offend your supervisor or others involved in your research, which could happen even though you thank them in the acknowledgments. Many institutions/research centres want to be listed with the authors, especially if unique or expensive research infrastructure was involved.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Academic Lingo

Just about everything these days has a special language. You learn the language when you’re studying a particular discipline, training for a job, following a sport, or engaged in some leisure activity. Many of these languages boast TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) that the uninitiated can’t decipher.

This post explains some of the terms that students are likely to come across. Don’t rely on these definitions for official purposes; be sure to check your own institution’s definitions, policies, and procedures.

ABD: All But the Dissertation. A PhD student is ABD when they’ve completed all of their degree requirements except defending their dissertation (i.e., they have been Advanced to Candidacy; see below). Some students never progress beyond this stage, because, of course, they have to WRITE the dissertation before they can defend it.

Bursary: a financial award or grant that usually is based on financial need, rather than academic merit. Bursaries are not the same as scholarships and are not listed on a CV (see below). Some bursaries are targeted at students with a particular background or career interest.

Candidacy: a doctoral student is a PhD Candidate when they’ve been officially Advanced to Candidacy. This process varies by institution, but usually involves a residence requirement, successful completion of course work, and some form of examination. Until a grad student is advanced to candidacy they are simply a grad student, although at some institutions there may be formal categories, like probationary PhD student, or something similar.

Comprehensive exam: some academic departments administer comps (usually to doctoral students) to ensure that the student’s knowledge of their subject area is sufficient for them to advance in the program. Comps may be written or oral. Grad students dread these exams, and most academics were so traumatized by the experience that they can (and often will, with little prompting) recount the details of their comps some 20 or 30 years later.

CV: Curriculum Vitae. An academic resume, the CV lists the facts of an academic’s employment history, courses taught, research grants received, publications, conference presentations, graduate students supervised, administrative service, and other professional and public service. The CV is essential when applying for college and university positions. Typically its format bears little resemblance to the resume that would be used when applying for non-academic jobs.

Defense: the oral examination of a Master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation. A successful defense may require revisions to the written document. Until the final document is approved and any outstanding fees are paid to the university (including library fines, etc.) the student hasn’t actually completed their degree.

Fellowship: a time-limited, merit-based financial award or scholarship. It is more common in the US than in Canada to use the term to refer to payment for some type of work, usually as an intern or for fieldwork, so that a graduate student can enhance their training in their field of interest. Another use of the term refers to the granting to academics of fellowship in a scholarly society.

Graduate program: may refer to a Master’s or a PhD program. In some US institutions, a student is admitted to the graduate program, takes two years of courses and is then subjected to one or more examinations before being advanced to candidacy. If it’s deemed that the student doesn’t have what it takes to go on for a PhD, s/he may be awarded a “terminal” Master’s degree. In almost all universities in Canada, and in many US institutions, a student is admitted first to a Master’s program and must complete course work as well as a research thesis in order to obtain the Master’s degree (normally this takes 2 to 4 years). They may then apply to the same or another institution for the PhD. Some institutions, especially in the UK, offer a “taught” Master’s degree that involves course work only.

Granting agency: A government agency, non-profit organization, or foundation that awards research grants to academics, usually through a competitive process. This is how academics fund their research; the academic’s home institution rarely supports entire research projects, although it may offer some “seed money” to get a research project started, or may be required to provide “matching funds” to complement an external grant. Some agencies offer scholarships or other awards (such as internships) to graduate student and undergraduate researchers. Examples of major granting agencies include the NSF (National Science Foundation), the NIH (National Institutes of Health), and the SSRC (Social Sciences Research Council) in the US; and the SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council), NSERC (National Science and Engineering Research Council) and the CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research) in Canada.

Hard dollars: the money that an academic unit (e.g., department) receives as an allocation from the institution’s operating budget. These dollars are recurring in that they are allocated every year, although there may be budget cuts or increases that change the amount from one year to the next. In most cases, the greatest proportion of a unit’s hard dollar budget goes to the salaries of academic and non-academic (e.g., secretaries) salaries. A much smaller amount will cover telephones, photocopying, and other supplies and services. In most academic units the costs of day-to-day operations of research labs are borne by externally funded research grants, which constitute “soft money.”

Honors/Honours Degree: An undergraduate degree that has wildly different requirements from department to department, institution to institution. Usually a student needs a minimum GPA to be admitted to the program, and normally a research thesis or paper is one of the degree requirements. Whether a Honors/Honours degree will give a student an advantage when applying to a graduate program will depend upon the institution.

Journal: in academic use a journal is a serious, scholarly publication, usually peer-reviewed (see below), that is published on a regular basis (e.g., weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly). Many academic associations have an official journal. Journals are commonly referred to as periodicals or serials in the library. They are not magazines.

Monograph: a scholarly piece of writing, often of book length, that is on a specific subject. Often, but not always, a monograph is published by an academic unit of a college, university, or museum as opposed to a more commercial publisher, and may be one in a series on a particular area of specialization.

Postdoc: This term refers to someone who holds the PhD (or MD, or other doctorate or the equivalent) and is engaged in research or advanced training. Technically, the term Postdoctoral Fellow (PDF) applies only to someone who has received a fellowship, usually through a competitive process. In other cases the more appropriate term is postdoctoral researcher (or some equivalent term).

Peer-review: the process whereby scholarly manuscripts are reviewed by two or three other scholars before the editor/publisher makes a decision to accept, request revisions, or decline to publish the work. Student-run journals, although they may send student-written submissions to other students (i.e., peers) for review, are not classed as peer-reviewed in academia.

Research Ethics Requirement/Research Compliance: requirements that students who intend to engage in research that involves human or animal subjects, radiation, biohazardous materials, etc. present details of their research procedures to an institutional committee for approval before they begin to collect data.

Scholarship: a time-limited financial award that is the outcome of a competitive process and that usually is merit-based. Some scholarships are targeted at students with a particular background or career interest.

Soft money: funds that come from research grants or other time-limited sources and that are not part of an institution’s regular operating funds. Salaries for undergraduate or graduate student research assistants, as well as some types of academic research positions, and the supplies and basic operating costs of labs and various research activities usually are covered by soft money.

TA: teaching assistant. Usually a grad student who is hired for a limited term contract for a specified number of hours to assist in the delivery of a course. This may involve leading seminars, teaching labs, or providing tutorials, and/or marking of exams or papers. In some departments an advanced undergraduate student may serve in this role, particularly if there is no graduate program.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Please don't hesitate to ask a question! Because comments are moderated, your comment comes to my email and I have to click "publish" before it's published, so if you're worried that maybe it's a "stupid" question, just ask me not to publish your identity. Then I won't publish your name, I'll just answer your question in the blog. And no one will ever know.