Now that I’m an old tenured woman…
My department is the kind where you can either write a book and a few articles before tenure or you can write a bunch of high quality articles. I chose the article route. I never really considered the book route because my sub-field’s conversations mainly occur in journals. (It is true that my dissertation director does have a book, but only one! My senior book route colleagues here all have multiple books.)
So far during my time here, all of my colleagues doing the article route have made tenure. Only one choosing the book route has made tenure, and he had two books, went up early, and eventually got hired away at triple my salary.
This whole process was mysterious to me until I got tenure and got to sit in on my first 40 minutes of a committee meeting about when a book should count, and how my senior colleagues are worried about our assistant professors choosing the book route given their current progress.
I recently overheard one of our first years talking about how ze hadn’t gotten much research done, and one of our second years said, yeah, ze thinks that’s normal. But at the committee meeting, they were worried about the second year’s lack of productivity.
Anyway, the next time I saw the first year, I did that horrible thing and asked hir how the book was coming. Ze said ze’d taken the semester off from it. There was so much other research that ze wants to work on besides the dissertation and the book. Ze was thoroughly sick of the book. And I can totally relate to that. I wrote two articles that were completely different from my job market paper when I got out. Nothing at all to do with my dissertation. But… I also got my dissertation articles out to journals, as much as I hated them. I wanted them done and gone more than I wanted to not work on them. Since then, I’ve rediscovered what made me like my dissertation topic in the first place.
My senior colleagues tell me that leaving the book alone is dangerous. That dissertation must be turned around quickly. The book makes a scholar’s name in the field just as articles do for those of us who do the article route.
So I told my junior colleague, I think they expect you to have a book draft by the end of your second year. You need to work on that.
I felt bad for being so out like that, when my colleague had stopped by to discuss baked goods. Ze had kind of settled into my office before I asked about the book, and left a bit abruptly. I hope because ze felt like ze had work to do and not because I’m a buzz-kill.
I wanted to lend hir my copy of Boice, but I loaned that to my junior colleague in my own sub-field (another article route person) who I’ve felt more competent to mentor, and ze still has it.
So, lots of questions for academics.
Do you think it’s a good idea to take a break from the dissertation topic before you’ve gotten your main publications from it (the thought being you attack it with renewed interest when you return)? Do you think you can get research done your first year on the job? When does a book “count” (contract? proofs? reviews?)? When should a book be done by in order for it to count for tenure? What advice do you have for junior faculty expected to write a book?