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Career Advice

Presenting scholarly work on your CV

How best to highlight your publishing accomplishments - even when the list is brief


Perhaps no section of your curriculum vitae will cause you as much angst – at least until you reach tenure – as your list of scholarly publications. There is enormous pressure for junior faculty to have the requisite three publications in peer-reviewed journals by the time they hit the market. No easy task, given the growing pressure to complete a PhD within a four-to-five year funding window. Then there are the frustrating waits between submission, acceptance and actual publication, leaving many hopeful young scholars in limbo when it comes to completing their CV.

If you’ve managed to achieve the magic three, congratulations! If, like most mere mortals, you are still frantically trying to finish off the final draft of your dissertation while sending out applications, here are a couple of ways of you can present what you have achieved to ensure you have something listed under the publications section of your CV.

And remember: if you couldn’t write, and didn’t have anything original or at least interesting and insightful to say, you wouldn’t be in a PhD program in the first place. With that heartening thought in mind, how can you harvest what you’ve produced to demonstrate that you can and will be a productive scholar?

Scenario One

Let’s assume you’ve reworked a chapter from your dissertation or a particularly strong paper from your coursework. Until you’ve actually submitted it for publication, my recommendation is to not include it on your CV. You don’t want to look like you’re padding your productivity. However, your supervisor should make reference to the fact you’re working on an interesting publication and express confidence that it’s near submission status in his or her reference letter.

Once the piece has been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, you can list it with a subheading under Publications as follows:

Submitted for Publication
Under Review

Scenario Two

You finally receive the happy news that your work has been accepted for publication, but you don’t have a publication date – simply change the subheading to Accepted for Publication.

Scenario Three

You may have written a book review, a chapter in an anthology or edited a publication. These are not as highly regarded as the magic three, but they are recognized scholarly activities. They also add to your publication section while your more substantial work is under review (or production).

There is some debate on this one. I maintain that once you have a publication – i.e. full bibliographic information – this can be presented in your CV alongside articles actually in print. Others are more dogmatic on this point. You might want to survey your committee for their thoughts, if it’s relevant to your situation.

You can also include pieces written for non-scholarly, but respected publications. These should be separated via sub-headings from your scholarly work.

A reasonable hierarchy of category headings could include the following:

  • Publications
  • Books
  • Peer-Reviewed Articles
  • Under Review
  • Book Chapters
  • Book reviews
  • Editorial
  • Other Publications

List items in reverse chronological order within each sub-heading, following the bibliographic style of your field. Judicious ordering of categories will allow you to emphasize a publication of higher status (e.g. a book chapter) with an earlier publication date than less prestigious but more current pieces.

Some folks want to include conference presentations along with minor publications under a more generalized heading like “Scholarly Activities” instead of having a traditional “Publications” section. My recommendation would be to resort to this only where you have several conference talks, but just one or two minor published pieces such as book reviews or an entry in an encyclopedic type of publication.

Finally, if you haven’t already done so, discuss a publishing strategy with your supervisor – this can go far in reducing publication angst – and make a quick audit of your publication section well ahead of your defence, which can help you determine where to focus your energies as you gear up for the final stretch of your degree.

Carolyn Steele is the career development coordinator at York University.

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