Feedback on Graduate Students’ Work

When I was in graduate school, I remember how hard it was to get good feedback on my dissertation work.  My advisor was great, but it was difficult to get feedback from others.  I tried to send my work to other experts outside my department, and some of them were helpful.  But for the most part, I had to work on my own.

Has anyone found a successful strategy for getting high quality feedback on their work while in graduate school?

Perhaps the web could be used to connect graduate students working in a certain area with philosophers who work in that area and might give them good feedback.  For instance, I would be interested in knowing if any graduate students are working on the topics on which I do research (computation, computational theories of mind, concepts, first-person data), and I’d be happy to read and comment on their stuff.

Perhaps we could try an experiment here and see if any graduate students are looking for feedback, and if any outside faculty are prepared to offer it.  If you are a graduate student working in philosophy of mind, psychology, or neuroscience, you are welcome to post a comment on what you are working on and whether you are interested in feedback.  If you can post a link to where your work may be found online, it would be even better.


  1. When I was a grad student, I tended to get the best feedback response when my advisor (or whichever faculty member I was working with on a given project) sent my paper out to her/his colleagues. Depending on your advisor, it may be a bit tricky to ask her or him to do this — but I would imagine faculty members take a paper more seriously that is sent along by a fellow faculty member instead of a grad student.

    I would offer my, er, services here, but I don’t work in any of the 3 areas Gualtiero mentioned.

  2. Two strategies that worked for me:

    1. Present a paper at a conference where someone you are criticising will be present (either a reply to someone, or a standalone paper which is in part motivated by criticisms of rival views).

    2. Write a book review of someone whose work is an influence on you.

    The common element is obviously a concern for and engagement with the work of the person you will be asking to read your material. It’s far more attractive a proposition for a professor to consider a paper that directly engages with one of theirs, rather than yet one more paper vaguely in their area (they can already find any number of those in the journals, and those have at least been partly vetted by others for quality).

  3. Tony Dardis

    Get a grad student meeting together at which you present your own work. We called these “chats”. At least one of the chapters of my dissertation came pretty directly out of a presentation for my grad school peers.

  4. Holly Andersen

    Excellent idea. My committee members have been extremely helpful so far, but more feedback is always appreciated. However, the dissertation chapters are not yet in shape to send out for comments/post online. Gualtiero, in a couple months I would like to send you some things to read that address your microscope metaphor for use of first person reports, if that’s okay.

  5. Edoardo

    Hi, I am a graduate student (an old one: I’m 34) looking for some feedback! I wrote a thesis in french about the naturalisation of the concept “style of thought/philosophical style”. My starting point is Sperber&Wilson Relevance Theory. My theoretical frame is the evolutionary psychology and the Massive Modularity Hypothesis. I mostly read authors like Dans Sperber, Jerry Fodor, Pierre Jacob, Ray Jackendoff, Stephen Stich, Steven Pinker, Ronald De Sousa and Peter Carruthers.
    As I said, my thesis is written in french: nevertheless, perhaps someone could read few parts of it? It would be important for me, because I’m quite without feedback at all: my director is a wittgensteinian who does’nt like my work and she don’t want engage herself to discuss subjects like computational theories of mind or naturalisation of intentionality.
    I’ll can make you read some parts of my text since next january.
    So is there anyone interested to read me? I repeat: it’s all in french…
    Thank’you anyway Gualtiero: your idea (feedback for grads) is great!

  6. gualtiero piccinini

    I can take a look but I don’t know if I’ll get very far with the French.  I would recommend writing philosophy only in English, so that everyone else can at least read it if they want to.  You might want to translate at least the most original aspects of your dissertation and submit them to conferences.

  7. anna-mari

    First of all I have to say that I´ve been extremely lucky. Especially Petri – my beloved supervisor – has done a really good job, since he has created a perfect environment for his PhD-students. None of us has to work “alone”. We have meetings on the regular basis, and it is… just great.

    To Edoardo; I cannot speak French, but if you could summarize your main arguments/points in English and send them either to Brains or directly to me, I´d be happy to discuss about them. (I´ve written something about the massive modularity-hypothesis and the evolutionary psychology (in Finnish) in the context of cognitive sciences.)

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