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During my ongoing academic job search, I'm seeing that some universities require a job market paper as a part of application package. While I read a bit about the meaning of the term, I'm still somewhat confused about it and hope that more experienced people on this site will clarify that.

Question: What exactly is a job market paper? Is this term interpreted differently across disciplines and fields of study (and to what degree)? Is it closer to research statement or writing sample?

Note: my main discipline is information systems (a multi-disciplinary field of study with a focus on management science and other social sciences; in addition, my own current focus is computational social science, complex socio-technical systems and data science) and I do have both research statement and writing sample (a slightly abridged review of literature from my dissertation).

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    From a quick Google search, my first impression is that this so-called job-market paper (JMP) is something specific to the field of economics. I'm not sure if this relates to your fields of interest, though. – Mad Jack Aug 2 '15 at 1:48
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    It seems pretty clear that it's supposed to be a paper, published (or publshable) if possible, so that makes it quite different from a research statement. A dissertation chapter would probably be suitable. But it looks to me like, compared to "writing sample", the emphasis is perhaps more on research content than writing quality. So your literature review, which doesn't represent your original research, may not be a good choice. Then again, I have never seen this term used until now, so I am also just guessing. – Nate Eldredge Aug 2 '15 at 2:37
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    Of course, you can always contact the search committee and ask for clarification about what they are looking for. – Nate Eldredge Aug 2 '15 at 2:41
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    I concur with Nate Eldrege. I think what they're asking for is a writing sample. I also concur that lit reviews make poor writing samples since: (1) they are boring, (2) they don't showcase your own original contribution to your field. Summarizing the state of the art can be a meaningful contribution, but it's just not the kind of thing that impresses search committees. – shane Aug 2 '15 at 15:54
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    I can elaborate on JMPs in econ/b-school hiring more if interested. Generally, a JMP is your best unpublished research paper to date. If you get a flyout you will probably be asked to present the paper. Seminar participants will expect that the paper is in the same condition as any other working paper. I would suggest that you scope out departments' recent jr hires and try to see if they indicate somewhere what their JMPs were. – webelo Aug 3 '15 at 21:06
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Elaboration on Above Comment

In economics and certain business school fields, a major part of junior academic hiring is the job market paper (JMP). The JMP is an original piece of research by the applicant that constitutes their best research to date. It is meant to serve as a signal of the candidate's potential for becoming a good researcher.

Bob Hall makes a number of nice points here, which I will condense and expand upon. Answers to the two questions posed by @Aleksandr Blekh after my comment are in bold below.

  • It should highlight the original contributions of the research.

  • Write "for a wide audience of highly trained economists" (replace "economists" with the appropriate noun).

    • Don't take this the wrong way, JMPs are a great place to showcase one's technical skills.

    • However, think very carefully about who might be on your committee.

    • Hall says to write for JPE or AER. More generally, think of the journal in your field that everybody at least skims through. Write as if you're submitting to them.

  • The JMP need not be published. (See also discussion in penultimate paragraph below.)

    • If you get a flyout you will probably be asked to present the paper at what is essentially a working paper seminar. Participants will not expect that it is complete. You can always substitute out a work in progress but it is far better to have one close-to-publishable paper than one publication and a half-baked paper (this is when all of the faculty who aren't on the committee will see you).

    • People are looking for good ideas, all of the finicky stuff that goes into a publication can be ironed out later (assuming your idea is sound!).

  • Hiring committees will probably only look at your JMP so that is what you should focus your efforts on.

  • Yes, do post your work to repositories where others in the profession will see it. This is probably a good way to gauge whether your paper is ready - are you willing to post it in a semi-official place like arXiv where you can't just take it down and post it back up willy-nilly?

  • For most people the JMP is their first publication. So, yes, do expect to publish the JMP in a traditional journal.

Some concluding notes about why economists bother with this JMP business in the first place (and a method to gauge how much this applies to your situation). Very few economists are coming out of grad school with publications. Ergo, hiring committees can't do the thing where they just scan down the list of previous publications and sum up the prestige (economists - of all people - would if they could). So instead candidates get one shot at wowing committees with their JMPs.

Therefore, if you can already signal to hiring committees that you're awesome (or not) in some other way (i.e. past publications), then the JMP may be something of a formality. This also motivates another reason for not using published work as a JMP: If you already published something in a good journal, the committee can easily incorporate that information into their deliberations. Using another paper gives them a second piece of information to go off of. I would also speculate that using a prior publication might be a negative signal in the sense that it suggests that the candidate is a one-hit wonder (of which there are many).

Best of luck! Let me know if anything needs to be clarified or amended.

  • Wow! I didn't expect this one coming :-). What an excellent answer - clear and comprehensive enough; the explanation of the logic underlying the JMP requirements is an icing on the cake. I greatly appreciate your answer (+1 and accepted) as well as kind words and wishes. Do you have any particular advice on converting dissertation into a JMP? – Aleksandr Blekh Aug 5 '15 at 2:24
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    The link to the hints by Bob Hall is dead but I assume this is meant: faculty.haas.berkeley.edu/lettau/student_tips/… – mts Feb 22 '16 at 15:53

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