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Writing Research Statements

In many ways, the research statement is the easiest of the materials you will put together for an academic job application, because you have spent years thinking about your research and working on your dissertation or thesis project, and you have probably created an abstract of this major project at some point along the way.  The goal now is to bring all of this information together in a cogent, succinct, and forward-looking discussion of your research activity.

Below you will find some tips for writing an effective research statement:

  • After a brief introduction outlining your general research interests, you should move directly into a discussion of your dissertation or thesis project.  Spend a few paragraphs outlining the core of your argument and, most importantly, the contribution your work makes to the larger conversation in your field.  Most people can speak fluently about their dissertations, but showing that you understand the contours of your discipline can set you apart from other candidates.
  • You need to talk about more than just your dissertation, though.  You should mention some of your other publications and how they fit into your research agenda.  More than this, though, you should also spend some time describing your future research plans and goals.  Search committees will want to see that you have a road map for the early part of your career as a faculty member and researcher, so it is vital that you can write with specificity about the work to which you will turn over the next few years.
  • As with your teaching philosophy, you need to be specific and avoid jargon.  Avoiding jargon is especially important here because there may be members of the search committee who are not experts in your field.  You will need to convey the essence of your research as clearly as possible.  Think of it as a teaching activity, which–in fact–it is.
  • Two pages is probably the maximum for a research statement.  Going over two pages implies that you lack focus.

Resources (including sample statements):

From Cornell University’s Graduate School:  “Research Statements.”

From the University of Washington’s Career Center:  “Academic Careers — Research Statements” (PDF).