VI. Writing the Research Statement: How and Why You Research What You Do
Feb 27, 2012 by Caroline Eisner
For many academic jobs, not only do candidates need to include a teaching statement in their portfolio, but more and more, candidates also need to include a research statement. This statement offers the opportunity for you to provide more information than what is stated in your CV, course list, and publishing record.
The research statement needs to be short and robust. Most research statements are around two pages, unless directed to be longer. In this short space, you need to be as concise and convincing as possible. A strong two-page statement, in the end, will be more forceful than a rambling five-page statement.
Fortunately, most research statements can follow a fairly specific template that allows you to include the novelty and impact of your research plans. Your goal is to set yourself apart. This document is about you: who you are as a researcher, what interests you, where you see your research moving in the future, what your accomplishments are and how they propel you towards new goals.
The template, below, is adapted from http://cll.stanford.edu/~willb/research_statement.php:
- Introduce yourself by defining your research agenda. Identify and take a stance on your primary research question and its merit. Show the reviewer that you are ready to take on the challenge of independent research and that you have a strong foundation for research as evidenced by your knowledge of the core scholarly publications in your discipline as well as the creativity, passion, and drive to take on the cutting-edge research you propose. Convince your reader that your accomplishments ideally suit you to carry out the proposed research. Don’t be shy: use personal pronouns such as “I” and “my.” This document, like your teaching statement, is by you and about you. Throughout, make connections. Whenever possible, acknowledge how your work complements the research already happening at the institution where you are applying, or would benefit from collaborations with members of the institution. The point is to make clear that you know the institution, department, and faculty where you are applying.
- State your current focus. What's the big unaddressed problem? Why hasn’t it been addressed? How will you address this problem? What approach will you take? Think about how to describe your research in a sophisticated manner, according to the Big Problem + Challenge + Approach. The details of this paragraph depend on how familiar your problem is. If you have multiple projects underway, identify each using the same general approach.
- Explain the importance of your research interests to academics inside (and outside) your field. What would success in your field facilitate? What is novel and exciting about your past and future research? Convey what counts as success in your current and subsequent research. Indicate grants you have received, collaborations you have created, and research that has been published.
- Summarize your research goals and projects and provide a trajectory that includes a plan based on academic years.
After reading your statement, your readers should be able to summarize the following points:
- Your ability to succeed based on your prior successes and research agenda.
- What you have been working on recently and currently, in what direction you hope to go, and how your research contributes to your field.
- Your short- and long-term goals, your areas of specialty, potential to get grants, academic ability, and compatibility with the department or school.
Without a doubt, make clear to your readers that you can carry out research, in the discipline area you propose, given the resources that are and will be available to you, and based on your academic record to date.
Once you are satisfied with the content of your research statement, review the document to make sure that you avoid jargon. Remember those who read your statement may not be experts in your particular research area. Also, avoid fancy formatting and make sure that the document has no grammatical and mechanical errors.
As is true with other components of the ePortfolio, ask others to read your Research Statement for content, clarity, conciseness, and correctness.