Information you will find here
- The purpose of a research statement
- Timeline/getting started with your research statement
- Research statement samples
- Additional research statement resources
- How Career Services can help you
The main goal of a research statement is to walk the search committee through the evolution of your research, to highlight your research accomplishments, and to show where your research will be taking you next. To a certain extent, the next steps that you identify within your statement will also need to touch on how your research could benefit the institution to which you are applying. This might be in terms of grant money, faculty collaborations, involving students in your research, or developing new courses. Your CV will usually show a search committee where you have done your research, who your mentors have been, the titles of your various research projects, a list of your papers, and it may provide a very brief summary of what some of this research involves. However, there can be certain points of interest that a CV may not always address in enough detail.
|While you may not have a good sense of where your research will ultimately lead you, you should have a sense of some of the possible destinations along the way. You want to be able to show a search committee that your research is moving forward and that you are moving forward along with it in terms of developing new skills and knowledge. Ultimately, your research statement should complement your cover letter, CV, and teaching philosophy to illustrate what makes you an ideal candidate for the job. The more clearly you can articulate the path your research has taken, and where it will take you in the future, the more convincing and interesting it will be to read.|
NOTE: Separate research statements are usually requested from researchers in engineering, social, physical, and life sciences, but can also be requested for researchers in the humanities. In many cases, however, the same information that is covered in the research statement is often integrated into the cover letter for many disciplines within the humanities and no separate research statement is requested within the job advertisement. Seek advice from current faculty and new hires about the conventions of your discipline if you are in doubt.
You can think of a research statement as having three distinct parts. The first part will focus on your past research, and can include the reasons you started your research, an explanation as to why the questions you originally asked are important in your field, and a summary some of the work you did to answer some of these early questions.
The middle part of the research statement focuses on your current research. How is this research different from previous work you have done, and what brought you to where you are today? You should still explain the questions you are trying to ask, and it is very important that you focus on some of the findings that you have (and cite some of the publications associated with these findings). In other words, do not talk about your research in abstract terms, make sure that you explain your actual results and findings (even if these may not be entirely complete when you are applying for faculty positions), and mention why these results are significant.
Example of what not to do
The final part of your research statement should build on the first two parts. Yes, you have asked good questions, and used good methods to find some answers, but how will you now use this foundation to take you into your future? Since you are hoping that your future will be at one of the institutions to which you are applying, you should provide some convincing reasons why your future research will be possible at each institution, and why it will be beneficial to that institution, or to the students at that institution.
The best time to write your research statement is when you have some tangible results that you can focus on. However, even if you do not yet have significant findings, you can still talk about the importance of the questions you have asked, or the methods you are using to find answers, especially if you are using novel or cross-disciplinary approaches. And you may only be able to write a convincing "future research" question when you know where you will be applying, as you will need to tailor what you write for each institution (see example of what not to do).
While you are focusing on the past, present, and future or your research, and tailoring it to each institution, you should also think about the length of your statement and how detailed or specific you make the descriptions of your research. Think about who will be reading it. Will they all understand the jargon you are using? Are they experts in the subject, or experts in a range of related subjects? Can you go into very specific detail, or do you need to talk about your research in broader terms that make sense to people outside of your research field focusing on the common ground that might exist? Additionally, you should make sure that your future research plans differ from those of your PI or advisor, as you need to be seen as an independent researcher. Identify 4-5 specific aims that can be divided into short-term and long-term goals. You can give some idea of a 5-year research plan that includes the studies you want to perform, but also mention your long-term plans, so that the search committee knows that this is not a finite project.
Another important consideration when writing about your research is realizing that you do not perform research in a vacuum. When doing your research you may have worked within a team environment at some point, or sought out specific collaborations. You may have faced some serious challenges that required some creative problem-solving to overcome. While these aspects are not necessarily as important as your results and your papers or patents, they can help paint a picture of you as a well-rounded researcher who is likely to be successful in the future even if new problems arise, for example.
Follow these general steps to begin developing an effective research statement:
|The samples provided below do not represent perfect examples of research statements, these are unique documents, and there is no absolute right or wrong way to create them. These samples are provided to help you see how others have talked about their research so that you can understand the range of different approaches that can be taken. As you review these samples, ask yourself which ones you find more convincing, and try to identify the successful approaches taken that you might also be able to use. You should then review the additional resources section below to gain a more detailed understanding of what you should be thinking about when writing your own research statement.|
The Academic Job Search Handbook contains research statements from a variety of disciplines that were successfully used by candidates applying for academic jobs. This book is available for purchase at Career Services for $10.
NOTE: Some of these samples represent general research statements that are not being used in specific job applications, and so you may notice the absence of attempts to tailor the statements to specific universities and institutions. You will be able to find additional research statement samples online.
Many of these resources provide a structured approach to developing and revising research statements, as well as additional samples that you can review. You will see that there are some general similarities across these resources in terms of what is recommended. You may also notice that the research statements for certain subjects and disciplines have unique attributes (e.g., graphs, images). If you are in doubt about what your research statement should look like, then seek advice from current faculty in your department/school.
You can make an appointment to meet with a career advisor at any time, but you will find it more helpful if you have a draft version of your research statement (even if it is just a rough draft) to get the most useful feedback. To make an appointment, call 215-898-7530. Email your materials to the advisor you will be meeting with before your appointment so that he or she can review them if there is time. You can also drop in during scheduled walk-in periods. However, given the length of academic job application materials such as research statement, these 15-minute slots may not be long enough for you to get a complete review of your documents.
Take a look at our calendar of events to see if we have any workshops or panel discussions that might be helpful. Take every opportunity to network with our speakers. Remember, the more you know about an academic institution, what they do and how they do it, the easier it will be to write more effective application materials.