Preparing Research statement

I am not trying to say the statement of teaching philosophy is not important. When it comes to application package for Research University, teaching philosophy is the last thing the judge committees look at and sometimes is not even considered as criteria for judging. So, I was thinking how I can be prepared and make my application stronger for research university and what other statement that I should learn about. I found two websites that have very useful information for how to write research statement: Career Services at University of Pennsylvania and Career Services at Cornell University Graduate School. The former is sharing step by step instruction and the latter is well organized with bullet points.

According to the definition from Cornell University, the Research Statement (or Statement of Research Interests) is a common component of academic job applications. It is a summary of your research accomplishments, current work, and future direction and potential of your work.

It seems like the research statement can extend to 3 to 4 pages length including citations. Typically, it is 2-3 pages in length, but it is also a good tip to prepare a longer version 5 to 15 pages that can be brought to the interview- this can depend on the institution and your discipline traditions. When you write the statement, you need to think about how you can explain details and supporting evidence/idea in the interview and prepare for the questions, which can arise from your statement.

The statement can discuss specific issues such as:

  • funding history and potential
  • requirements for laboratory equipment and space and other resources
  • potential research and industrial collaborations
  • how your research contributes to your field
  • future direction of your research

Research Statements can be weakened by:

  • overly ambitious proposals
  • lack of clear direction
  • lack of big-picture focus
  • inadequate attention to the needs and facilities of the department or position

You should avoid using jargon but it should be technical. It should be intelligible to all members of department, including those in your discipline and also outside your sub-discipline. And it is important to show “big picture”.

Both webpage suggests learning and researching more about the institution you apply for. Does it fit well to conduct your research? What equipment and resources that is required for your research? One of unfortunate stories Penn shares is that a candidate in biology department had a strong application but once the committees reviewed his research statement, they very quickly added his application to the reject pile. It was because his work requires a primate colony to complete most of this research but the university did not have a primate colony and would not be able to afford to set one up.

4 thoughts on “Preparing Research statement”

  1. Good info. I wonder how common it is for an institution to require both a research and teaching statement. Or is it usually an either/or situation?

  2. Thanks for adding this! I think it is very important to address this document as well, since many of us will still be doing research as educators. I’ve never particularly thought about writing a statement on my research at this point in my career, and it may be one of those cases where you absolutely must tailor the document to your desired institution. Good to know what will weaken the statement and what should be included overall when I start to look!

  3. I agree, I work in a lab that is very research oriented and therefore I’ve never even heard about the teaching philosophy till this class.

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