Writing a Research Statement

In a 1-3 page (single spaced) document, describe your research in a "programmatic way" - that is, draw a logical line between past research, current research, and future planned research. Your goal is to introduce yourself to your employer as a researcher, and explain what your role in your field has been. Employers also want to get an inside look at your writing ability, ability to communicate research, experience with grant-writing, and contributions to your field.

Do:

  • make sure that your research plan fits with what they're looking for. If they don't specifically mention in the job posting the type of research they want to see, try to align your work with the research already being done at that institution
  • use short bulleted lists where appropriate
  • use section headers, especially to describe distinct research goals
    • just make sure to tie your research goals together in an overall narrative at the end.
  • use "meta-writing" in your introduction (describe the section of the statement to follow)
  • communicate your excitement about your research
    • why is your research important for people outside of your field?
  • include a few background references (just enough to explain the context of your research)
  • highlight your ability to work independently or collaboratively
    • have you mentored students? have you worked as a part of a large team?
    • have you designed your own research project?
  • when talking about future planned research:
    • describe grants that you might want to apply for
    • how will you use the resources at that specific institution?
    • how will you collaborate with existing faculty?

Don't:

  • assume the reader is a scientist in your specific field
  • write a comprehensive literature review

Frequently Asked Questions:

Should I reach out to specific faculty so that I can mention them in my statement?

It doesn't hurt to be able to name specific faculty with whom you plan to collaborate if hired, especially if they have any say in the hiring process. If you don't have the opportunity to do that, you can say something like "I could see myself collaborating with so-and-so on such-and-such project."

What if I helped my PI write a large grant, but I don't appear as a PI or Co-PI?

Don't misrepresent yourself in any way. Mention that you've helped write grants in the past, and have the PI on the grant mention your assistance in a reference letter.

What if I have pictures, tables, or supplementary information I want to include in my research statement?

If it's important, and adds to your research statement, you can include these as an appendix (as part of your overall research statement). But such items will take up room if you try to put it in the actual text of your statement. If you're unsure, ask someone in your field (your PI)