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What is a Research Statement?
When asked to provide a research statement, it doesn’t mean you should start thinking about writing a thesis. This only means that you have to submit a document that outlines your plan about the field or area of academic research.
A research statement or a statement of research interests is a critical document for prospective academic scholars. It is common when applying for academic faculty positions and sometimes even for research-reliant positions like being part of a think tank or the government.
If you plan to apply for research grants or studies for funding, a research statement will help communicate your plan by summarizing previous research, current work, and the future direction. It shows the search committee and panel of experts see that you are a serious scholar and assess your academic strengths and capabilities.
Having a research statement also illustrates your ability to obtain funding and provides them with your sense of professional identity and scholarly journey. Unlike an abstract that summarizes a single research study, a research statement contains a summary of your current interest or area of study, describes the direction you plan to pursue, and how the work you do will contribute to the field or industry.
As mentioned, your research statement would include your past, current, and future studies. More than your research agenda, it also shows the search committee which areas you specialize in, your academic knowledge, and your writing ability. Aside from that, this can also be used to assess if you fit with the department’s faculty expertise and align with the institutional goals. It will also make them see the potential of your research to make a significant contribution to your field and/or to win grants.
Goals of a Research Statement
A compelling research statement should be able to accomplish these goals to help its readers know you and understand the work that you do better:
How to Write a Research Statement
It has been said time and time again that research statements should describe prior, current, and future research projects, it’s relevance to the field or sub-field, and goals. But even in its conciseness, you still need to follow a basic structure.
Step 1: Introduction
The first part of your research statement should be the introduction of your research topic and interests in the context of your field of interest. You may adapt a version of your dissertation or thesis examples but use it as a framework set up for your future research. In other words, this is a brief sketch of the main themes and topics of your research as well as how it relates to your field.
Step 2: Summary of Dissertation/Thesis
The second paragraph should provide a piece of more detailed information about your thesis research paper. This paragraph may be similar to the paragraph on the dissertation in your cover letter, but it should contain more details about the methods, the theoretical foundations, and most of all, the core arguments of the project. One of the best strategies to do to keep it short is to condense your abstract or expanding your cover letter and add methods or specific findings/arguments.
Step 3: Contribution to Field and Publications
A part of your research statement must describe the significance of your projects in your field of study. Include past research publications and even future research based on your thesis. You must also specify in which journals you would like to submit your paper or university presses that might be interested to publish the book you would develop. This section can be more than one paragraph long if you want to cover your future publication plans in greater detail, but should not exceed three.
Step 4: Details on the Second Project
The space provided for this section should discuss your second project in greater depth and describe any publications plans, conference talks, study leaves, or grants that are related to the new project and you envision it. Include a topic, methods, a theoretical framework, and a brief statement of its contribution to your field. You should ensure that you allow for a smooth transition between your contribution to the field and your current project. As a scholar, you should be able to relay a sense of cohesion in your writing and demonstrate your capacity to conceptualize innovative research that goes beyond your past projects.
Step 5: Wider Impact of Research Agenda
A broader significance of your work is always welcome especially if it applies to the community development or advancement of technology. Describe what ties your research projects together and the impact that you want to make on your field. Explain why is it valuable and important for your discipline, for the wider scholarly community, and the general public as well. If you’re doing this for a teaching assignment, you should always connect your research statement with your teaching.
Remember, a research statement isn’t a long document. Keep in mind that this is just a guide in writing one so always check with your institution or funding agency if they have a standard guide for writing this type of document.
Questions that Research Statements Should Answer
Another way to think when creating a research statement is to consider whether or not it will be able to answer the following questions:
What do you do?
Without going into so many details, you should describe your accomplishments, your techniques, and how you have contributed to your field of study. This will show your readers that you have the ability and the expertise to be a part of the institution you’re applying for.
Why is your work important?
In a way, this is the purpose statement in the research work that you do. You should discuss why scientists and nonscientists care about your studies and what type of knowledge does it contribute scientifically and societally.
Where is it going in the future?
Don’t forget to write about your next steps. Failing to do so will make your readers think that you’ve reached a wall in your research work. It’s crucial that you have planned out your future work and how you will carry them out in your new role in a new institution like conference presentations or study leaves if needed. You should also ensure that your research plan meets the requirements for tenure in the new institution.
General Guidelines of a Research Statement
The purpose of research statement examples is to show summaries of previous research, current work, and future direction. This piece of academic writing is short and usually submitted along with an application for a job at a new institution or organization or a research funding application.
Draft your Statement Early
When you read about research statements, it might seem like an easy thing to write about, especially in cases where you have already written hundreds of pages worth of research. But it isn’t. You need time to read, review, and reflect on your materials, statements, and documents to really make you stand out from the rest of the applicants.
Drafting your statement early will also give you enough time to tailor it to the institution you are applying for. You must let the hiring committee understand how they can also help you such as the research infrastructures, institutional facilities, and resources, etc. Mentioning their core facilities and resources shows them that you have done your research and this demonstrates the gravity of your desire to join the institution.
Not Too Long
As such, research statements’ length should be kept to a minimum—usually just one to two pages and no longer than three. Because the academic job market is increasingly competitive, the hiring committee typically requires applicants to submit a cover letter and CV. In cases like this, you will need to shorten your research statement further into one to two paragraphs and include them in your cover letter.
It’s Story Telling Time
Your research statement should be able to tell a story. You may use narrative vita, Op-Ed, or detective Story essay formats as long as you are confident that it is persuasive and can convince your audience of the importance of the work that you do. Just make sure that its content follows a logical flow. Adding headings and subheadings can help make your paragraphs read more easily. You can make use of bullets and white spaces too.
Ask for Feedback
Share your research statement with nonexperts to assess its clarity. You can ask your classmates, colleagues, or friends who work outside your field or are experts in other areas to take a look at it and for their feedback. The more feedback that you receive, whether through formal or informal means, the better as it will significantly improve your output.
Lastly, always double-check your work for errors especially after you have written it. Doing this shows the benefit of careful proofreading and feedback from more advanced professionals. Read your output out loud so you have an idea how it sounds like. You may also ask your nonscientist family members or friends to proofread your work in case there are grammar mistakes and typographical errors that you missed.
Should I prepare a longer version of my research statement?
It helps to be prepared. When called for an interview, you may bring with you a longer version of your research statement as they might ask you about the details of your research plans, budget, and equipment needs, among others.
What else should be considered when writing a research statement?
Make sure that your statement is clearly tied together. The relationship between your research topic and its impact on your field and community should be at the forefront and communicated well in your research statement.
How can I show my accomplishments to success in my research statement?
Identify tangible solutions that you found to the research questions that you were trying to answer. Explain how these solutions impact a large audience within and outside your field. Examples such as references to your published findings, conference talks, and other professional involvement can also be included here.
In essence, a research statement or also known as the statement of research interests is a summary of your accomplishments and current work, future direction, and potential impact in the field. It is a condensed version of your hard work. It may seem difficult to do, but if given enough time and attention, this critical document will help you succeed in your application and land the job that you want. If you want to get started in writing your research statement but don’t know how to, browse through our templates. You’ll surely find something that suits your needs.