What makes a "good" research statement varies by discipline, but it should always provide a clear picture of your research interests, your background, and your plans. Organize your statement around your research experiences. Avoid a strictly chronological presentation of your research. Instead, offer an explanation of relevant experiences (Honors project, graduate research, coursework, funded projects, etc.) that have shaped your interests. This will allow you to reveal your intellectual development and the way you think, the perspective you bring to the discipline, and your dedication to working in the proposed field of study. It will also show whether your expectations about your proposed work are realistic and whether you’re likely to make a contribution to the field. You may want to consider including some of the following:
- Subfields within your discipline that interest you most and how they interrelate, problems with which you’re concerned as a person and as a future professional, and theoretical and methodological approaches that interest you most.
- Relevant experience, courses in your discipline and related to your discipline, papers written (hypotheses, data, theory, and method used), relevant research assistantships, jobs, and internships.
- A description of how your interests fit with the particular school to which you’re applying or that match particular strengths of the program, faculty research interests, or unique facilities.
- Any idiosyncrasies in your record, such as change of fields, inconsistencies, and weak spots in your transcript.
A research statement should be succinct and relevant to your research agenda. Keep your statement brief (usually three single spaced pages) and proofread it. Make sure that there is not a single punctuation or grammatical error in it. Also, have several good writers (including several who are graduate students or professors) look over your statement for you; be open to their suggestions.
Remember: a research statement is an argument for your current research skills, experience and ability to manage your research agenda. It is not a CV. It’s an essential part of selling yourself as a professional, but it also reflects your trustworthiness and capability as a researcher. A research statement gives you the opportunity to tell the reader about yourself in prose as opposed to a list of achievements.
Use the questions below to draft your research statement:
- What is your research focus? How/why did you choose this area of research?
- What were your early research projects?What are the research traditions, philosophies, and methodologies of this research focus?
- Why should we care about your research? What is the focus of your most recent research? How does this research relate to where you’ve been and where you’re going?
- How does your research interest dovetail with the work being done by individuals in our department? Does it add value to the overall departmental research goals?
- What is novel and exciting about your past/current/future research?
- What is the problem’s relevance to your field? What is its importance to scientists outside your field?
- In what directions do you hope to take this research?What are your specific research goals for the next 3-5 years?
- Explain how your future work facilitates long-term research directions. Are there particular funding agencies that might be interested in your research?