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early career

Interesting that there are no comments on this yet. For me, the research statement is one of the trickier documents to write, and so I'd be interested to hear from folks on this. At the same time, maybe the fact that no one has anything to say might tell us something about the superfluity of this document.

What is its purpose? Why is it necessary? If my Cover Letter and CV already tell you what I'm up to, and you receive a writing sample, why do you need to read a research statement as well?

Heading into my third go round on the market (currently in a longer term VAP), I have to say that in my experience it is really only elite R1s and SLACs that ask for the research statement, and my guess is it is because they (for whatever reason) want to see some kind of promise in candidates that isn't already on their CV. That, or they want to be wowed by the sound of some future research project (that might never come to pass, but doesn't it sound good?!)

anonymous associate professor

@early career I think the research statement is maybe the most valuable part of an application in terms of conveying information about fit, methodology, approach, future interest, and just one's general research program. I think they are so valuable! It's less about being "wowed" (though that does matter (I'm at an R1, though not a super fancy one)), and more about just getting more information about how someone sees their work fitting together, what fundamentally drives them, what questions excite them, where they want to go next, and what kinds of methodological commitments they have that might not be totally obvious from reading just one paper.

I also think they can sometimes give you a hint about whether someone is really dependent on faculty/mentors if they are still in or near grad school. Just like it's hard to (I think) write a good teaching statement unless you have actually taught and thought about teaching and are a relatively good teacher, I think it's hard to write a good forward-looking research statement if you're a person who isn't particularly independent/doesn't actually have your own distinctive research program. Of course this is really noisy--for one, we don't know how much mentors/advisors are helping construct research statements--but I think it still can be helpful in that regard. But mostly, I think research statements are useful for seeing what someone's about in ways that aren't communicated on a cv/writing sample/cover letter. Also, this varies from place to place, but some departments are really interested in people having a very unified research program, and that's another thing that is sort of hard to fake if you don't have one (though I am sure there are also departments that either disvalue that or don't care about it one way or the other).

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