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Assoc. Prof

Be honest. If the projects are connected in your mind, then draw the connection for the committee, since it may not be obvious to them. If you don't see them as connected (i.e., they're just two separate areas you like to work on), then explain them separately. Don't concoct a connection, because a committee will smell the BS.

chime in

I agree that it is totally okay to have disconnected interests, and present as such. The important thing is that you dig deep enough on (one of) these interests that the reader can remember you as doing this and this, and your promise as an expert on (one of) these interests.

Bill Vanderburgh

There's a school of thought that says the way to be a highly regarded philosopher is to publish exclusively in one narrow field, thus becoming a central figure in that literature. That might be something a high-research department cares about. It isn't a school of thought (or a career goal) I subscribe to, however; one of the things I value about philosophy is being able to study a variety of subjects. So, probably, the unity and connectedness of your research statement will matter more at some kinds of places (and with some readers) more than others.

That said, the purpose of a research statement, fundamentally, is to explain to the search committee what you will be working on over the next three to five years. They want to be reassured as well as interested in what you will produce: Is your AOS really the one they are searching for, and how will you achieve tenure? A sufficient number of publications in the right sort of journals is the usual way of thinking about this, with the important caveat that you need to show *an independent research program beyond the dissertation*. (So, don't plan on several publications with your PhD supervisor, it isn't just about publishing things from the dissertation, etc.)

For fresh PhDs especially, you don't have to have all those details fully fleshed out. Give most detail on the one or two things you will publish next, and a brief mention of future directions the work might take you. It is okay to have projects in different areas, but beware that too many can make you look scattered or cause you to get publications out more slowly. If there is a unifying story across varied projects, tell it; if not, it is perfectly fine to be interested in more than one thing (all the notes above taken into consideration).

BTW: No one will ever look at your research statement again after the interview, so no one will hold you to following the path you propose once you have the job. Then you can research pretty much whatever you want.

Mike Titelbaum

In my experience, this is something that makes such a slight marginal difference (if any) to your probability of getting hired at a particular job that it isn't worth manufacturing a connection if there isn't one. The research statement is for the hiring committee to get a sense of how you see what you're doing, and to ensure that you'll have viable research projects going forward. We all understand that philosophers are interested in many things, and that sometimes those things don't have an organic connection.

phd student

It would be helpful to have a sense of how much hiring committees really care about candidates' having a single overarching theme or research program that seamlessly unites all of their work. My AOS is in a historical area with connections to a lot of different areas of contemporary philosophy, so I feel like I end up dipping into a variety of different issues and debates. I don't really have any desire to be less of a generalist in that sense, but I worry about this being unattractive to hiring committees, especially at R1 jobs where it sometimes feel like the trend is to hire super-specialists.

East Coaster

This is hearsay + anecdote, but when I think of the people who struggled on the market in ways that surprised me, a commonality was that they were great at more than one thing. I always wondered whether that meant that depts were a little unsure who they were getting. If they wanted a legal philosopher, would this person end up doing phil language, for example? That always seemed unfair, but if the question is how the market works, and not how it should work, the data seemed worth reporting.

But, like I say, hearsay and anecdote.


OP: really helpful responses so far. Thanks everyone!


My impression is that really tippy-top universities and also universities in Europe want to see that when they hire someone as a philosopher of, say, moral phenomenology, you will be the best moral phenomenologist there is and you will publish a lot on moral phenomenology. Everything you publish will be in moral phenomenology and everything you write is part of a grander theory of moral phenomenology. Most other universities are happy to see that you are capable of having two research programs that you can publish in.

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