Writing Applications

Writing Applications

Writing Applications

Steve Shirey and Lara Wagner

November 17, 2015


Steve Shirey and Lara Wagner led a workshop on the teaching and research statements of a job application in the library's Abelson Collaborative Center. Input was also provided by Rick Carlson.

Lara led the review discussion on how to write a teaching statement:

  • Teaching statements are variable - there is no real fixed format
  • Demonstrate your commitment to teaching

Teaching statements should include:

  • Synopsis of your approach to teaching classes ('philosophy')
  1. What principles/goals guide your pedagogical decisions?
  2. What motivates you to learn about this subject?
  3. What do you expect to be the outcomes of your teaching?
  4. How do you know when you've taught successfully?
  • Synopsis of your past teaching experience
  • Synopsis of courses you can/would like to teach


  • Brief (1-2 pages)
  • First-person narrative
  • Reflective and personal (goals for students, methods to achieve goals, methods of assessment) - specific examples are good
  • Highlight strengths and accomplishments

Included in handouts were examples of various teaching statements.

Writing a Research Statement (Partially rewritten from the Cornell Graduate School website)

Steve addressed research statements and provided a few practical tips:

A common component of the academic job application is the Research Statement (or Statement of Research Interests). This statement provides a summary of your research accomplishments, your current work, and discusses the potential and directions of your future research in the next 5 or so years. It should be technical, but should remain intelligible to any member of the department. Because it has the potential to be read by people outside of your subdiscipline, the "big picture" is important to keep in mind. The statement can discuss specific issues such as requirements for laboratory equipment and space, potential collaborations, or funding history and funding potential. The strongest research statements present a readable, compelling, and realistic research agenda that fits well with the needs, facilities, and goals of the department. Research statements can be weakened by overly ambitious proposals, by lack of clear direction, by lack of big-picture focus, or inadequate attention to the needs and facilities of the department or position.

The goal of the research statement is to introduce yourself to a search committee, which will probably contain scientists both in and outside your field, and get them excited about your research. The statement may be 2 or more pages but definitely less than three pages, keeping in mind that you want people to read it. So keep it short, use informative section headings, use 11 or 12 point font, and normal margins.

There is a delicate balance between a realistic research statement where you promise to work on problems you really do think you can solve and over-reaching or dabbling in too many subject areas. You probably want to select an over-arching theme for your research statement and leave some miscellaneous ideas or unrelated projects out of it. Everyone knows that you will work on more than what you mention in this statement.

Pay attention to jargon and avoid it. You want most readers to understand everything in your statement. Make sure that you describe your research in language that many people outside your specific subject area can understand. Ask people both in and outside your field to read it before you send your application. Remember that the goal is to get the search committee excited about you - they won't get excited about something they can't understand.

Additional tips and specifics are at:

In attendance:


Abhisek Basu
Neil Bennett
Stephen Elardo
Dan Hummer
Colin Jackson
Yangzheng Lin
Sergey Lobanov
Corliss Kin I Sio
Rajasekarakumar Vadapoo
Haidong Zhang


Jessica Donaldson
Elizabeth Frank
Jonathan Gagne
Nan Liu
Amanda Lough
Erika Nesvold
Rita Parai
T.J. Rodigas
Amelie Simon
Myriam Telus
Christopher Thissen

Robin Dienel and Janice Dunlap also attended.