Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Writing an Effective Research Statement

One of the most favorite times of the year for a scholar is summer. For many professors and students, summer is a time for rest and renewal. Summer is also a time when professors can get work done that is challenging to complete during the academic year such as conducting research, writing a journal article or book chapter, working on a book prospectus or an actual book, and preparing courses for the upcoming academic year.

If you are looking for a tenure-track job, summer can also be a time when you get a head start on the academic job market. Many positions request various statements (like a teaching statement and a diversity statement) along with your cover letter. A research statement is one of those documents which is an integral part of an overall academic job application that can showcase the type of scholar you are. The research statement also offers you an opportunity to chart your vision and discuss the trajectory of your research. The research statement will give decision makers a clear picture of what you plan to do with your time and whether or not they will make an investment in you, and their institution, by hiring you.

Research statements are also used in tenure and promotion packages and summertime is a fantastic opportunity to work on it. While your teaching, departmental, and professional service are principal factors which contribute to your overall tenure decision at the departmental and college level (think of the work of tenure and promotion committees, for example), your research is what will make or break your tenure case at Research 1 (R1) or Research 2 (R2) universities. Whether you are preparing your tenure dossier or looking for a job, I offer the following advice to help you construct an effective research statement.

Before you type or write a word about your research, go in with the mindset that you need to be assertive about describing your accomplishments. Find the in-between space between bragging about oneself and understating your scholarly accomplishments and their impact within academia. This is not the time to be bashful about your work, but it is also not a time to be braggart. In other words, be prepared to describe your accomplishments in a way which reflects the impact of your scholarship in a measured yet confident manner and is supported with evidence such as awards and publications.

Introduce and Discuss Your Work
You can start out your statement by introducing yourself and discussing your work. If you are an advanced assistant professor (someone who has several years on the tenure-track and has published articles and a book, for instance), discuss your areas of research and what you've produced as a scholar. In R1 anthropology departments, the standard for tenure for cultural anthropologists is a book-length monograph and 4 to 5 peer-review articles. I opened a recent research statement with the following sentences: "I am a cultural anthropologist who focuses on the political dimensions and implications of religious practice. I also study race and racism in the African Diaspora." Then I enumerate what I produced during this period. In my case, I listed my scholarly output for the period which includes a peer-reviewed book published through a university press and the five articles and one book chapter that helped me earn tenure.

Contributions to Academia
Next, discuss the contributions of your scholarship. Social scientists like anthropologists, discuss the arguments and key findings of our research and any theoretical contributions we make to certain academic fields. For example, my work on Haitian Protestantism makes contributions to the anthropology of religion (specifically the anthropology of Christianity), transnationalism theory, and the fields of Haitian Studies and Africana Studies. You can also discuss any awards or other accolades your work has garnered as concrete examples of the impact of your scholarship.

Current Work
Your next step is to inform readers of your current work. Questions that guide the construction of this section include, but are not limited to: What are your works-in-progress? How does your current work relate to your research trajectory? Is your research going in a different direction? If so, what are the potential contributions of this work? In a recent version of my research statement, I discuss research projects (articles and book projects) that continue my interests in religion, race, and racism and what stages they are at (the writing stage, submitted to a journal, stage of revision and resubmission to a journal, etc.)

Future Work
Finally, discuss your future research interests. What are you working on for future work? For those of us fortunate to be in tenure-line positions, publishing books and articles does not stop once you earn tenure or become a full professor. You still need to publish, and your research statement is an opportunity to articulate your future research. In my case, my future research builds on my previous Bahamian research and deals with issues of citizenship, diaspora, immigration, human rights, religion and race through an investigation of stateless people of Haitian descent in the Bahamas.

Hopefully, I've given you some things to think about if you are planning to go on the job market or putting together your tenure dossier (or doing both).

In the meantime, an estimated 1,000,000 Americans have died due to COVID infections. Get your booster shots if you are eligible or get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Original article: