Advice on Statements

The Research StatementUniverse

  • Departments want to hire candidates who tackle significant problems, do so in interesting new ways, and use cutting-edge techniques.
  • Open big. For example, I work on the science that will help us find a cure for cancer; I'm developing a solution to global warming; I am challenging the myth of American exceptionalism. Whatever it is, it's got to be big and your work, impactful. Dream Big!
  • Overall, structure your argument to suggest that you are uniquely positioned to accomplish the ambitious and innovation objectives you have set for yourself. Use subtitles, which will help the reader more effectively follow the structure of your statement.
  • Search committee members are really busy, so structure your statement strategically: 
    • Executive summary: 10-15 lines at most. In a nutshell, what you work on and your plans for the next ten years in terms of the impact you hope to make on your field.
    • Ph.D work/background. What you worked on and what your work showed, demonstrated, elucidated, etc. Be very direct and to the point. Throw in anything the reader (who won’t be a specialist) will need to understand what you do.
    • Current postdoctoral research. Again, what you work on and what you hope to achieve. If needed use a numbered list or bullet points.
    • Future Directions. I) What you hope to achieve over the next ten years; II) What you hope to achieve over the next 4-7 years; III) What you’ll tackle from the get-go(low-hanging fruits). Obviously, these are not sequential, but parallel. This section should be about 50-60% of the overall 3-5 page statement. 
  • In the Sciences, use illustrations (graphs, tables, pictures, etc.). An image is worth a thousand words.
  • Do not use the words "study," as you're no longer a student, or "understand," except in the collective sense, as in "increase our understanding." Your understanding of a problem helps no one but you. What you really mean is "elucidate," which helps everyone.

The Teaching Statement

In order to write your teaching statement, you need to think about how you conceive your role as an instructor. What aspects are most important to you, and how do you plan to teach them? Avoid generalities, which sound trite. Include specific examples. If possible, describe things you have either done in the classroom or seen another faculty do.

Unless you're applying to primarily undergraduate teaching institutions, your statement shouldn't be longer than one page. For efficiency purposes, one way to organize the page is to have three sections, with subtitles:

  1. Teaching Experience and Interests (Paragraph 1: I have taught, and my responsibilities included; Paragraph 2: I am prepared to teach both broad survey courses and more advanced courses in my area of expertise).
  2. Teaching Goals and Strategies. This is basically how you think about your job as an instructor. What skills do you want your students to acquire? What do you want them to remember, if anything, five years from now? (Hint: it's not knowledge that is available in any textbook or website). You may find ideas in some of the links provided by the National Education Association on their page on Higher Education Best Practices. You could also consider some of the books on pedagogy reviewed here.
  3. Mentoring  (optional): What students have you advised? if applicable, how do you see your role as a mentor of graduate students/postdocs.

Finally, check out this interesting take on the Teaching Statement from one of our own--Good food for thought!

The Diversity Statement

According to the University of California at San Diego website, “the purpose of the statement is to identify candidates who have professional skills, experience and/or willingness to engage in activities that would enhance campus diversity and equity efforts” (emphasis added).

The Bok Center offers excellent advice on inclusive teaching, which you should check out.

The following questions, taken from Carnegie Mellon's Global Communication Center, will also help you think about it:

  • How have I incorporated diversity in my classrooms? How will I continue to make my classrooms diverse? How is my approach unique?
  • Do I have experience working with other under-represented groups in my field? What groups have I worked with, and in what context?
  • How have I handled working with someone whose background is unfamiliar to me? What have I learned from these experiences?
  • How do I plan on working with under-represented groups in my field?

Some more advice and thoughts:

There are also ideas to be culled from the following Policy on University of California Diversity Statement: