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Preparing a research statement and crafting a research trajectory

People keep asking me how to write a research statement and how they can develop a research trajectory. My own pathway has been quite variegated so I don’t recommend following mine (as I have many interests and have done a lot of things). My advice is particularly targeted to those in disciplines, fields and countries where it’s much more common to have the usual linear trajectory (PhD, publishing sometimes and other times, waiting until the degree, post-doctoral fellowship to get some articles out or work on a book manuscript, publish 5-6 articles and a single-authored monograph, and start work on a second project before coming up for tenure).


Photo credit: David Mertl on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed Attribution

Since I didn’t want to provide “advice”, I instead chose to tweet a thread of my own research statement and research trajectory. You can read my Research Interests statement here. As I said in my Twitter thread, research trajectories are highly personal. What will interest me in 5 years? I am not sure. I was always interested in cooperation. I think that I study things I did not see coming in 2011, when I first wrote about my own research trajectory. To be perfectly honest, I never thought I would be studying water conflicts now, or water privatization, even if I had already started doing work on the politics of bottled water in 2009.

A research statement, in my view, should state what you’ve studied, how you’ve studied it, and the outputs you’ve generated, as well as a general overview of where your research is going to take you. The research statement, since it’s a document targeted at academic job search committees, should be concise (1-2 pages) and provide an overview of current projects, completed ones, and in-process or about-to-launch ones.

A research trajectory is, to me, a long-term plan/description of how the work of an academic or a scholar has evolved through time, and where it could possibly go. A research trajectory has temporal and evolutionary dimensions: it’s a narrative of where you were at a certain point in your career as a scholar, and where have you moved or what you’ve accomplished.

Here is my Twitter thread.

Also, below you can find some resources on both research trajectories and research statements.

On research statements: see this guide chock full of good tips, UCSF’s suggestions, and this blog post. I really liked how this postdoctoral fellow wrote her research statement.

And on research trajectories, here, here and here. I loved how this scholar wrote his research trajectory, too. Here is an example of a sample research trajectory that serves as a template for what a clinical scholar should do.

I think the core two pieces of advice on research statements and research trajectories can be found in these two tweets:

Addendum: I used text from my Twitter thread to draft my Research Trajectory.

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