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How to write a research statement

What is a research statement?

A research statement is a brief document showing a person’s research achievements, current research activities, and plans for future research. It is usually between one to three pages long. A research statement is necessary because it helps whoever is reading it to know the academic and work orientation of the owner. For instance, a panel interviewing you for a job can conclude on your suitability or otherwise after perusing your research statement. It is therefore an important document that the researcher should craft optimally. An effectively written research statement should convey the following messages:

  • What inspired you to undertake the research
  • The procedures you used to undertake the study
  • The source of funding for your research
  • If the research objectives were met
  • The usefulness of your research to your discipline, profession, and society as a whole
  • Any obstacles you faced during the research and how you tackled them
  • How your research can be built upon by future studies
  • Your current research effort
  • Your short, medium, and long-term research plans

Why do you need a research statement?

If you are a job seeker or looking to apply for some post-graduate programs, you have to keep a research statement on standby in case the selectors ask for it. Your research statement helps the audience to

  • Have an insight into your level of intellectual and professional development and accomplishments (and hence determine whether to accept or reject your application)
  • Determine the most ideal roles for you if you are a job seeker
  • Determine the appropriate supervisor for you if you are a graduate student
  • Determine the nature or type of funding you’ll require

The following tips will help you write a winning research statement.

Focus on the subject matter

The topic here is research so be sure to focus on it. Each stage of the presentation should revolve around the main thesis of the paper which is a holistic articulation of your previous, present, and projected research. You have to realize that this is not a personal statement which is broader in scope and allows you to discuss from a variety of perspectives.

Keep it simple and short

Since this is just a summary of your research profile, there is no need to write excessively. Moreover, the selectors may have several other statements to go through as well. Though research can be technical to describe, endeavour to keep things as simple as possible without negating the technicalities. However, simplicity should not be misinterpreted as mediocrity, so try to make your document as intellectually robust as possible in terms of things like organization, logic, and sentence construction.

Write convincingly

You would have achieved nothing if your presentation is deemed hollow and unconvincing. The purpose is to either get the job or that PhD opportunity you crave for. Therefore, you must have the ability to communicate effectively.  If you are describing how your research objectives were accomplished, for example, you have to clearly, concisely, and logically demonstrate the steps you went through to achieve these objectives.

Be visionary but modest

This area mainly has to do with your future research proposals. They have to be articulated based on an idea of the kind of future you envisage as well as how your research efforts then will help provide solutions to problems you expect to emerge at that time. However, this has to be written with an air of modesty, bearing in mind that the future is uncertain and that your research projections can be altered by unfolding social dynamics.

Write what you can defend

You should bear in mind that the panel of selectors may throw a few questions at you on interview day. This should be one of your considerations when preparing your paper and reinforces the need for a not so lengthy paper that you can study more easily and memorize very well.

Proofread and edit your paper

This is one of the most important areas to consider when trying to craft a successful research statement. After investing your time and energy to prepare a competitive paper, you do not want typing, grammar, and formatting errors to make you look unserious and amateurish. Try and cross every “t” and dot every “i” since you may not get a second chance to make a first impression. You can engage friends and colleagues to help out in this regard if necessary.

Make suggestions about funding

Be sure to suggest some viable sources of external funding for your future research. Also indicate whether you have leveraged research grants or funds previously.

Research statement format

  • Should not exceed three pages in length, preferably one or two.
  • Fonts should be large and clear enough for easy reading
  • Include informative headings and subheadings
  • Pages should be numbered
  • Include bullet points to enhance clarity
  • Use reasonably sized margins


A research statement is a necessary condition for some academic programs and job offers. The aim is for the student or job applicant to present his previous and present research experience as well as his future research plans to a panel, board, or committee of selectors with the hope of ultimately scaling through. It is therefore important to craft a unique, winning statement that can stand out in the midst of competition and achieve the intended purpose.

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