As your degree program wraps up, how will you continue your research momentum? How will you prepare to adjust to a potential new institute, environment, and with new colleagues? Here, you can find some research strategy tips that can be helpful in crafting a research statement. A research statement is a short document that highlights your research experiences/expertise as well as the current status and future plan for your work. The detailed content of the research statement may vary across different areas of studies. When writing up your research statement, be clear and concise about your research theme(s). You may categorize your research paper(s) under your research theme(s) and provide the linkages among the themes in brief to show you have a focused research program. You will want to consider the fundamentals of your research philosophy and vision:
- Why do you do research?
- Why do you do the research that you do?
- Contextualize your research in the greater scheme of things (e.g., the economy)
- Highlight what is unique about your research
- Provide a brief overview of your research program and pipeline
Broad areas of planning
A) Topics for future research after you receive your terminal degree
Examine your skills and interests that you have developed through your degree program. For example:
- Are you particularly good at (and fond of) statistics in your field? If so, you can be a valuable partner for other scholars in their topics.
- Are there open questions that remain from your dissertation research (either from reading the scholarly journal articles, or remaining from or springing out of your own research on which you’d like to follow up?
- Did your advisor engage you in any small ‘side research’ topics while you progressed through your program? If so, do any of those interest you?
- Have one primary focus and two secondary foci. Pick some research areas which are trendy. You may need to read up on journal articles [see A)3 below] or attend conferences and network with colleagues [see A)6 below] to find out what these are.
- Try to be the first author on a few projects, but also try to let others take the lead in other projects. Do not try to be the first author on every project! It will burn you out. Likewise, do not be the last or secondary author on all your projects. You will not be taken seriously then for tenure and promotion purposes.
2. Do you have any natural collaborators with whom you have engaged through your degree program such as:
- Other graduate students from your own degree program?
- Other faculty from your own committee? (see 4. below)
- Graduate students and faculty whom you met at conferences (see 6. below) with whom you share interests and have complementary skills (e.g., I’m good at statistics, but only know a little about microbiology, but my friend from XYZ university is a great microbiologist who needs some help with statistical experimental design and statistical workup of data)?
- Scholars whose articles you have read and with whom there might be an alignment (contacting them is like a sales ‘cold call’ – the probable success rate is low, as they don’t know you (but they might know your advisor!) - but still it could work, if you ask politely or gently.
- You should ideally look for a collaborator who has the bandwidth to work with you on a dedicated basis. Some suggest that ideal collaborators can be a senior Assistant Professor who is trying to make tenure. Often two assistant professors, who are both hungry, will make for a better team.
- Another strategy is to have one senior person (who is experienced in editorial duties), one senior assistant professor and you (new PhD) in the team. That way you can cover all bases of a good team.
- Look for collaborators who have the same priorities as you. For example, some top journals take 1-3 years to publish. These are high-risk projects, as you can get rejected after a long wait. Make sure you have a collaborator who is knowledgeable about this. If you want to publish in top journals, then you should be working with a collaborator who wants the same.
- Try to see if you can synergize some of your research and teaching so that you can build one on top of another. This is especially true if you are teaching doctoral seminars.
3. For 1.b and 1.c, conduct preliminary literature research by yourself first through many online databases such as Google Scholar and other discipline-relevant search engines.
4. Talk to those faculty in your degree program and find someone whom you like to work with by matching with your research interest and personality as closely as you can.
5. Try to meet and discuss with your advisor either weekly or at least monthly.
6. When possible, go to some professional conferences, present your research and meet researchers working in similar subjects.
7. Consider a post-doc in another lab where you can work for 1-3 years on another field to broaden your knowledge and either deepen your skills or build a second skill set.
B) Getting funded
- After working several areas in Part A) above, so that you have done a skills inventory, considered areas about which you would like to learn more, and identified potential collaborators, now starting looking for funding!
- If you are a postdoctoral scholar or a new assistant professor at a new research-intensive or research-extensive university, find out about seed grant proposals that might be available to help you get started with acquiring one or two pieces of equipment, some research travel and supplies, to make a start on developing preliminary data.
- Look at calls for proposals from agencies and foundations that you know (from asking your advisor) fund work in your area. Look carefully at these calls. Are they at least a partial match for your skills and interests? Do they offer seed grants or developmental grants for new faculty (smaller dollar amounts, shorter term, but at least you can make a start!)?
- Find out if there are any faculty at your new institution who are looking for partners on their grants. Can you bring some new perspectives and skills to their research area or lab? If so, and if the relationship looks to be collegial, maybe start by framing a partnership discussion (it might be that the existing faculty might approach you, as well)
- If you work in an applied area with municipal or regional relevance, such as nursing, social work, education, psychology, civil or environmental engineering, water resources, construction, public health, hospitality, or performing and fine arts, are there potential partnerships in your community (does someone need data processed? Do they have a problem that they’d like someone to work on (hopefully grant-funded)?
Here are several links that provide helpful information on how to generate a research statement: