A statement of research interests is a short report written by a scientist, engineer or other technician explaining his past research work, current interests and proposed area of study. These statements are commonly requested in applications for employment as well as graduate school. The potential employer or academic adviser can find out more about a researcher's background in his field and his desire to move ahead in future areas of study. Securing a full-time research employment position, graduate research position or professorship will require the applicant to craft a well worded and well organised statement which truthfully conveys his experience and plans.
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Open your research statement with a summary that introduces the main points of your paper to the reader. Include your field of study, major areas of past work, most well known publication titles and general area of future study. Be specific from the start and make it clear why this field of study is of particular interest to you. Your reader may not have the time to thoroughly read through all applicant papers, but he will read through the ones which seem most promising. Use this opening summary to capture his attention with a strong, creative first sentence that will pique his curiosity.
Expand upon your research background first. Keep this section completely professional. Talk about your past work, including those professional scientists with whom you have worked closely. Outline the major projects you have worked on and explain their importance. Outline what your specific role was and include the major findings of the project. Also, overwhelming the reader with numbers will detract from the overall message so keep numerical figures limited to only major findings.
Transition from your background into your current research. Employers will want to see consistency in your line of work. Explain how your past interests led to your current work, stating your current place of employment and supervisors. List any certifications and training that you have. Include any physical skills you may possess, such as lab work and sample taking.
Lay out a concise and orderly research plan for the near and distant future. Ask yourself what you would do in your field if you had unlimited resources. Continue asking yourself what the employer would want to know about your future plans. Write what your ultimate goal is as a researcher. Outline the time line by which you hope to achieve these goals. Explain why you believe your goal to be realistic and whose help you will need to achieve it. Describe the role of the potential employer in these plans. Writing the answers to these questions will set aside any doubts that the reader may have and show that you have given thoughtful consideration to your plan's execution.
Summarise your report by reworking your opening summary. Put more emphasis in the final paragraph about how the reader and his organisation or company will help you succeed. Emphasise why you feel you would be an asset to the future of the company if given the opportunity to see your proposed plan through.
Tips and warnings
- Look through the research statements of advisers in your field to see how they have crafted their reports.
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- University of Pennsylvania: Writing an Effective Research Statement
- Penn State University: Crafting the Research Statement
- University of California, San Francisco: Developing a Winning Research Statement (PDF)
- Carleton College: Developing your Research Statement
- University of Southern California: Development of a Research Statement