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For a one-year postdoc position (extendable up to three years) in psychology/linguistics in the US, I'm asked to submit a cv, two published works, and a one-page research statement (so, no cover letter). I am wondering if I should understand this research statement as a short "cover letter"-type of writing, including past experiences, future plans, and why these plans fit in this department, or should I only describe my plan for the research project that I would like to carry on during that time? Should I be really precise as to what and how I want to conduct research during that year?

Thank you!

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Concerning your question about past experiences vs. just future plans: Why not both? Focus on your plans for the new project, but use it as an hook to mention the other stuff, e.g (maybe not all at once):

  • "In my time at [Place to apply at] I am planning to work on X. This continues my work on X' I did together with Name et al. at Place B."

  • "I am planning to solve the problem of Y, using the techniques I learned while working on Z during my PhD at Place C."

  • "After the conclusion of the project on X at [Place to apply at], there will be future opportunities to continue this collaboration into the direction of X."

  • and so on...

This turns your past experiences and far future plans into context. It also provides continuity and leaves the impression that you choose the department because it fits your plans instead of blindly applying everywhere. You will probably not be able to mention everything this way and you'll have to skip the details for brevity, but if people are interested in the details of past things they can then look them up in the CV.

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    I might agree with most of this if it weren't a single page statement. And your second bullet is a bit presumptuous. – Buffy Jul 18 at 10:00
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The best answer to this comes from the institution itself and it is really impossible to know exactly what they expect. But your CV should cover your past work and general position.

In the absence of any other information, I would think it best to focus on what you want to accomplish in the first year and an idea about how you will attack the issues. So, yes, pretty precise, but not pedantic. As always, write for the expected readers. If you know who you will be working with, it is probably them.

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