I am currently applying for several post-doctoral positions. For these applications I have to prepare a research document in which I present my current research and my future projects in a limited amount of pages (typically not more than 4 or 5). But there is two possible organisations of ideas:

  • 1) A first approach would be to present first my past and current research topics and then my future projects.
  • 2) A second approach consists in a thematic organization in which I present for each topic my past and current research and what I plan to do in this topic in the future. Some topics can be only past/current and some other only long-term project.

What is the best organization ?


I would favour option 1.

You are trying to tell the story of your research career so far, and how your story could continue at the institution(s) to which you are applying. Looking at it in this way, you are casting your past and present research activities as "Background".

Your subsequent sections would be about specific projects - the "Future". In each section you can refer to your skill set, showing how this project is based on a firm foundation of skills developed during your Background years.

A reader will get a much clearer picture of you as a scientist - past and future - if you structure your application this way. It makes for easier reading, and you want your admissions committee to be happy.

Splitting up your "story" thematically - showing how parts of your background set you up for the project under consideration - makes it more difficult for a reader.


There is a third option which you may want to explore.

1.) Current research

2.) Plans for future research

3.) Past experience in this area

In other words, structure this the way you would if you were talking to them rather than writing to them. Simon Peyton Jones recommends this approach for writing a research paper, but the same concepts work well for any types of writing. Explain your idea to someone else, and then write it in the same order, using slightly more formal language. When I am explaining my research interests to someone, I will often say something like this, "I am working on Idea B now, and I expect this to continue in to Idea C in the future. This line of research grew out of my previous exploration of Idea A."

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