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I'm used to "research proposals" being purely focused on future plans and specific research aims, and not a place to talk about myself. However, now I'm making an application for a postdoctoral fellowship which asks me to submit only three documents: my CV, a cover letter, and a 4-page research proposal. In my previous applications of this kind, there were additional documents that explicitly asked me to justify why I want to work there, what my previous accomplishments are, etc. but this one doesn't have any guideline.

Is the research proposal an appropriate place to try to sell myself and talk about my experience? Or should all of this be contained to the cover letter? I would appreciate any insight about what the typical expectations are regarding this.

  • Use the background and prelim of the research proposal to sell your work and use the cover letter to sell yourself. – user128815 Sep 19 at 18:08
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If your next research steps are a continuation of your current line of research, then a quick summary of work you've already done on the topic is a great way to work it in naturally, provide context for where your research lies in the field's line of questioning, and explain why you think this research is worth pursuing (look how fruitful it was in the past! Self citation).

The etiquette is probably field dependent. Fancy grants and fellowships require specific tailoring, but for a normal postdoc in my field, even just submitting your research statement as a research proposal wouldn't be too rude or strange.

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