I am currently in process of applying to open postdoc positions. As a global regulation, universities require for me to provide research statements as well as cover letters.

Many articles in the web advise to avoid technical language. This is understandable, because the person who is reading the statement might not be competent in the field I have worked so far. I have also read this excellen answer from JeffE, which attempts to draw a clear line between a technical wording, and a very technical wording in the statement.

I am applying to a position in the field of theoretical computer science/computational geometry. Because of the nature of the position I am applying, I must use some technical language to demonstrate my knowledge on the topic. However, I am really doubtful about writing a statement which contains not enough technical language, misleading the hiring committee of thinking that I do not have deep enough expertise. As a result, I now have two different research statements. One is technical, one focuses on the everyday applications of my research.

I don't have a strong publication record. Thus, the only strength I can highlight is the significance of my publications. I cannot decide which one to submit.

The only solution comes to my mind is to contact with the corresponding faculty members whom I will potentially work under, asking the acceptable level of technicality in my research statement. I wonder if this seems unprofessional.

Should I send a mail asking about the level of technical detail?

  • 1
    Can you say more about "the nature of the position"? I am skeptical because I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that they "must use some technical language to demonstrate my knowledge on the topic". It seems to me that a research statement is not about demonstrating knowledge.
    – SBK
    Oct 18, 2020 at 13:25
  • The position is a theoretical position. By demonstrating knowledge, I mean demonstrating my proficiency on the topic.
    – padawan
    Oct 18, 2020 at 20:30

2 Answers 2


Don't confuse an application for admission to a graduate program with an application for a postdoc. In most cases the application will be read by people well versed in your field, if you have matched your skills to the listed requirements.

I think you can be much more technical in such a situation and it will probably serve you well. The only caveat is language that implies that you have no flexibility in what you intend to pursue in the position if it is awarded.

You aren't writing for a general audience, but for people looking for expertise. Being to "soft" will work against you.

And tailor each such application to the specifics of the listed position. Don't try to depend on a general letter that "might" work for a lot of similar ones. Speak to the audience.

So, I don't think it will serve you well to ask them how to write the application.


It is a postdoctoral research position in e.g a university or research institute setting, right? If so I would say that a research statement is not the place for demonstrating proficiency. Your CV and reference letters should make it clear that your expertise is up to the level required by the position. I would follow other standard advice about research statements, like that of which you are already aware. Don't make it too technical and use to explain your own research approach and ideas.

I would imagine that contacting them to ask whether or not it ought to be technical will not provide a helpful response. One way of gauging is to ask about who will be reading the statement. You can arrive at a question like this in a sort of "what does the hiring decision-making process look like?"-type question. And this is answerable with clear facts. Otherwise they may something like "not too technical".

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