I am applying for a postdoctoral position in theoretical Physics and they ask for a research statement. I looked it up and it seems some people write this in the format of a letter, in which I say what I have already worked on, what I plan to do next, why my background allows me to do it and how it relates to the group to which I'm applying.

So my questions are:

  1. Should a research statement be written in the form of a letter?
  2. Is the content I outlined the correct content for it?
  3. If I have one ongoing collaboration with one of the group's permanent members, can I mention it?
  • Did you ask for guidance from your graduate and postdoctoral advisors? Commented Jan 15 at 1:43
  • No, for my current postdoc position there was no such a requirement, so I did not ask my graduate advisor at the time. My postdoctoral supervisor is currently unavailable. Commented Jan 15 at 2:57
  • "Should a research statement be written in the form of a letter?" I think I have literally never seen a research statement in the form of a letter, i.e. with an address, starting with "Dear [addressee]", with your signature at the end, etc. (I have not served on a postdoc search committee, though.) If I google "theoretical physics research statement pdf", none of the documents are in the form of a letter. Are you sure you are not confusing a research statement and a cover letter? – Commented Jan 15 at 14:14
  • It would help you to ask some of your postdoc colleagues to share their research statements with you. Seeing a few sample research statements will give you an idea of how to go about writing one.
    – vyali
    Commented Jan 26 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


I think the style is less important than the content, with caveats. My preference would be not the form of a letter, but of a general statement.

The caveat is that is should be easy to read and easy to find the important ideas. Your list of topics seems good. If you are unique in any way that is relevant to the position it might be worth mentioning.

Yes, mentioning collaborations is a good idea. That is true no matter who the collaborators are. The will probably be aware of collaborations with their own members, but you can give the name (and affiliation) without saying literally that it is a member of that group. This makes it easier to reuse (or publish) such a statement. Mention other collaborations that you have as well. Collaboration is a good thing.

Exception. If you are writing to an individual PI who will hire you for a position (as opposed to a hiring committee), then a letter format is pretty appropriate.

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