Academic statements are the documents that make up the academic dossier or application packet. This dossier usually comprises the academic cover letter, usually called a “job letter” or letter of interest, a curriculum vitae (CV—see our CV guide), recommendation letters from your referees, a research statement, a teaching statement, a diversity statement, and transcripts or proof of degree. Either upon application or later in the process, you may also be expected to provide a writing sample, a sample syllabus or course plan, or other materials.

First, a few general notes about these statements and your writing process, including formatting, timing, and preparation.

On this page:

General Notes


The job letter should be on letterhead, with all other documents, including the CV, offered in a plain paper format. Margins are the standard one inch, and font should be any standard font at 12pt (or whatever is readable for that font). For multi-page documents, include a page number in the header or footer from the second page on; it is also useful for the second and subsequent pages to include your last name or initials. The standard length for the documents are:

  • Job letter: 2 sides
  • Research statement: 2 sides
  • Teaching statement: 1 side
  • Diversity statement: 1 side

This is not always the case, and you should always read the application instructions carefully to discover the expected length. I recommend writing your base documents to these lengths, as they tend to be most common, and then either compressing or expanding as needed during the tailoring process.


By the summer before you intend to begin applying, you should already have a sound, updated CV that needs only tailoring to make it suitable for your application process. You should also already have done the background research and know the various job boards, email lists, wikis, etc, where jobs in your field are typically posted, and you should be checking them regularly, even years before you anticipate being on the market if possible. You thus know where and when postings usually appear, you are accustomed to finding them, and you know what the language of postings in your field looks like and feel ready to use that language to describe yourself and your candidacy. You are already talking to your advisor and trusted faculty members about your goals so that you can be as prepared as possible when you do hit the market, and you are considering carefully which faculty members would be best to ask for letters of recommendation for any of the various types of post to which you might apply. You may be consulting with Career Services and have forged a supportive relationship with a career advisor who can give you help and advice through the application process. You have also thought about the kind of institution you want to work at, the area of the country or world you would prefer to be located in, and what kind of work atmosphere you will thrive in.


The late summer/early fall of the academic year before the year in which you plan to begin your first tenure-track position (or post-doc, for post-doc fields) will be your year on the market. Even though you are extremely busy finishing up your research or continuing your writing project, you must begin drafting what I call the “base documents”. It takes a long time to create them, and your application process will be made considerably quicker and easier if you already have sound, well-written base documents that merely need to be edited rather than starting from scratch a few weeks or a month before your first deadline. Together, the job letter and your other job documents should create a consistent picture of you as a thoughtful, productive researcher, a rigorous instructor, and someone whose awareness of issues of diversity and inclusivity in higher education will inform every part of their career as a faculty member.

The Academic Job Letter

The academic job letter is a very specific type of cover letter covering a prescribed set of qualifications, credentials, and information. It is typically used for academic faculty (research or teaching) jobs.


The job letter should be on the letterhead of the institution with which you are currently affiliated, in this case, your CU department’s or research institute’s letterhead. Use 1” margins all around, 12pt Times New Roman, Garamond, or another standard font, and begin it with standard business letter headers, including an addressee block and a date line. If you have trouble obtaining the department/institute letterhead, use general CU letterhead. You can usually edit the address in letterhead header files, and should do so to reflect the address of your current department. If you are no longer associated with CU, make a personal letterhead; it is not considered appropriate to use the letterhead of a past institution on a current application.

General Advice

  • Show, don’t tell: support your claims with evidence from your research, teaching, and service.
  • Stay on message: present a coherent portrait of yourself across your various documents. This begins with the cover letter.
  • Use positive language: it is tempting to hedge or temper your claims about yourself and your work by verbally stepping back from them through use of the verbs try, attempt, or endeavor. Do not do this. Use clear, assertive, and above all definite language to describe your work. In the words of Yoda, “Do or do not; there is no try”.


For a research-focused job letter, follow this paragraph format. (Format after Karen Kelsky of The Professor Is In.)

Department of X
University Y
Street Address
City, ST 00123

September 1, 2020

Dear [Name] and members of the search committee,

Paragraph 1: “I write to apply” to the job. This paragraph contains the job information, including posting ID number, and your brief summary of education and interests.

Paragraph 2: Primary research project. This paragraph outlines your current primary project, and includes sources of support.

Paragraph 3: Primary project’s contribution to the field.

Paragraph 4: Primary project’s resulting publications and conference papers.

Paragraph 5: Second or next project, including publications, conference papers, and grants, both current and anticipated or planned.

Paragraph 6: Teaching, as it ties in with your research.

Paragraph 6a: Optional second teaching paragraph.

Paragraph 7: Tailoring paragraph; outlines your specific interest in the job and department. If your research indicates a benefit to including this detail, talking about how much you love the area where the institution is situated would be most appropriate to include here.

Paragraph 8: I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you.


Your Name

For a teaching-primary letter, try this outline instead:

Department of X
University Y
Street Address
City, ST 00123

September 1, 2020

Dear [Name] and members of the search committee,

Paragraph 1: “I write to apply” to the job. This paragraph contains the job information and your brief summary of education and interests. Include teaching specializations and expertise.

Paragraph 2: “My teaching focuses on” and include a brief summary of your philosophy and the instructional goals relevant to your field. Be sure to include specific examples from your own experience!

Paragraph 3: Demonstrated effectiveness in teaching. Include awards, increased responsibility, and quantitative evaluations. Do not include quotes from your students. Use objective, evidencebased language rather than emotional statements to describe your teaching effectiveness.

Paragraph 4: Additional areas of teaching. Include programs you’ve directed, innovative curriculum, and any study abroad program experience.

Paragraph 5: Research description. (Here is where you talk about your dissertation or current research project.)

Paragraph 6: Publications. (This may not be needed for instructor- only posts.)

Paragraph 7: Tailoring paragraph; outlines your specific interest in the department and job, focusing on instruction. Include courses you’d like to develop, teaching collaborations with other faculty, or any program or curriculum potential you see.

Paragraph 8: I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you.


Your Name

The foundation of a solid job letter is your research into the target institution. Research is what allows you to show that you are an excellent candidate for the specific job to which you are applying. For example, if the department doesn’t have a graduate seminar series or a pedagogy course for doctoral students, a plan to form one, especially in a department that currently has concerns around student engagement and persistence or future faculty preparedness, could make you look especially appealing. If, however, the department already has a mentoring or study abroad program, talking about starting one shows that you didn’t do your research. This research allows you to tailor your representation of your research interests and teaching specializations, as well as your service experience and plans, to the department’s strengths (and also its notable gaps).

This research includes reaching out to your personal and professional network in order to get candid, immediate information and impressions about the department, the institution, and the specific role being offered. It can sometimes be difficult, especially with broadly written postings, to determine exactly what the department is looking for, and information from people who are currently or who have recently been members of that department can make the difference between a compelling dossier and a generic, overly-broad depiction of your candidacy.

It is also very important that you use the opportunity your job letter offers to present yourself as a fellow professional seeking a professional role in the department, rather than a downtrodden grad student humbly petitioning the search committee for access to the ivory tower. If you refer to department or university faculty in your job letter or other documents, do so briefly and professionally. Your publication plan is specific and well-thought-out. Your second research project is conceptually well-developed and you have a detailed plan for it, including (at least in broad strokes) how you will pay for it and where you plan to publish your findings.

Your research into the department and institution will allow you to identify the gap the department is attempting to fill and present yourself as the candidate who will completely occupy that space with regards to your research, teaching, and service. Your careful presentation of your research and teaching record and your demonstration of a fully realized next research project will show that you understand the demands of a faculty position and are capable of getting tenure.

Research Statement

The research statement is an explication of your research trajectory. It shows the committee where you are, where you’ve been, and where you are going in your research, and helps them to see the way you form ideas and develop them into projects; a well-articulated research statement can be a powerful argument for your potential as a colleague and contributing member of a department, institution, and field.


Your research statement should be on plain paper with 1” margins, in 12pt Times New Roman, Garamond, or another standard font. Begin with a line containing your name, centered, and then below it, also centered, the title “Research Statement”.

General Advice

Remember to focus on the research, rather than yourself or your feelings about your research. Be sure to include details around methods, theoretical underpinnings, and contributions to the field for every project you mention. Do not omit publications, conference panels or talks, and grants related to these projects. Be direct and positive in your language (never “attempt to show” or “try to prove”).


Consider using the structure below, expanding or compressing your discussion depending on application instructions around length.

Paragraph 1: Briefly sketch the theme and topic of your current research and locate it within your discipline.

Paragraph 2: Summarize your dissertation research, including details around methods, theory, and your core arguments.

Paragraph 3: Contribution to the field.

Paragraph 4: Publications arising from or associated with the dissertation, including your book plan, if appropriate. (This may be 2-3 paragraphs if you have additional research projects.)

Paragraph 5: Summarize your next project. Include topic, methods, theory, and contribution to the field. Detail the grants you plan to apply for and the publications and conference talks that you expect to result.

Paragraph 6: Conclusion. Briefly summarize the impact of your research agenda on your discipline, the wider community, and even humanity (if applicable).

Starting Points

Starting points. The answers to some or all of these questions might be a good starting point for your research statement if you are stuck. Not all the information these questions elicit will be a good fit for your research statement, but it may help you better write about your work.

  • What got you started in your research?
  • What motivates you to research?
  • How are your research past and research present connected?
  • What techniques and approaches have you used successfully in your research?
  • What are some challenges you have overcome in your research, and how did you succeed?
  • How have you used your research to teach and mentor your students?
  • What are the specific research concerns of your target department and institution?
  • How do those concerns affect your work, and how will your work affect them?

Teaching Statement

The teaching statement is an articulation of your teaching philosophy and methods as they relate to your field, and shows how they are informed by your understanding of pedagogical best practices as well as the type of research you engage in.


Your teaching statement should be on plain paper with 1” margins, and in 12pt Times New Roman, Garamond, or other standard font. You have one side unless otherwise indicated in the application instructions. Begin the statement with a line containing your name, centered, and the document title directly below, also centered.

General Advice

Make sure that you are demonstrating a clear understanding of your discipline and its contributions to the greater good, and that you are representing yourself as a rigorous and informed instructor with high standards and expectations. Supply concrete examples of methods, techniques, and assignments drawn from classes you’ve taught.

Do not fall back on clichés about your subject matter or your love of teaching. Do not be excessively humble or emotional in your writing, and make sure that your teaching statement doesn’t detract from the picture your other documents paint of a rigorous, successful academic. Do not offer student testimonials about your temperament, relatability, or how your class changed someone’s life.


Make a broad claim about a general good that can be achieved through teaching. Show how you bring about this good through specific teaching strategies. Give concrete examples of how you use these strategies in pursuit of this good. Provide evidence that you have effectively brought about this good. Stay on message (your statements and job letter, together, should be consistent in how they portray you as a scholar and professional). Your strong conclusion should wrap all these things up nicely while staying on message.

Starting Points

If you are having trouble getting started, try answering some or all of the following questions. You may not use all or most of this pre-writing in your final statement, but your answers may help clarify your thoughts and provide a starting place.

  • Why do you teach?
  • What do you expect the outcomes of instruction to be?
  • How do you know when you have succeeded in teaching?
  • What do you personally value about teaching and learning?
  • How does the context of your topic influence your teaching?
  • How has your research affected the ways you teach?
  • What pedagogical techniques and approaches do you use in your teaching?
  • How do you approach evaluation and assessment?

Diversity Statement

Your diversity statement demonstrates your awareness that higher education has typically been harder to access for underrepresented and economically disadvantaged groups, and shows that you understand that the content of higher education curricula has both reflected and contributed to the marginalization of these groups. In your diversity statement, you will show how your awareness of these facts affects your research, teaching, and service.


The diversity statement should be on plain paper with 1” margins in 12pt Times New Roman, Garamond, or other standard font. Begin with your name, centered, and the title “Diversity Statement” below it, also centered.

General Advice

Remember that you do not have to occupy a minority position to have an opinion on diversity; as a job seeker—in any role and sector of employment—you must be prepared to work with and teach people who are different from you. Consider how the way you do your work has changed as a result of your understanding of questions of diversity and inclusivity. Stay away from vague generalities about “differences having value” in favor of a concrete articulation of your strategies, developed through experience and reflection, for putting your awareness of diversity concerns into practice in your teaching, research, and service.

Remember to do you preliminary research for this statement as well. What programs and initiatives already exist at the institution? What are the major concerns of this institution around diversity and equity? Make sure that your statement is speaking to those concerns.

Avoid comparing an experience in your background or a personal trait to an historical basis for discrimination or refusal of access to education if the comparison is inapt. (Examples: “that time I was bullied for being smart”, left-handedness, red hair, etc.) Don’t simply tell a story about a time when you had feelings about privilege or obstacles to success, and don’t be overly general about a vague “commitment to diversity”. Most importantly, don’t worry too much about offending search committee members who may be annoyed by calls for diversity and inclusivity in higher education. They are unlikely to read this statement anyway, so you might as well be honest.

Starting Points

Answering the following questions may help if you are struggling with a starting point for your diversity statement.

  • What’s your story?
  • What obstacles (whether yours or those of others) have your experiences exposed you to?
  • What privileges have you experienced or observed?
  • What do you know about the institutional and legal barriers that have historically existed between marginalized groups and higher education, and how does this understanding inform your stance around diversity, inclusion, and equity?
  • What are some specific ways you have helped students to succeed, and how do these efforts demonstrate your commitment to equity and diversity?
  • What programs or initiatives have you participated in that aimed to increase success and retention for underrepresented or socioeconomically disadvantaged students?
  • What ideas do you have for such programs or participation in the future?