Creating a Scientific Vita
Tips on Creating an Academic Vita
Curriculum Vitae Dos and Don'ts
Everything you ever wanted to know about the CV
Read some sample vitas from faculty at various stages of their career.
After reviewing hundreds of vitas from people applying for postdoctoral fellowships and faculty positions, we have developed a number of guidelines for preparing a vita as well as other materials required by a job application:
- While there is no standard format for a vita, people do expect
information to appear in a certain order within your vita. Deviations
from this may cause people to miss important information. We strongly
recommend that you let 2-3 faculty check over your vita.
- Contact Information (mailing address, phone numbers, email address)
- Education (bachelors, graduate)
- Current and Previous Positions (postdoctoral positions, faculty and teaching positions)
- Honors (keep pre-graduate school honors to the most prestigious ones)
- Grants (fellowships, grants to you as a PI or co-PI, not grants that your advisor gets that are funding you)
- Peer-Reviewed Publications (list only papers that are published, in press, or accepted pending revision)
- Non-Peer-Reviewed Publications (including books, edited volumes, commentaries, chapters)
- Optionally list manuscripts in preparation (this section is optional and is typically absent from the vitas of more senior investigators, it should really only include papers that are actually in preparation or projects that are far enough along that a paper will be completed soon)
- Invited Talks (make sure these are really INVITED talks)
- Presentations at National and International Conferences
- References (people who will write letters for you or who can be contacted for more information
- Keep a current copy of your vita on the web. It's common practice now for people to scope out potential postdoctoral fellows and faculty members by initially checking out what's available on the web. It's surprising how often a vita or a web site can be a year or two old, missing many recent publications.
- IMPORTANT: Don’t co-mingle “in preparation”, “under review”, etc. with things that are published, in press, or in press pending revision. (Note: make sure the editor has said explicitly that a paper is in press pending revisions, which is something editors rarely do these days. Don't infer that from the tenor of the reviews or the action letter). When you list a paper as "in preparation" or even "under review" it is generally not good practice to list things as “to be submitted to” or "submitted to" and then give the particular journal (lots of people plan to submit a paper to Science or Nature, but few of those submissions are ever published, no matter how cool you think the results are). Opinions differ on that though. If you list something as "in preparation" you should be prepared to have a detailed discussion about what you did and what you found should someone ask you about it.
- List all publications in chronological or reverse chronological order. Don’t alphabetize - that makes it very difficult to gauge current productivity, which is something people pay close attention to. Also don’t organize papers topically - while that may be fine for a web site, it's bad practice for a scientific vita.
- This is a minor point, but don’t use fancy heavy weight bond paper. Nice paper is nice, but really nice paper is ostentatious. And when it comes to the vita, the more trees you kill the better (i.e., single-sided is better than double-sided, at least for vitas if not for anything else you send along with the vita when applying for a job).
- Be very careful about what you list as an “invited talk”. If in doubt ask your advisor. If someone reads your vita and sees something listed as an invited talk that they know wasn't really an invited talk it can be a serious negative. Opinions differ, but many people list other job talks as invited talks. Again, if you're unsure what to do ask someone their opinion.
- This should go without saying but put a phone number on your vita. It's amazing how many people put an email address but no phone number. It's understandable that you may not want a home phone number on your standard vita. But why not put a home number and a work number on a vita you send out for a job? You’d think you’d want someone to be able to call you if they wanted to chat or invite you for an interview, right.
- When you apply for a job, you'll typically be asked to send in a
research statement. Keep your research statement short, sexy, and to
the point. It's easy to write a statement that is really boring and
gives way too much technical detail. It's easy to write one that's way
too long. It's easy to write one that reads like a bunch of concatenated
abstracts from all the papers you've ever written. It's hard to write
one that makes people excited about what you've done, what you're doing,
and what you plan to do. But apart from your vita and recommendation
letters, this can be the most important thing that moves you from the
short list to a person invited for an interview. You really should have
people read drafts of your research statement. Don't make it an
The research statement needs to provide the big picture of your research program. I know that it may seem a bit intimidating to think about a program of research but that's what search committees for faculty positions are looking for. The research statement is also your opportunity to provide some conceptual links between different projects, where the connections may not be readily evident to the outside reader. It is critical that you can show that you are building a program of research, not just a series of independent experiments.
- A minor point, but places often ask for a research statement and a teaching statement. Don't embed the two of those in a cover letter. The cover letter should be separate. The cover letter can certainly be a synopsis of what's said in the research statement and teaching statement, but make sure it's kept separate. It's too easy for someone to think that an application is incomplete if it does not have a research statement and a teaching statement. If a job advertisement gets over 100 applications, you don't want someone glossing over your material because they think something is missing.