Should research statements be interconnected?

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In our newest “how can we help you?” thread, a reader asks:

Say you have two separate research projects, one in each of your areas of specialization. From the hiring committee side, do you want to see how these two projects are connected, even if the narrative the persons tells to do so seems a bit, shall we say, fluffed up? I think this is especially tricky for someone who justifiably claims an AOS in a historical area + a standard area (epistemology, ethics). If I wrote a dissertation on Spinoza theory of action and also work on forgiveness, should I really be trying to say something about their connection?

Where I am coming from is that I’ve seen research statements written as what amounts to a standalone essay on one’s research that brings in past and future projects, and I’ve seen research statements that begin with a basic overview paragraph and then just describe papers and monographs on their own, leaving it to the reader to find the connections. I could see the person I describe above opting for the latter, but then someone thinking: What’s the connection between this ethics stuff and the Spinoza?

It just seems right to me that not all of one’s research need be so connected. Our actual philosophical interests often don’t often fall into AOS categories, and when they don’t, why bother trying to find some story that unifies them instead of just saying: I like X; and I like Y?

But if the answer is that hiring committees like that, then I’m willing to play ball.

These are good questions, and my answer is: I’m not sure. My sense is that search committees probably care more about how interesting they find your research and how fruitful and well-developed your research program(s) are (does it look likely that you will be able to publish consistently beyond your dissertation and a few papers?). But maybe some people do want to see interconnections between different research programs. I don’t know. What do you all think? It would be great to hear from some hiring committee members!

Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More

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