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By Jim Austin Jul. Just as rare are programs designed to help doctoral students and postdocs learn how to create a research plan. Which is too bad: Writing an effective research plan is tricky.
And until now, there was little advice to be found. Okay, so that isn't exactly true: It isn't hard to find advice. Opinions, after all, are not in short supply in the academy. What is hard is finding advice you can rely on.
Because we talked to a lot of people.
We interviewed and corresponded with faculty and research scientists who have served on hiring committees. All of our sources have experience; some of our sources have a lot of experience.
We considered everything, filtered out the muck, and distilled it all down to a general strategy and a few simple principles, with a few variations on the theme thrown in for good measure.
Our aim is to do some of your homework for you, to make sure that you'll never have to read more than you have time for.
Furthermore, we'll keep talking to people about this topic, and we'll incorporate new responses into this document as we receive them. As a consequence this piece, like the other tools in the tool kit, will remain fresh and useful when other resources have become dated and useless.
So, onward and upward What's the purpose of a research plan? From your immediate point of view, the purpose of a research plan is to help get you hired. The research plan, however, serves another, very important function: It contributes to your development as a scientist.
Your research plan is a map for your career as a research science professional. As will become apparent later in this document, one of the functions of a research plan is to demonstrate your intellectual vision and aspirations. It's also an opportunity to begin to demonstrate the creative and independent thinking required of a successful scientist.
Not yet on the job market? Just starting out as a postdoc?
A research plan isn't just for demonstrating; it's also for honing and refining. It's possible to function quite well as a postdoc or grad student while giving little thought to your future.
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Writing a research plan casts your gaze forward and prompts you to begin planning for when you have your own laboratory. And if you've already started to think about your own lab, it will help you to refine your plans.
So take a stab at writing a research plan, even if you don't expect to be on the job market for a while. Think of it as a rough draft, a fantasy trip for your career. But never mind about that.
Most of you are trying to get hired. In that case what matters is, what is the committee looking for? Hiring committees desperately want to avoid making a serious mistake by investing institutional and intellectual capital in the wrong person.
The aim of your research plan, then, as of the rest of your application, is to assure the hiring committee that life with you will be pain-free. How do you do this?The New Scientist is a current affairs magazine aimed at readers interested in cutting edge science and technology.
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