Tuesday, August 29, 2017

How long should a proposal be?

Via a question on Twitter: a (poorly worded) poll:
Chemistry professors, what length is ideal for a faculty application research proposal? 
And the results from 273 votes:

Less than 5 pages: 43%:
5-8 pages: 30%
8-10 pages: 14%
Meh, only 1st page read: 13%

I say poorly worded because I should have asked if this was for a Ph.D.-granting institution or a PUI. Definitely click through the replies to see all the wise heads correct me. 


  1. For a PUI, lots of research statements/proposals specify <5 pages - even 2 or so is somewhat common. I know for R1s they generally like to see 2-3 separate projects, but does anyone have any feel for if this is also the case for the <5 page statements that PUIs want?

  2. PUI: To make it easiest for me on the market, I have a 2-page executive summary of my projects and approach to involving undergrads. Then I do the traditional 3x3 for my proposals, with each clearly separated out.

    Places that don't specify a page length get the whole packet. Then the committee can just read the summary but has details if they're interested in checking one or the other out.

    For places with short requirements, just the executive summary. For places with middle-length requirements, it's usually the summary and one proposal that best fits the job description, with an offer of the other proposals on request.