After lack of success on the job market this year, I have decided to re-work my research statement considerably in order to improve my chances for the next round in the fall. I hear so many different things about how it should be written that I thought I would post this on the wiki and see what people who have been successful this year and those who have been on search committees have to say about the research statement. To be clear, my target institutions are research universities (R1 and R2). Here are the major issues that I can't seem to get any agreement on from advisers.
1) How long should this really be? I usually get two answers: a) 1-2 pages, or b) 3-4 pages. In my current version I have gone with option b, but I am starting to think that in a job market where search committees are dealing with 100+ applications, the shorter, easier read may be a better approach?
2) In how much detail should the research statement describe studies I have conducted? I mean more in terms of methodology used for the studies, as I would provide a brief description of results either way. I have received mixed advice here too. Some mentors have urged me to be more of a story-teller in the research statement, outlining the goals of my overall research program, studies so far, and future directions, but not go into describing my existing work in too much methodological detail, as those details can be obtained from my publications. Other mentors have urged me to describe studies that I have conducted in a very detailed way, providing a good sense of the methods used.
I would really appreciate some tips and advice regarding these two issues. I would also like to get the perspective of those who have been on search committees and how they generally approach this part of the application. There seems to be so little direction and agreement regarding this very important part of the application package! Thanks in advance.