Writing an effective academic CV

How to create a curriculum vitae that is compelling, well-organized and easy to read

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A good CV showcases your skills and your academic and professional achievements concisely and effectively. It’s well-organized and easy to read while accurately representing your highest accomplishments.

Don't be shy about your achievements, but also remember to be honest about them. Do not exaggerate or lie!

Academic CVs differ from the CVs typically used by non-academics in industry because you need to present your research, various publications and awarded funding in addition to the other items contained in a non-academic CV.

Here are some tips. They are organized into categories that could be used to structure a CV. You do not need to follow this format, but you should address the categories covered here somewhere in your CV.

Tools you can use

  • If you’re looking to demonstrate the impact your research has had, PlumX Metrics are available in several of Elsevier’s products and services, giving you an overview of how specific papers have performed, including where they were mentioned in the media, how other researchers used them, and where they were mentioned on platforms from Twitter to Wikipedia.
  • You can also use Mendeley Careers to discover job opportuinities based on the keywords and interests listed in your CV and the articles you’ve read in your Mendeley library.
  • If you’re looking for more specific guidance on how to take control of your career in research and academia, Elsevier’s Research Academy has entire sections dedicated to job search, career planning and career guidance.

General tips

Start by considering the lengthstructure and format of your CV.

Length

  • 2 pages is optimal for a non-academic CV, but research positions offer more flexibility on length.
  • Include research-specific details that emphasize your suitability, like relevant publications, funding secured in your name, presentations and patents to the employer.
  • 4 sides  is a reasonable length. Academic recruiters may accept more if the additional information is relevant to the post.

Structure

Next, choose a structure for your CV.

  • Start with the main headings and sub-headings you will use.
  • In general, you should start  by providing some brief personal details, then a brief career summary.
  • The first section of your CV should focus on your education, publications and research.
  • Also address: funding, awards and prizes, teaching roles, administrative experience, technical and professional skills and qualifications, professional affiliations or memberships, conference and seminar attendances and a list of references.

Dr. Sheba Agarwal-Jans talks about writing an academic CV for Elsevier’s Researcher Academy (free registration required). Watch here.

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Formatting

  • Use legible font types in a normal size (font size 11 or 12) with normal sized margins (such as 1 inch or 2.5 cm).
  • Bullet points can highlight important items and present your credentials concisely.
  • Keep a consistent style for headings and sub-headings and main text – do not use more than 2 font types.
  • Make smart but sparing use of bold and italics. (Avoid underlining for emphasis; underlines are associated with hyperlinks.)
  • Be aware of spelling and grammar and ensure it is perfect. Re-read a few times after writing the CV. Spell check can be useful, though some suggestions will not be accurate or relevant.

Composing your CV

Personal details

  • Personal details include your name, address of residence, phone number(s) and professional email.
  • You might also include your visa status if relevant.

Career summary

  • Use about 5 to 7 sentences to summarize your expertise in your disciplines, years of expertise in these areas, noteworthy research findings, key achievements and publications.

Education

  • Provide an overview of your education starting from your most recent academic degree obtained (reverse chronological order).
  • Include the names of the institutions, thesis or dissertation topics and type of degree obtained.
  • List your most reputed publications in ranking of type, such as books, book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles, non-peer-reviewed articles, articles presented as prestigious conferences, forthcoming publications, reports, patents, and so forth.
  • Consider making an exhaustive list of all publications in an appendix.

Publications

  • List your most reputed publications in ranking of type, such as books, book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles, non-peer-reviewed articles, articles presented as prestigious conferences, forthcoming publications, reports, patents, and so forth.
  • Consider making an exhaustive list of all publications in an appendix.

Research

  • Your research experiences, findings, the methods you use and your general research interests are critical to present in the first part of your CV.
  • Highlight key research findings and accomplishments.

Honors and awards

  • Indicate any prizes, awards, honors or other recognitions for your work with the year it occurred and the organization that granted the award.

Funding

  • The funding you have attracted for your research and work is recognition of the value of your research and efforts.
  • As with the honors and recognitions, be forthcoming with what you have obtained in terms of grants, scholarships and funds.

Teaching

  • List your teaching experience, including the institutions, years you taught, the subjects you taught and the level of the courses.

Administrative experience

  • Administrative experience on a faculty or at a research institute should be noted.
  • This might include facilitating a newsletter, organizing events or other noteworthy activities at your institution or beyond.

Professional experience

  • Include any employment in industry that is recent (within the last 5 to 10 years) and relevant to your academic work.
  • Professional experience can explain any gaps in your academic work and demonstrate the diversity in your capabilities.

Other skills and qualifications

  • Highlight key skills and qualifications relevant to your research and academic work.
  • Technical and practical skills, certifications, languages and other potentially transferrable skills are relevant to mention in this section.

Professional affiliations and memberships

  • If you belong to any professional group or network related to your areas of expertise, you should mention them in this section.
  • Only list affiliations or memberships you have been active with within the last 5 years.
  • Keep this section short.

Attendance at conferences and seminars

  • List the most relevant conferences or seminars where you presented or participated on a panel within the last 5 to 7 years.
  • In an appendix, you can add an exhaustive list of conferences and seminars where you participated by giving a speech, presenting a paper or research, or took part in a discussion panel.

References

  • List at least three people who can provide a reference for your research, work and character. Check with them first to make sure the are comfortable recommending you and aware of the opportunities you are seeking.
  • Provide their names and complete contact information. They should all be academics and all people you have worked with.

Appendices

  • Appendices enable you to keep the main content of your CV brief while still providing relevant detail.
  • Items to list in an appendix can include publications, short research statements or excerpts, conference or seminar participation, or something similar and relevant which you would like to provide more details about.

Final note

CVs are not only for job searching. You will need to update your CV regularly and adapt it for the various purposes:

  • Awards, fellowships
  • References
  • Publishing
  • Grant applications
  • Public speaking
  • Consulting
  • Leadership
  • Merit/tenure review

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