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									                                   Sprucing Up Your CV∗
                                             February 2008

The CV as Personal Ad
   • Your CV is really an advertisement for yourself, whether on the job market or in compe-
     titions for fellowships, funding, or prizes. It should summarize who you are as a scholar
     and appeal to the audience(s) you want to impress. Whom do you want to reach, and what
     message do you want to send?

   • Think about how hiring committee members or grant-givers will actually read your CV;
     in most cases, this means a cursory reading looking for reasons to throw people out of the
     stack. You need to make “processing” your CV as easy and clear as possible. It should make
     a strong and easily digestible statement with no areas of confusion, ambiguity, or sloppi-
     ness. An easily processed CV puts you at an advantage over competitors; a perplexing one
     puts you out of the competition.

   • Your CV should generate interest in meeting you on the part of those reading it, as well as
     interesting questions for those people to ask you about your work. Look at your CV from
     the perspective of someone who knows nothing about you. What pops out? What ques-
     tions will they want to ask you about your work? Are these the questions you are interested
     in and ready to answer?

   • Cut to the chase! The temptation to make your CV comprehensive of everything you’ve
     done is always there, but your main goal should be to provide a clean, clear profile of who
     you are as a scholar and why someone reading your CV should want to engage you further.
     Try to capture your professional narrative or essence quickly and clearly.

   • There are multiple places in your CV where you can signal and reinforce your professional
     identity. These include but are not limited to:

         – your education section, where you can highlight the fields in which you have passed
           comprehensive exams;
         – your dissertation abstract, where you can indicate your dissertation committee and
           thus your intellectual pedigree;
         – your research section(s), where you can identify your areas of research, the journals
           you have submitted work to, and the conferences you attend;
         – your teaching section, where you can use subheadings to visually reinforce your areas
           of teaching proficiency;
         – other sections as appropriate, which might show your language proficiencies and area
           experience, professional association memberships, etc.
    Notes from the UW–Madison Political Science Grad Association (PSGA) professional development workshop held
on February 26, 2008. Thanks to Yoi Herrera, Dhavan Shah, Barry Burden, Amy Forster-Rothbart, Peter Holm, Jake
Neiheisel, and other participants in the workshop for the ideas and advice collected here.

  • Too much information can actually be confusing or send a muddled message. Again, aim
    for a clean profile of your professional interests and work; your CV should convey where
    you sit in the discipline in a way that is quick and easy to comprehend.

  • You must be willing to share your CV! It does you no good if you never show it to anyone.
    Take the time to write a CV that represents your professional identity well. If it’s interesting
    to you, it will be interesting to others; if it’s not even interesting to you, you may need to do
    some thinking about why that is.

The Sections of Your Document
Contact Information
  • List your departmental mailing address, but don’t use the departmental phone number.
    Use your home or cell phone—a number that you actually answer personally.

  • Make sure to include your departmental email address (not a commercial email address)
    and, if you have one (and you should!) your website address.

  • List your degree programs in reverse chronological order, and make sure to include your
    current status at UW–Madison! You can put down an expected year of graduation for or-
    dering purposes.

  • You may want to list your major and minor fields of study under each institution, particu-
    larly your current one, as well as any certificates you have earned.

  • If you have spent time in non-degree programs (e.g., methods training at ICPSR, EITM,
    or QCRM; a Fulbright year abroad), you can list them as “Other Training” or some similar
    moniker in the education section of your CV. Indeed, they have educated you and they are
    relevant to your professional training.

  • Include the city and state (or country, if outside the U.S.) of the institutions where you have

  • There are many possible ways to organize your research section(s), and what works best
    for you will probably change over time as your CV grows. In any case, you should generally
    break up your research section into parts based on the different phases of the research
    and publication process (e.g., works in progress, works under review, works accepted for
    revisions, works already published).

  • Once you reach your third or fourth year, you should probably include your dissertation
    title (even if that is all you have), abstract, and committee members in your research sec-
    tion. This is the key project of your graduate career and should go a long way in identifying
    you as a scholar. Be sure that your abstract is crisp and clear about what your project is and
    why people should be interested in it. Listing your committee members provides both a
    set of markers about how you have situated yourself in the discipline and a set of contacts

    for interested readers to contact to find out more about you. (This goes on a lot!) Your
    list of committee members also stands to vouch for your methodological orientation and

  • Make sure that any papers you list in your research section are either already publicly avail-
    able or sufficiently polished that you would be willing to send them to someone on request.
    People may ask to see the papers you list, and you should be ready and eager to share them.

  • You may want to separate journal articles from chapters in edited volumes. Although both
    are important and valued, journal articles (even those under review and not yet published)
    are the “coin of the realm” in the discipline and should be highlighted.

  • Similarly, you may want to distinguish papers that have been accepted for publication but
    not yet published from those that are still in the “pre-submission” phase or are still under

  • For papers under review or accepted for revisions, consider listing the name of the jour-
    nal(s) where you have sent them. This provides another indication of where you situate
    yourself in the field and the audiences you want to reach with your work. It contributes
    to your “brand.” In listing such papers, use the correct terminology–a paper is “under re-
    view” when initially submitted and “under revision” when actually granted a revision and
    resubmit by a journal.

Conference Presentations
  • Conference presentations are often included within the research section or just after it.
    Particularly when you don’t have dozens of presentations to list, this makes sense, because
    it doesn’t break up the flow of the document too much and people want to see that you
    are: a) doing conference presentations, a signal of socialization into the discipline; and b)
    converting conference presentations into journal submissions, which you include in your
    research section.

  • However, you may have reason to move conference presentations farther to the end of your
    CV, particularly if you have a long list of them or if you already have a sizable publications
    section that speaks for itself in terms of your engagement in the research community.

  • Many people have two versions of their CV: one for research-intensive jobs and one for
    teaching-intensive jobs. For research-intensive jobs, it makes more sense to put confer-
    ence presentations with the rest of your research section. For teaching-intensive jobs, it
    may make more sense to move up your teaching section and push conference presenta-
    tions farther back.

  • Have a teaching section! If you don’t have any teaching experience, try to get some before
    you go on the market.

  • Separate courses that you have taught (lectured) from those where you’ve been a TA.

  • For courses you have TA’ed, list the title, semester, and the professor for whom you TA’ed;
    again, readers may contact these professors to find out how great you are.

  • It may be helpful to break out your teaching assignments by field or subfield; this is an easy
    way to highlight your scholarly identify by visually reinforcing your areas of expertise.

  • You may have teaching experiences that are less extensive than lecturing or TA’ing (e.g.,
    guest lectures, workshops). Include these in a subsection, as well!

Honors, Awards, and Grants
  • Think broadly here. This section can include fellowships, funding, teaching awards, re-
    search prizes, travel grants, and honor societies, including fellowships or grants that you
    had to decline (mark them as “declined”).

  • It is generally preferable to group your honors and awards together in one section rather
    than to scatter them in the education, research, and teaching sections.

Other Sections
  • What other sections you include will vary depending on your field and experiences.

  • Comparativists should definitely include any language proficiencies, field experience, and
    even citizenship, which may be relevant for government grants, if it is not clear that you
    are a U.S. citizen.

  • You may want to list professional association memberships, again as a signal of where you
    situate yourself in the discipline. If you do, the list should go near the end of your docu-

  • You may want to list non-academic experiences that are relevant to your training, interests,
    or expertise. These could include jobs you held before or during graduate school, oppor-
    tunities you have had to travel in your area of expertise or engage in activities relevant to
    your work (e.g., as an election monitor or consultant), or other activities.

  • You may want to list professional and university service that you have done (e.g., journal
    refereeing, committee service), but this is more important at the assistant professor level
    than as a graduate student.

  • You may want to list particular methodological or computer skills, areas of substantive
    interest, or other facts relevant to your scholarly profile. Ideally, your research and teaching
    sections will already reflect these facts, but if not, you may want to list them separately.

  • You may want to have a separate list of references for people to contact that could be par-
    tially or wholly distinct from your dissertation committee. This should generally come at
    the end of your CV.

Formatting and Appearance
  • The look and structure of your CV are important! The document should convey profes-
    sionalism, clarity, and attention to detail.

  • Structure the document to guide the reader through it quickly and cleanly. Is it easy to
    follow? Does the ordering of (and within) the sections make sense? Is the reader’s eye
    guided to the most important points of the document?

  • Print out your document and examine it from a visual perspective. Are there any awkward
    page or section breaks? “Widows and orphans” that decrease readability? Inconsistencies
    in font size or formatting? Fix these.

  • Be consistent in your style–are you using bullets throughout? Indenting? Capitalizing a
    particular word throughout?

  • Include a date (e.g., month and year, or semester and year) in the header or footer so that
    the reader knows when you last updated your CV.

  • Include page numbers and possibly your name on each page so that the document can
    always be put back together the way you want it viewed.

  • Don’t use weird fonts. Use the same font throughout. Similarly, keep yourself in check
    when it comes to bolding, italicizing, and underlining. Keep it clean, crisp, and profes-

  • A section should contain at least two items; if not, combine sections.

  • Like it or not, superficial judgments do play a role in how readers perceive you. A messy or
    unclear CV can take you out of the running for a job or grant; it’s worth putting in the time
    to develop a good and good-looking document.

The Life of a Graduate School CV
  • You should have a CV, and you should keep it regularly updated. This keeps you ready to
    apply for a last-minute fellowship or grant, but it also helps you keep track of your achieve-
    ments, awards, and activities that might otherwise be overlooked when you update your
    CV a year after the fact.

  • As you start out as a graduate student, don’t worry that you don’t have that much to put in
    your CV. This is to be expected. Just put what you have and add to it as you move through
    the program.

  • By your third or fourth year, you should start to have some conference presentations and
    works in progress, as well as a dissertation title and possibly an abstract. The ratio of con-
    ference presentations to article submissions shouldn’t get too high; people want to see that
    you are converting your conference papers into submissions at a reasonable rate. This is a
    signal that you understand how the discipline works and will be a productive member of
    the intellectual community.

  • As your CV grows, you can start to think about dropping some items, particularly items
    from your undergraduate years. The extent to which you do this should depend on what
    the items are—don’t delete a Fulbright grant or a Watson fellowship that you got before you
    came to graduate school, but maybe do delete your time on the Dean’s list—and what you
    have to replace them. Just be selective in what you include and exclude.

• Don’t compare your CV to inappropriate models. A first-year CV will look a lot different
  than a sixth-year CV, which in turn will look a lot different than an assistant professor’s. If
  you are nearing the job market, take a look at the CVs of candidates getting interviews at
  Wisconsin and other schools where you would be interested in working to get a sense of
  how yours stacks up.

• If you are ever in doubt about whether to include an item on your CV or how to present it,
  consult with your adviser or another faculty member. Recruitment committee members
  have a hundred CVs to read and are always looking for a reason to throw another one out;
  be proactive and prevent this from happening to you.


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