On Writing CVs (1): Structuring your CV


What categories should your CV contain ? What information do you include ? Do you need to insert things like book reviews, or is that just weird ? Does house-sitting for your supervisor count as ‘professional activities’?

Well, the answer to that last one is probably ‘no’. Or at least, that information does not need to be disclosed in your academic CV. But the other questions can be play on your mind. Searching on the web for ‘academic CVs’, you’ll find a lot of stuff. The website historians.org includes a very long list of categories to include :

  • Personal details
  • Education
  • Dissertation topic
  • Teaching experience
  • Areas of specialization
  • Professional experience
  • Relevant course work
  • Teaching interests
  • Research interests
  • Professional affiliations
  • Presentations
  • Honors, awards, and distinctions
  • Scholarships or fellowships
  • Publications
  • Unpublished manuscripts
  • Professional activities
  • Editorial activities
  • Experience abroad
  • Research interest
  • Languages
  • Research experience
  • References

But this is quite extensive, and the UK market in particular prefers concise CVs. That being said, all the historians.org list needs is some quick tailoring :

  • Personal details – Your address, email, telephone number. Don’t really need photos or facebook pages, although those of you whom tweet professionally might want to include that information.
  • Education – Focus on Higher Education degrees, and include distinctions if you feel they value your work. Over time, however, you’ll probably only need to include the date, type of degree and institution.
  • Professional Appointments/Employment – This is quite straightforward, although you don’t need to include experience which is not related to academia (ie, babysitting).
  • Publications – There are many questions here:
    • How do you organise these? Well, this depends on how many you have. Early on in your career, you might prefer a chronological order. Later on, consider dividing into sub-categories: Books; Articles; Chapters; etc.
    • Published; Accepted; Under Review; Submitted… All of these are great ways of describing works in progress. Don’t lie about the status of your piece though, otherwise this could seriously backfire.
    • Do you include book reviews? Hm. One school of thought thinks NO, because it looks a bit desperate. But this is not at all a universal opinion. Indeed, book reviews show contribution to the field, and some book reviews are published in leading journals or are actually great pieces of interpretation, analysis and opinion. So why not point them out? For those early on in their careers, listing your book reviews might be a good thing since it takes up space. Over time, as your peer-review publications increase, it will become less necessary. You could always add a line in this section: Have contributed book reviews to (insert list of journals).
    • What about other publications, such as blog posts or books written on the side? Well, this is a personal question, especially
  • Grants/Fellowships/Awards/Distinctions – If you have got some research grants or received awards, this is the ideal place to put them. Indeed, it is becoming more and more important to show that you can attract funding, so incorporating a special section like this can really highlight your potential.
  • Teaching experience – Dividing this section according to UG and PG teaching can help show your range of experience and expertise. Then, you have other categories: Administrative responsibilities; pastoral care; etc. You might choose to expand these sections if you
  • Academic Presentations (Conference/Seminar Papers) – These are great, since they show your engagement within the academic community. They are also an easy way to expand your CV in its early stages. Over time you’ll be able to divide this section into sub-categories: on invitation; selected conferences; conferences organised
  • Professional affiliations/Memberships – Again, a section which shows off your engagement in the academic community. Fellow of a society? Member of an academic association? Associate fellow of a network? Just a couple of names will suffice, but they are a good way of showing your academic connections.
  • Professional activities – This section can include a variety of things: editor on a committee; media interventions; IMPACT talks and activities; workshops and conferences organised; convenor of a seminar. If one section is extremely long you might want to consider giving it its own heading, but otherwise it could all fit into here. Tailor this section to your experience, and to the aspects you want to highlight.
  • Languages – Outlining your hobbies might seem a bit pointless at this stage, but showing how many languages you can speak/read/both is always a good idea.
  • References – Have a list of 2-5 referees who (1) you know will write you a reference because you have already discussed this with them (2) you know will write you a GREAT reference because that is what you need. List their names, affiliations, possibly how you are connected to them (thesis examiner, supervisor, previous employer, etc.), and maybe their addresses. The details are up to you. Order them in order of preference/importance, rather than alphabetical order (or at least, that is what I would do).

The order here is pretty good/basic, although you should always remember to tailor your CV to the job being advertised. If it is a teaching fellowship, consider bringing the ‘teaching experience’ section higher up in your CV. If it is a research grant or research-led lectureship, focus on grants and fellowships.

Good luck!



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