Some curriculum vitae matters

Fall is a perfect time for grad students to brush up a vitae. This entry began as a (very long) Twitter thread in summer, but after Phoenix temperatures declined from 115 F. to 102 F., it’s time for hot cider and editing.


First, some essential terminology to use in a curriculum vitae.

  • Curriculum vitae is the appropriate term. People sometimes use the word vita  or vitae informally, or the abbreviation cv. In more formal text, use curriculum vitae.
  • Published generally means something available publicly under some masthead or imprint (of a journal, a press, etc.). Noting something as published in electronic or print form may be relevant to some fields.
  • In press, accepted, and forthcoming are generally synonymous: the piece is accepted without reservation and publication is definite.
  • Working paper is a finished MS that is generally available publicly.
  • A teaching assistantship (or TAship) is a paid job tied to your student status responsible for some part of instruction in a higher-education class. Not an adjunct.
  • Adjunct is a part-time job as an instructor of record in a college or university class and not tied to your student status. Not a TA.
  • Refereed means that something has been accepted or published by an outlet (generally a journal) where peers in your field have reviewed your submitted manuscript before the editor made a decision. Even if published or accepted by the same outlet that publishes refereed articles, this term does not apply to commentaries, research notes, or other pieces where only the editor(s) reviewed and accepted the piece.
  • Finally (for now)… in progress is a term never to use in your vitae, at any stage in your career, to refer to a partial or hypothetical manuscript.
Purpose of a vitae

And with that last term we get to the main purpose of a curriculum vitae: to start a conversation you may or may not be present in. Vitae are used in a variety of ways: to persuade someone you are a viable candidate for a job or grant, or someone whose scholarly experience is sufficient to review for Journal/Funder of Note.

In other words, a cv is an instrumental genre, not a poem.1

So, if you look at the cv of faculty in your program (and you should look at several), you will see that the order of sections vary, as do what is included, what is highlighted, and how each faculty member crafts different emphases.2

That deadly “in progress” section

And now, back to what I said earlier: in progress is a term I advise that graduate students (and colleagues!) never use. Obviously, some use this, and some advise doctoral students to use it. Here is my perspective as an academic administrator who interviews prospective faculty: in progress is a term that means the items below are not finished and often will never be finished. If I see a cv for a job that is either tenure-track or otherwise research-oriented and there are gobs of entries labeled in progress, my first thought is, “Well, nothing’s happening there.”

And that is why I advise doctoral students and colleagues never to label a section as in progress. What you can do is have a section for ongoing research projects, a section that lists ongoing or completed data collection (including archival work and/or interviews). Why is a list of data collection better than titles for incomplete papers? Imagine yourself in an interview. The department head or search committee or dean is reading your 3-month-old cv. Which of the following would you rather hear?

  • “Have you finished [title from In Progress category]?”
  • “Tell me about [line in data-collection list].”

And this is the general rule for whether and how to include something in a cv:

  • You should be happy to answer any question about it in an interview.
  • It says something specific about your qualifications to do X (whatever reason you might have to send the vitae out).

And now to the sections of a curriculum vitae.


Usually, the first section of a doctoral student/newly-minted PhD vitae is the brief section listing all degrees, in reverse chronological order. Any individual degree but your doctoral program should be one or two lines at most. For the doctoral level, include your dissertation title, committee, and possibly reading areas if that is relevant to your discipline.

What comes next? It depends on the job. As Matt Reed and other community-college administrators will explain, highlight your teaching for a community-college job. If you are applying for a research-oriented faculty job or a straight research position, the research/scholarship section comes first.


In sections about teaching, you clearly identify the classes you have taught as an instructor of record vs. TA’d for.3 If you are applying for a community-college or other almost-entirely-teaching job and have taught high school AP, IB, or dual-enrollment classes in the last 5 years, include that experience.

When you become a faculty member, you will add advisees/mentees. The rule of thumb for this section of a vitae: make sure to list students who (a) finished a thesis/degree and/or (b) won awards tied to your class/mentoring. Beyond that, you will divide students you advised from those on whose committees you sat.


The size and order of pieces within a research/scholarship section will depend on what that prospective role is. If you have applied to a research-oriented job, subsections should appear in decreasing order of “oh, that’s awesome” for your specific audience. Sometimes the coin of the realm is the book, sometimes the refereed article. Whichever it is, that appears first.

Whenever you have multiple publications/presentations within a section, use reverse chronological order. (This also goes for Service.)

Here is one tip that you have probably heard before: make sure that the citation style is consistent, whether APA, Chicago, MLA, or the Manual of Publication in Complexification Studies (13-1/2th edition).

And here’s a secret full-professor tip for anything where you were the 7th person on a project: annotate the entry. Yes, you can annotate entries in your cv. “Completed statistical analysis, drafted results section.” I would love to see that in the vitae of someone I am interviewing! Again, the rule of thumb: include if you want that annotation to be part of a conversation, whether or not you are present… so the first author may be asked about that annotation in a reference call!

If you apply for a teaching job, slim down that research section, but highlight anything that demonstrates your ability to communicate clearly.

Journal for Advanced Intersectional Foucault Studies, no.
Practitioner journals? YES!

Grants where you contributed to the writing of the proposal appear as a subsection under that title, Grants — with one exception. The exception: named, famous dissertation fellowship programs go under Awards/Honors. In education, if you win a National Academy of Education/Spencer dissertation fellowship, that is listed under Honors/Awards, not Grants!

If you were a paid staff member on a grant, but did not help with the proposal, that item goes under employment.

As a doctoral student, you should specify your role on a team-written proposal. “Wrote evaluation section” is appropriate. And list the PI and proposed $$ figure, funding agency. If you put in significant time on an unfunded grant proposal (welcome to the club!), divide your section into funded and unfunded grants.

But do you included unfunded proposals at all?…

Again, audience and career stage matter. If you were a doctoral student trusted by Major Big Name PI to write a section, that says something even for an unfunded project. But the unfunded request for small travel grant? Don’t include. And in general, in academe “grants” refers to funding for specific projects, so I would generally skip travel grants unless they are highly competitive and say something about your qualifications.

Finally for the scholarship section, a reminder: Think twice or three times before you have “in progress” as a category.


Our formal written expectations in my college (drafted long before I was here) is useful: it distinguishes between “academic citizenship” service and “based on expertise” service. This is helpful less as an organizing principle than as a core question to ask: what claim are you making in your vitae? Make sure to highlight what you’d contribute to X by position and organization.

Some items that logically appear in a grad student’s cv service section:

  • Role in national learned society
  • Role in regional/state learned society
  • Member of a civil professional body tied to your field
  • Role on university hearing board (trusted to be impartial)

What about offices in student orgs? Again: how would you talk about it? “I’m ready to be a faculty advisor of student groups” is obvious. “Ready to be president of the American Historical Association”??? Maybe not!

Employment section

It is in the list of your jobs that the audience matters. Again. If you are framing the vitae for an academic job, be selective (but not silent!) about pre-doc-program employment. A P-12 job should be listed for teacher ed, social services for a clinical psych/social work, etc.

Definitely list RA or TA appointments. Yes, that information is often implicitly duplicated in publications and teaching. Yes, still list it.

If you were paid privately by a faculty member, note that – “Private research aide” should be sufficient, especially for jobs that you took over the summer. If you worked for a private firm, “Consultant” is the usual term.

On employment tied to your student status, always list supervisors and the scope of the job (generally, the working or formal title of research projects or the code/# and title of classes). Yes, you need to use the formal title that you had for official jobs. This is something that HR departments can raise questions about. Do not rely on the informal term that you and your supervisor discussed verbally. Check your offer letter.

And… if you were not paid for it by your university, you do not list it as a university job. This should be obvious, but… do not confuse volunteering with paid jobs on your vitae.4


Normally, an Awards/Honors section falls at the end of a vitae, right before your references. If you have a truly exceptional award to highlight for a specific audience, then the category moves to the first page of the vitae. Giant Learned Society Dissertation Fellowship falls in this category. University TA of the Year. That sort of thing.

If you have a named fellowship from your college, that’s great, and you list it, but it doesn’t bump the section up. One of 8-10 teaching awards in a year? Yay! It still does not bump the section up.

Application: The History of Education Society graduate-student essay award? Yes, if you are applying to a history of education job. Audience determines this. Again.

Do you list travel awards that are given out to all PhD students in your program? Or your RA jobs? Generally not, because it does not speak to your qualifications for X.

How about that Phi Beta Kappa membership from undergrad days? Ah… no. Undergrad research awards… MAYBE. If you joined Phi Beta Kappa, you were probably cum laude or more as an undergraduate, and that honor can be listed in your education section.


You must secure explicit permission of your references before listing them on your vitae. Only then may you put the name, title, and contact information on the last page of your vitae.


  1. Yes, you can have different versions of your vitae, depending on the audience. I have seen 100-page vitae of senior scholars, but they often have 2-3 page versions for grants and other purposes where a short demonstration of expertise is sufficient. []
  2. The same variation is true of the resume, if you are looking for non-academic jobs. []
  3. I wish there were a term for the not-paid/more-than-shadowed role. []
  4. See my note above about needing a term for the teaching section that is for unpaid, more-than-shadowing roles. We truly need that term, friends! Operators are standing by! []