A statement of the significance of your research is now a common requirement, and one which applicants often do badly. The most common mistake is to claim too much: everyone got it wrong before you came along. Try to think precisely what contribution your findings make i) empirically; ii) methodologically; and iii) theoretically – if relevant (it isn’t for everybody, and it is best to avoid making woolly theoretical claims for work that does not support it). If your main case is empirical, that’s the case you should make, but remember that it’s not enough to say that your research fills a gap in the literature. There are many, many gaps in our knowledge of the past and there always will be: you need to explain what we gain in understanding from filling the particular one you have chosen. Go back to your original research questions and think about the extent to which they have been modified or addressed as your research progressed. What surprised you in the archives? Think about the questions and feedback you have had at seminar or conference presentations: what interested people, what connections were they making to their own work, to other fields or periods of history? All these things can help you to come to a measured, realistic assessment of your contribution. In writing about the significance of your work it is also good to draw out connections between your current project and your next one.
Statement of teaching philosophy
This can often be adapted from work you have done on training courses. Avoid jargon and wherever possible give examples from your own experience to illustrate any general points you make. Address various different teaching modes: lectures, discussion classes, one-to-one meetings. Remember that it is not another opportunity to trumpet your high evaluation scores: what this statement is testing is your capacity to reflect creatively upon your teaching and the principles that lie behind it. How do you think people learn best? What is the teacher’s role in that process? How have you changed your teaching practice in light of feedback from students and/or colleagues?
Our section on Teaching might also give you some ideas.