Preparing Your Dossier

What’s included in a dossier?

Departments know exactly what they want to get from you, but they don’t always tell you that. Or they use language that might mean different things in different contexts. For instance, the word “dossier” can sometimes only refer to letters of recommendation, where elsewhere it might mean everything including cover letter, CV, letters of rec, writing sample, AND teaching portfolio. When in doubt, ask (if they provide a contact email).

Here are some terms: (each of these also has a separate post for further explanation)

  • Letter: aka the job letter or cover letter. You send this with every single application.
  • CV: you send this with every application.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Read closely because not all schools want these up front. Many do. It’s ok for this to reach them separately; in fact, it usually does and they often want it to. See my post on using the Career Center or Interfolio to send your letters.
  • Writing Sample: most don’t want this up front, so don’t send it if it’s not solicited. A few schools do want it up front; in that case, pay close attention to the page length they want. If they don’t say, aim for 20-25 pages. Nothing too long, nothing too short. See my post on writing samples. Schools that don’t ask for writing samples up front will usually contact their first pool of candidates and request samples. They often only give you a couple of days to send it, which means you should always have some ready to go.
  • Teaching Philosophy Statement: becoming more common in ads. Very few ask for them up front but, again, you have to have it written because you never know. Some will request it later.
  • Teaching Portfolio: pretty rare, except for teaching-intensive schools, but time-consuming to put together and still sometimes asked for (with quick turn-arounds), so have it prepared.
  • Syllabi: not so common, or part of the teaching portfolio request.
  • Research Agenda: will see this requested by heavy research schools. This is basically a 2 page document, single-spaced, detailing where your research is now and where it’s going. You’ll want to map out a timeline for publication and show you have a lot up your sleeve and know how it’s all connected.
  • Application“: schools that just ask for “applications” mean the cover letter and CV.
  • Dissertation summary: a 2-page single-spaced summary of your dissertation that lets you speak in more depth than you do in your cover letter. You should use your best judgement with this. Teaching-focused schools may interpret a diss summary to mean you are misidentifying what they value most. Schools that are very clearly research-centered may like that you sent a summary.