Writing an Academic CV

What Is a Curriculum Vitae?

The phrase "curriculum vitae," in a literal sense, means "course (or path) of life." Thus in American English the written genre we call a "curriculum vitae" (CV) is a document that summarizes the path you have followed in your professional life. As such, a CV grows and changes with its author,—it grows and changes is a rather unusual genre, in so far as it is one thatAs a genre, a curriculum vitae (cv) should thereforeIn American English, a CV, or “curriculum vitae,” and a resume are not the same thing. Resumes are brief and tailored for a specific objective, which dictates the type of information one includes. A CV should be more comprehensive. In fact, the phrase “curriculum vitae” literally means “course [or path] of life,” and thus a CV should grow and develop as you do.

What Should a CV Include?

Your CV should including all of the notable accomplishments and activities of your professional life. Although the types of activities and accomplishments that are considered part of professional life may vary somewhat from one field or discipline to the next, there are some standard categories:

  • Name & Contact Information
    • Include a postal address where you are certain that you will receive mail;
    • Include a permanent email address;
    • Some people include telephone numbers as well
  • Education
    • List all of the institutes of higher education where you have studied
      • Your highest degree should be listed first (e.g., 1. Ph. D., 2. M.A., 3. B.A.)
      • If you are currently working toward a degree, you may list it as long as you specify when you are scheduled to finish and clarify that you anticipate having the degree by that time. Do not make it appear as if you already have a degree you have not yet received. People who are in a Ph. D. program, however, should not claim that they anticipate the degree by a certain date unless they have already scheduled a dissertation defense.
    • In the listing for each part of your education, you should name the university, specify the years you spent there, indicate the city in which the institution is located, and identify your major (e.g., M.A. in Economics or Master’s in Finance, etc.)
    • Under the listing of degrees for which you wrote a thesis, include the title of the thesis and your adviser or advisers (more experienced professors sometimes omit this, but it is advisable to do so during the earlier stages of your career)
  • Academic Appointments and/or Employment
    • For professors, academic appointments and employment will often be one and the same thing
    • List teaching, research, and administrative positions beginning with the most recent.
    • Sometimes, it helps to separate these categories into their own sections, depending on how much experience you have and how diverse your professional activities have been.
  • Publications
    • You absolutely must include all of your publications.
    • If you have a long list, it may be helpful to separate these into sections (e.g., peer-reviewed vs. non-peer reviewed, or genre by genre—articles, book chapters, reviews, etc.)
    • Publications should be listed in the order of the most recent (first) to the oldest (last)
      • If you have several sub-categories of publications, arrange each sub-category in reverse chronological order
    • Provide sufficient bibliographical information for each publication so that your readers can find your work
  • Working Papers or Research in Progress
    • Many professionals include this category, especially if a lot of the work they do is collaborative
    • If you have forthcoming publications they could go in this category, but I prefer to put those under “Publications”
      • Regardless of where you list forthcoming publications, you should list them, and you should indicate that they are forthcoming and not yet published
    • Work that is under review or under consideration but has not yet been accepted or rejected should also appear in your CV
      • If you list work that is under consideration, specify the venue
  • Conference Presentations, Lectures, Talks
    • You should certainly include all of your activities at conferences
    • If you have participated in a lot of conferences, you may want to separate the activities into sections according to category, such as international conferences, national conferences, etc.
    • Use reverse chronological order as per publications
  • Teaching
    • Provide a list of all the courses you have taught and the dates when you taught them.
    • For each item in the list, provide a course title that lets your reader know something about the content of the course. For example, “АНГЛ 369” will not mean much to people outside of the NES/HSE community, but “АНГЛ 369: History of the American Film Industry” identifies the subject matter much more precisely
  • Grants, Awards, and Honors
    • Academic work in almost every discipline is sometimes supported by grants, so it is essential to include any kind of funding you have been awarded, especially if the application process was competitive
    • Include any and all scholarships, fellowships or stipends you have been awarded (sometimes these appear in a separate category of their own)
  • Service: This is a rather broad category, and what constitutes “Service” may differ from one discipline to the next. Some examples of what may appear in this section are:
    • Committees you have served on
    • Editorial boards you have served on,
    • Conferences you have organized,
    • Any activities that contributed to your field and its development but do not fit into the other categories in your CV
  • Membership in Professional Organizations
    • In many fields, journals and conferences are linked to professional organizations. Joining those organizations therefore constitutes a contribution to your field. Your memberships should therefore appear in your CV.
  • Languages
    • List all of the languages you know and indicate your level of proficiency (i.e., English: Native; Russian: Fluent; Czech: Proficient; French: Advanced Reading Knowledge; Latvian: Beginning)
  • References
    • In CVs being submitted as part of an application for a Ph. D. program or job, you should include the names, email addresses, and mailing address (at their places of employment) for your professional references.
      • Most people include 3-5 references; if the application specifies a certain number of references, include that many
      • If your application requires letters of recommendation, your references should be the people who will be writing letters for you
    • If you search online, you may notice that some of the CVs you find do not contain references. I omit the “References” section from the version of my CV that I post online because I do not want to share a respected mentor’s or colleague’s contact information with millions of strangers. I always include a list of references, however, in the version of my CV that I submit for applications.


What about Sequence?

The sequence in which you should present the different categories of your CV depends largely on how you want to present yourself. The rule of thumb is that the most important things should come first.

  • A standard sequence is: 1) Name and Contact Info; 2) Education 3) Professional Appointments / Employment; 4) Publications; 5) Working Papers; 6) Conference presentations
    • There is greater variation in how people organize the middle and end of their CVs, although typically “References” come last.