What are Narrative CVs?
‘Narrative CVs’ are becoming a common requirement in academic funding and even job applications. They are significantly different from a traditional academic CV that is more based on a list of your experience and achievements, moving towards descriptions of your contributions. Narrative CVs aim to improve research culture and assessment by broadening the outputs, skills, and experiences that are valued by research, beyond publication metrics.
Depending on the funder or organisation, they may have different names, such as the UKRI Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) or the ‘Your research contributions’ section of Wellcome applications.
The trend is likely to continue as more researchers and evaluators recognise the benefits of narrative CVs for capturing the diversity and quality of research outputs and outcomes.
What is the typical format of a Narrative CV?
There is no one standard format for Narrative CVs, but most consist of different sections that ask you to describe your contributions and achievements in various aspects of research and innovation, such as outputs, impact, environment, leadership, funding, awards, teaching, service and engagement. You should refer closely to the instructions, guidance, or template your specific funder or institution provides, as requirements can differ.
Each section should provide a concise summary of the researcher’s activities, achievements and reflections, with evidence and links to relevant sources where possible.
Guidance on writing your Narrative CV
Funders and institutions are beginning to develop guidance on developing Narrative CVs, so check resources and guides they provide. Oxford University Research Services have developed valuable Guides and Resources and have a recorded webinar for supporting your development of Narrative CVs.
The following summarises the key advice provided in the guide for drafting your Narrative CV:
Be Selective: The Narrative CV aims to emphasise quality of contributions, rather than quantity.
- Attempt to highlight fewer key contributions in good detail, rather than provide long lists with little detail
- Ensure your selected contributions are strong but also relevant to the funding call or position you are applying for
- Focus on your past achievements, not your future plans
Provide evidence: For your selected contributions, describe outcomes and your role in enabling them, rather than purely listing outputs. Qualitative and quantitative evidence is suitable.
Consider including collaborative activities. You can use evidence from within and beyond academia if they are relevant to your application.
Provide context: you are allowed to explain how your activities benefited you at your career stage and enhanced your skills. Narrative CVs understand that not all researchers have the same level of opportunities available to them, and explanations of context can demonstrate your ability level within the constraints of your situation.
Some top tips for starting the writing process:
- Note down what the funding call or position guidance calls for you to provide evidence on
- Make a list of your activities that meet these, and begin to identify your strongest and most relevant examples
- Begin expanding on these, explaining their significance, what resulted from them, what you gained, quantitative or qualitative evidence to demonstrate impact
- Check for overlap between sections, and ensure your examples are placed in the most relevant section
- Consider including a sentence summarising the key point you want the reviewer to remember
Writing a Narrative CV can feel challenging at first, and therefore practicing and drafting this new format early can be beneficial.