How many 'projects' should one list there? 2, 4, 6? How many are too many? How many are too few? If I list and explain 2, would the SC think I'm serious, and truly have 2 I will actually embark on right away -- or that I don't have a clear program of research? If I list and explain 5, will I be perceived as creative, or unrealistic? etc etc. Any insight welcome!This is a tough one. So, taking the usual approach people take when they have no actual answers to a tough question, I'll appeal to personal experience. On my statement, I list two areas of broad research interests corresponding to different parts of my AOS. And underneath each one of those, I list two different projects. If I'm counting right, that's four different projects right there. That might be a bit unrealistic or come off as slightly ambitious to search committees. I mean, I probably can't write four whole papers in a year, but I probably can over two years, and that's what they're looking for, right?
But, setting aside issues of what is realistic and what isn't, here's the thing. I think that I do a pretty good job of making clear that there is a guiding thread that is common to all these projects. Articulating this clearly before listing and explaining my four projects, at least makes it conceivable that when working on one of the projects, I'm setting myself up nicely for, or at least kinda/sorta working on the other projects. So, I think being able to articulate clearly the guiding thread of your research, rather than the number of papers/projects you list, demonstrates that you have your shit together and aren't just pulling projects out of your ass.
That said, if you need an arbitrary number, don't list more than four, cause that's what I'm doing.
-- Jaded Dissertator
Update: Seems in the past that similar issues about broadness/ narrowness of research statements were addressed by Mr. Z here.