What should I include on a Statement Of Purpose for a PhD program?

My understanding is that a statement of purpose must include an idea of what you want to research during the course of your studies. You don’t necessarily need to have the exact title, but you do need to write about the research in general terms as well as explain your interest in the subject.

Is there anything else I should add?


Nadin Broun, Help with writing

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You should know that admissions committees will look at your statement very closely, as they want to see whether you have the right knowledge to be successful in the graduate school. That is why, first of all, you should find out what exactly schools are asking. In common, they want to know: - what and why you want to study at grad school - what kind of knowledge and experience you have in your field - what are your goals and how can graduate school help you to reach them. After that, you should do some brainstorming, and remember, your statement of purpose should be unique and not be boring! Leave it for a couple days, then take a look at your statement from another side, and then come up with new ideas. After starting your sop editing. You can find here more useful tips!

Georgina Parkinson, Be confident and positive

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Hi! First of all, you need to read all requirements carefully and do a little research about the program you’re applying for. It’s crucial because you need to explain your choice and what this program means to you. Stick to the required statement of purpose format for Ph.D., word limit and write a succinct and up to the point content. Focus on your research interests, your prior experience, and achievements which allow you to be a successful doctoral student, your academic, and career goals. What is more, stay positive: even if you’re writing about some obstacles, focus on how you overcame all of them which made you stronger and experienced. Best of luck!

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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100% you need to say why you are going and what you plan to study: they want to see that you have already thought about what you want to do and that you will do it. Schools don't want students to falter halfway through the program. You might even want to mention the names of faculty members you would like to work with. Best of luck!

Molly Pennington, PhD, PhD, Former Professor, Writer

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Never hire a writing service to craft representative documents like a Statement of Purpose for a PhD program. This kind of corner-cutting is a bad habit, and precisely the kind of thing that won't fly if you do happen to get accepted. Christine and Michael both give solid answers with great advice. While you want to get input from mentors, and should likely have qualified copy editors, this is document that you must write yourself.

The statement of purpose should outline your future research goals (and the work you've already done to prepare for it) but you also want to distinguish yourself as an individual. I don't recommend any off-topic descriptions of your life unless they somehow connect to the research that you want to do. You'll need to show that you're a professional writer who can craft a detailed and cohesive essay.

The most important part is to show an actual understanding of your proposed research--don't gloss over details or describe something just because you think it's popular, impressive or will sound cool. Shoot straight and actually do some research so you can give your readers a strong sense of your imagined project and future contributions.

Crafting something like this takes time. A interview with a writer at a content mill (who is likely vastly underpaid if they do have the credentials to write for you) will not give you the essay you need to stand out in a rigorously competitive arena.

The PhD program statement of purpose should show that you're a scholar who is ready to begin training to become an expert in your chosen field. This document is important. Dive in. Create it honestly. Don't look for shortcuts.

Christine VanDonge, Senior Research Analyst

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In terns of your question related to the website, I would actually suggest that you work with (a.) one of your current/past professors (perhaps one whose class you really excelled in). b. a professor that you have served as a teaching or research assistant for c. an academic advisor in your department. I taught at Florida State University for several years, and some of my most enjoyable experiences with students involved helping them to craft their statements of purpose. In addition, working with a professor or advisor can help you form a connection, and then that individual could serve as a potential letter of reference for you. Lastly, professors and advisors often have applied to there own graduate programs, so they are likely to have first hand experience and knowledge about writing a statement of purpose -- you might even find that they have a connection to someone in the department you are interested in applying to!

Best of luck!

Michael Schoch, Noodle Intern

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I'd recommend watching this video filled with advice for writing statements of purpose.

In addition, I think this article from Princeton Review breaks down the components of a statement of purpose very clearly and effectively.

The article mentions that there are four critical questions to answer in your letter:

What do you want to study at graduate school?

Why do you want to study it?

What experience do you have in your field?

What do you plan to do with your degree once you have it?

These are similar to the pieces of information you mentioned in your question. I would add that it's best if you can weave this information into a narrative about yourself. That is, try not to answer them in a list-like manner. Instead, imagine that you're explaining to a friend or family member why you want to attend a Phd program. You would likely give your ambitions context by describing the kind of person you are and the particular skills you have. You might explain how your interest in your field has expanded or changed over time. You might mention specific books, courses or assignments that had a profound impact on you both personally and academically. You don't need to turn it into a diary entry, but adding some context to your statement will better convey your enthusiasm and dedication than simply asserting that you are an enthusiastic, dedicated person.

I hope that helps. For more resources, check out Noodle's excellent catalogue of expert-written advice on applying to graduate school.

Lastly, make sure to read the specific guidelines and directions on each school's application.

I hope this helps! Best of luck!

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