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Research and SOP

  1. Sep 27, 2009 #1
    Hi everyone,

    I have a question about writing my statement of purpose for graduate school. I have done a couple of different research projects both at school and my internships. I was wondering in my statement of purpose how detailed should I be when discussing my past research. Should I get very technical of focus more on what I learned from the experience rather than what my project was?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 28, 2009 #2

    Andy Resnick

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    IMO, the SOP should be a concise statement on why you are interested in going to grad school and what you have done to prepare for it. I would not get technical about specific research projects (unless they have a direct bearing on your career goals).

    From the point of view of the readers: Grad school has long hours, the pay is lousy, and future job success is not guarunteed. Why would you (the applicant) want to sign up for that?
  4. Sep 28, 2009 #3
    As a former committee member, I preferred to see more of the technical side, even if I didn't completely understand it (say it was outside my research area.. like in astrophysics versus my field of condensed matter/ atomic and molecular). In particular, focus on your contributions, using action verbs if at all possible.

    In my opinion, talking about your experience in this way shows that you've learned what you needed to from your experience... talking about it in vague terms about how it built character, inspired you, etc., sounds like BS. Demonstrate your maturity directly... they'll want that same competence in their graduate students.
  5. Sep 28, 2009 #4


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    I agree with this reasoning and followed this advice in my own SOP last year and it worked out pretty well for me. I think it reflects much better on the applicant if they can show the committee that they actually understood enough to be able to describe what you were doing and why they were doing it (succinctly and clearly) from the research experience, than merely mentioning that you worked in X lab for Y months doing Z experiment. At the same time, I would not go too deep into details, the reader will not care that the experiment was performed at “10^-9 torr” and that it took “5 mL of 2 M HCl” to neutralize your solution. Clearly convey the sense that you were actively involved in the experiment, understood what was going on, its motivation, and the skills you may have acquired in the process, and some degree of detail is useful in doing this.
  6. Sep 28, 2009 #5
    Thanks everyone. That's some good advice.
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