Jump to content

SOP Broad brush or microscope?


Recommended Posts

Background: I am applying to psychology PhD programs

There is a section in my SOP where I essentially list a bunch of authors' books and/or articles I've read to educate myself on my research interests. My coursework doesn't really reflect my self-education on my interests (I'm the same major as my field, but did not focus in school on my particular subfield of interest) nor is my research experience reflective of what I hope to do in grad school. Because of this, I thought it necessary to discuss how I've prepared myself for what I want to do. So the whole paragraph, as it is currently, basically follows a format like this:

In preparing for blee blee bloo, I have taken into account blah blah blah works on these subjects by A, B, C, D, E, and F. My views on blah blah has been influenced by G, H, I, J, and others. Finally, to understand bloo blah I turned to X, Y, Z, and others.

My questions is, is it generally better to go with a broad brush approach to describing these things or instead focus on one or two authors/books/papers in more detail keeping in mind 1) space requirements, no room to do both 2) if you take the microscope approach, you sound more knowledgeable about that thing or couple of things (and you can just list tons of authors without having honestly read them, yet you can't fake a deep understanding of one of those authors' works), and it would be more interesting to read than just a list. 3) but with a list, the committee/the mentor you are applying to work with will see that you have been reading up a bunch and are prepared to hit the ground running. But 4) again, a list feels incredibly boring. And 5) again, my coursework and research experience will not reveal anything about my knowledge of these subjects.

What's the verdict? Broad brush or microscope?

Thanks all

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not in your field but this is what I would do:

I think AdComms are looking to see how you think about things that you read in your field so I would use the 'microscope' approach and talk about a couple of things in detail with your comments on what the author concluded or any theories or ideas he/she proposed, any ideas you had after reading the piece of literature.

About reading a lot before grad school to hit the ground running, from talking to people in grad school (not necessarily in the US) you're gonna have to spend some time when you start on your thesis project, reading around the project-what is called a literature review. I don't think AdComms are looking for people who do that before grad school-some people who get in don't even have very specific interests and I think they would be a bit skeptical if you claimed to have read so much.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not in your field but this is what I would do:

I think AdComms are looking to see how you think about things that you read in your field so I would use the 'microscope' approach and talk about a couple of things in detail with your comments on what the author concluded or any theories or ideas he/she proposed, any ideas you had after reading the piece of literature.

About reading a lot before grad school to hit the ground running, from talking to people in grad school (not necessarily in the US) you're gonna have to spend some time when you start on your thesis project, reading around the project-what is called a literature review. I don't think AdComms are looking for people who do that before grad school-some people who get in don't even have very specific interests and I think they would be a bit skeptical if you claimed to have read so much.

Hmmm, these are good points. It sort of goes back to the whole show don't tell thing also, at least in a general sense.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Instead of listing your extensive reading in the field to show that you're well prepared, consider using it to frame questions that you want to explore in your grad studies. Nobody really cares if you've merely read things, they want to know that you can synthesize what you've read into something interesting. Presumably your interests are situated in the context of some of these things you've read, so show how those readings have informed your research questions or hypotheses. You'll probably end up only talking about a handful of readings or researchers in this way, but that's okay - it's assumed that you've read other things too. Besides, a long list of things you've read only demonstrates that you're dedicated to your area, not that you're good at it!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Instead of listing your extensive reading in the field to show that you're well prepared, consider using it to frame questions that you want to explore in your grad studies. Nobody really cares if you've merely read things, they want to know that you can synthesize what you've read into something interesting. Presumably your interests are situated in the context of some of these things you've read, so show how those readings have informed your research questions or hypotheses. You'll probably end up only talking about a handful of readings or researchers in this way, but that's okay - it's assumed that you've read other things too. Besides, a long list of things you've read only demonstrates that you're dedicated to your area, not that you're good at it!

Great points. I am entirely convinced now that a list is not the best idea I've ever had. Thanks for posting your response on this matter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

this helps answer my post about moving away, to a degree, from my prior interests. i've been inspired to go in another direction precisely because of reading i've done since graduating, oh, so many years ago. it makes sense to discuss some specific thoughts on what i've learned and how i'd figure it into future academic studies and pursuits.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use