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Use a hook in the introduction?

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I've read a couple different opinions regarding the introduction to the SOP. One site encouraged using a hook that really grabs the attention of the committee--maybe a few sentences sharing a personal anecdote or story that will be memorable and make your SOP stand out. But others say that it's better to be direct and go with the "I'm interested in this program for X, Y, and Z" approach. Any advice on which is better? I want my SOP to stand out from others, and I don't want to be boring--but I also don't want to write something rambling or out of place. Thanks!

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I don't think a hook is bad, as long as it's not one of the hugely obvious cliched hooks that most professors who have read hundreds of SoPs will have seen a great many times and will view as a (relative) waste of space.

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My opinion is that a hook isn't necessary -- it's okay to just be direct. The problem I had with trying to come up with a hook was like Eigen said, to avoid a cliche since then I wouldn't stand out at all! I also think that SOPs are read for content, not for style -- unless you are really good or really bad, they probably won't notice when there are so many to read. They are looking for evidence that you will be a good researcher / have potential and that you're a good fit for them. I think it's a rare case where it's "if only student X had a more interesting hook, we would have accepted him/her!"

On the other hand, a bad/boring hook probably won't harm you either -- they will likely just skip past the first paragraph and begin reading.

Edited by TakeruK
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Hooks are dangerous - they can come off as amateurish, childish or clich if you are not skilful. (Or if the hook just doesn't catch the reviewer the right way.)

I opted for a direct, specific, and customized introduction. I got positive feedback on my SOP after my admission. I did weave some personal history, and cultural references into the more technical matter - but I didn't try to do this in the first paragraph.

Re-write and edit it several times when you are in different moods. If in doubt - don't take unnecessary risks. Edit for extraneous stuff.

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My own opinion, thinking in terms of "hooks," "marketing oneself," and other catch phrases from the private sector is not the way to go--especially if one needs to ask "should I do this?"

You are interacting with groups of people that will include academics who view their profession as a calling. Something you'll soon discover when you interact with such professors (if not professors in general) it is pretty easy for them to see when someone is kissing ass, running game, or is being inauthentic.

One other point. A lot of members raise the concern of "boring" members of admissions committees. Yet, do those who have this concern have a grasp on what is or is not "boring" to established professional academics? How do you know that what you consider to be "boring" is actually what professors want to read?

That is, have you spent in the library (not on line but in the actual stacks) studying (not reading) published works? Have you, for example, spent time looking at reviews in which a work was described as "boring" and then read that work to figure out what the reviewer meant? Or have you spent time reading works that you consider "exciting" and then researched to see if professionals agree?

(In the field of history, one of the most vicious things to say about a piece is that it is "entertaining.")

Also, this thread may be helpful

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