Jump to content

Include bibliographic citations in SoP when referring to existing literature?

Recommended Posts

I was wondering whether or not it would beneficial to include bibliographic style citations when referring to existing literature on the topic you want to research? For example,

Scholars before has focused on this issue and have categorized XX community as surprisingly transnational (Smith 2000, Jones 1999).

Would something like those citations be helpful and would they adequately demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and the field?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd say it probably wouldn't hurt, and could help. The potential downside would be if you showed such enthusiasm for a narrow topic that you effectively block yourself into it in the reviewers eyes. If that topic is outside the current research interests of faculty that are taking students, they may push you aside in favor of someone that seems like a better fit based on broader research interests. But I agree that it would demonstrate your familiarity with the field to use references, and that in and of itself would not cause the problem I outlined above, only if your use of references was aimed towards a very narrow field.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Personally, I think statements that involve citations belong more in a research proposal rather than a statement of purpose and that a SOP should not be a research statement or a research proposal. The reason is that in order to make a strong research statement/proposal, it takes a bit of writing and as Usmivka said, it makes your interests much more specific. If you don't spend the time (and space!) to fully develop your idea, then I don't think it's very useful to have a one-liner with a reference.

In my SOP, I decided to keep it non-academic (i.e. not written like a journal article). I spent my words trying to convince the committee that my experience/background and personality was a good fit for their program, not that I have a sound research plan already thought out. While I did make some statements about my discipline when explaining my research interests, I did not go as far as making citations. For example, I might have said something like "Thousands of extrasolar planet candidates have been identified by the transit method" and not give a reference because I would have probably used that statement to the effect of "wow this method is really hot right now and I want to work with it", instead of using that statement as a premise for a different argument (e.g. if I was proposing why my research project idea would be good).

Just my thoughts, I have no idea if my SOPs were good at all! Also I don't think there is any one right way -- it will vary depending on who ends up reading it, so hope you found my thoughts useful but do what you feel will work best for you!

Edited by TakeruK
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