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danieleWrites

Some Advice on Writing an SOP

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Just would like to say..

 

THANK YOU.

 

Google did not provide such a realistic approach to what the expectations and requirements are at having a good SOP.

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Actually in English you talk about Shakespeare in the present tense because you're discussing an active analysis of the text and the relationship between the reader and the attempt to convey meaning. Which really is a bit silly because Shakespeare wrote plays.. or rather, his plays weren't even written down at first. They were simply performed. Later they were scribbled down.. so the manner of conveyance (which dictates the meaning) is often entirely left out of literary analysis of his work. Bad lit major, bad bad lit majors! *newspaper across nose* Stop trying to make theater into literature!

 

And it was said by a character in a play.. it's not Shakespeare's voice, his opinion, etc.. Just so we're clear.

 

But why bring this trivial difference of opinion up? Because it illustrates that different fields, departments, etc.. have different ways of seeing things. A lit department would probably be fine with such statements, but anyone who has studied Shakespeare as theater academically is not going to let that slide. The stripping down of scripts into mere words on a page is a sore point for most theater practitioners. It's generally seen as the murder of an artform and a contributing factor in the decline of public performance.

 

So be careful of even your most innocuous statements.. though the OP would likely not be happy in a theater program who believed such things. Thus a rejection would be a favor, despite the desire for acceptance.

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DanieleWrites, this is lovely! I hope the admins or someone can pin this so that more people can learn from it. Your advice applies to fields outside of your own as well, and I wish I had seen something like this when I was writing my own from the beginning.

 

This is actually similar to what I did for my SOP (and research statement) in the biomedical sciences for last year's application season. I sat down one day over the summer and wrote down all of the things that I felt told people who I was, how research had molded me into a scientist in ways classes could not, and how I believed I was passionate about science in one document. Then I started a review of my research experience in another, and a statement of diversity experiences in a third. Once I got started, the writing became easy. I ended up tweaking and organizing each of the documents so they stood alone as 1.5 page documents, but once I got to my applications, I found that I could rearrange, edit, and rewrite within the documents to get a finished product for the school. It was fairly stress-free even though every school wanted a differently organized SOP (and sometimes also a research statement), and I'm really glad that I did it that way.

 

The importance of discussion of theory is debatable, but I don't think I've seen someone NOT discuss it. I discussed bioethics and public science outreach, so technically I hit on some theory as well.

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But why bring this trivial difference of opinion up? Because it illustrates that different fields, departments, etc.. have different ways of seeing things. A lit department would probably be fine with such statements, but anyone who has studied Shakespeare as theater academically is not going to let that slide. The stripping down of scripts into mere words on a page is a sore point for most theater practitioners. It's generally seen as the murder of an artform and a contributing factor in the decline of public performance.

Thank you for proving my point.

 

So be careful of even your most innocuous statements.. though the OP would likely not be happy in a theater program who believed such things. Thus a rejection would be a favor, despite the desire for acceptance.

As you would not be happy in an English department, which finds hasty generalizations and the concept of "words on a page" as unpalatable as you seem to find literary approaches to Shakespeare. Less so, perhaps, since hasty generalizations are a sign of poor abilities with rhetoric. Thus, we are all very pleased that you are not in English. Though, I have done fine in theater.

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Thank you for proving my point.

 

As you would not be happy in an English department, which finds hasty generalizations and the concept of "words on a page" as unpalatable as you seem to find literary approaches to Shakespeare. Less so, perhaps, since hasty generalizations are a sign of poor abilities with rhetoric. Thus, we are all very pleased that you are not in English. Though, I have done fine in theater.

 

I'm going to hastily generalize that whatever involvement you thought you had in theatre was trivial, laughable, and at best superficial.

 

And in contrast if you'd like to go check out the books I've written from your school's library I can PM you the ISBN's.

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DanieleWrites, this is lovely! I hope the admins or someone can pin this so that more people can learn from it. Your advice applies to fields outside of your own as well, and I wish I had seen something like this when I was writing my own from the beginning.

 

Done! This is a great post. I think it's abundantly clear that this post is trying to be general, and it gives some great advice that everyone should read. Of course you should know the conventions of your field and you should use the appropriate language, formatting, structure, etc. conventions that apply in your field. But doing research about the program and about yourself is important no matter what field you are in, and I think DanieleWrites does an excellent job explaining how to go about it.

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I'm going to hastily generalize that whatever involvement you thought you had in theatre was trivial, laughable, and at best superficial.

 

And in contrast if you'd like to go check out the books I've written from your school's library I can PM you the ISBN's.

Sounds like fun. Please do. If you have anything related to rhetoric and pedagogy, that would also be appreciated. Comp programs just never seem to understand the value of oration, yanno? Teachers of public speaking have so much great stuff, especially on ethos.

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Actually in English you talk about Shakespeare in the present tense because you're discussing an active analysis of the text and the relationship between the reader and the attempt to convey meaning. Which really is a bit silly because Shakespeare wrote plays.. or rather, his plays weren't even written down at first. They were simply performed. Later they were scribbled down.. so the manner of conveyance (which dictates the meaning) is often entirely left out of literary analysis of his work. Bad lit major, bad bad lit majors! *newspaper across nose* Stop trying to make theater into literature!]

 

They most certainly were, just likely not in a complete script (since that would take forever and cost a lot of money). They weren't just recorded twenty years later for posterity (well, they kind of were) based on memory, written pieces already existed. Shakespeare didn't dictate extemporaneously to the leads, and the leads, no matter how good their memories, did not just jump on stage having heard it from Shakespeare.

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That is to say nothing of the idea that written theatre shouldn't be categorized as literature. An argument could be made for performance theatre, but the way we see a play and the way we read a play are often very different.

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Ugh.. Just stop talking until you take a theater history class or at least google it.

 

Actually, everything I wrote was because I have taken theatre history classes (for four years, in fact). I changed course when I decided I didn't much care for the people who actually do theatre. I'm glad to see the personalities haven't changed much.

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The Kings Men wrote/published the first folio. Otherwise all there was were the foul papers which were used to produce the cue scripting.

 

What you read today as "Shakespeare" in literature is a complete fabrication. No such written thing existed when the plays were performed.. and they were created to be performed. Acting as if the literary analysis divorced from the performance has any validity is just academic masturbation.

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I'll hand you tubes of paint.

 

Now go on, tell me how you know ALL ABOUT Picasso and Monet and Manet.

 

C'mon, from the tubes of paint. Or better yet, an account of seeing their paintings in a museum from several centuries ago that tries to explain the experience to you. C'mon, tell me how you're an expert.

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The Kings Men wrote/published the first folio. Otherwise all there was were the foul papers which were used to produce the cue scripting.

 

What you read today as "Shakespeare" in literature is a complete fabrication. No such written thing existed when the plays were performed.. and they were created to be performed. Acting as if the literary analysis divorced from the performance has any validity is just academic masturbation.

 

There's a logical issue in your assertion. You're suggesting that what we read as Shakespeare "is a complete fabrication" (which is an absurd statement in itself, as 1.) there's evidence to suggest that the first folio is a compilation of cue scripts, actor's scripts/notes, and perhaps Shakespeare's own notes - and even if it were just a cue script and much of it were (is) fabricated, that does not make it a complete fabrication), which should then divorce it from performance (which is not what good Shakespearean scholarship does) and permit it to be evaluated on its own as a literary piece. 

 

What about later theatre? I don't think anyone would have much trouble placing Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams within their respective literary epochs. 

 

I agree with you that written theatre needs to be evaluated within the context of the playwright's intention for it to be performed, but the idea that we can't consider theatre literature is a bit absurd, no?

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I'll hand you tubes of paint.

 

Now go on, tell me how you know ALL ABOUT Picasso and Monet and Manet.

 

C'mon, from the tubes of paint. Or better yet, an account of seeing their paintings in a museum from several centuries ago that tries to explain the experience to you. C'mon, tell me how you're an expert.

 

For someone so sure of your own intelligence, you do take an awful lot of pride in an absurd comparison (e.g. having studied theatre history for four years - which by no means makes me an expert, nor would I ever claim as much! - vs. picking up tubes of paint). 

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Look, Loric, I have no doubt you are extremely qualified on the topic, especially in comparison to me. But there are facts and there are opinions. As far as "theatre as literature" goes, there isn't much "fact" to go on. For that matter, there isn't much sure "fact" to go on when it comes to the source of our contemporary Shakespearean texts before the first folio.

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There's a logical issue in your assertion. You're suggesting that what we read as Shakespeare "is a complete fabrication" (which is an absurd statement in itself, as 1.) there's evidence to suggest that the first folio is a compilation of cue scripts, actor's scripts/notes, and perhaps Shakespeare's own notes - and even if it were just a cue script and much of it were (is) fabricated, that does not make it a complete fabrication), which should then divorce it from performance (which is not what good Shakespearean scholarship does) and permit it to be evaluated on its own as a literary piece. 

 

What about later theatre? I don't think anyone would have much trouble placing Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams within their respective literary epochs. 

 

I agree with you that written theatre needs to be evaluated within the context of the playwright's intention for it to be performed, but the idea that we can't consider theatre literature is a bit absurd, no?

 

Fine, if you go around insisting we view great music and orchestrations as visual art with dots on lines. Cuz that's what it is and what explains it, right?

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Look, Loric, I have no doubt you are extremely qualified on the topic, especially in comparison to me. But there are facts and there are opinions. As far as "theatre as literature" goes, there isn't much "fact" to go on. For that matter, there isn't much sure "fact" to go on when it comes to the source of our contemporary Shakespearean texts before the first folio.

 

Well that's part of the whole point of why I mentioned this.. You're going to run into very well educated people who might not share your beleifs, or rather, become very offended when you offhandedly remark about something that is not your area of expertise.

 

Same SOP in front of a literature prof.. probably ok.. if it passes the theater history or script analysis professor (who are often recruited to read applications of the english dept, btw) you're going to royally piss them off.

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Fine, if you go around insisting we view great music and orchestrations as visual art with dots on lines. Cuz that's what it is and what explains it, right?

 

Here's the problem with your analogy: theatre is visual performance just as much as it is text on a page. One can analyze opera from a strictly musical perspective (and many do). The best scholarship will not forget the performance part of its analysis, but that does not mean that it can only be examined as a performance piece. The same goes for theatre. Why is it that many playwrights are also poets and authors? Well, probably because they create their plays with attention paid to the literary elements, just as much as the staging potential.

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Well that's part of the whole point of why I mentioned this.. You're going to run into very well educated people who might not share your beleifs, or rather, become very offended when you offhandedly remark about something that is not your area of expertise.

 

Same SOP in front of a literature prof.. probably ok.. if it passes the theater history or script analysis professor (who are often recruited to read applications of the english dept, btw) you're going to royally piss them off.

 

Then say this, because this is useful advice! :P

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That's what i said and people got all snippy.

I wasn't going to reply because your point is important and me sniping is counterproductive to the purpose of the thread. But I've been thinking about this for a few months and I'm at the tail end of a paper, which I am procrastinating hard on. My judgment isn't what it ought to be. Still, I think I do have something productive to add, rather than just being snotty for the sake of being snotty. I also feel that what I'm going to say is likely going to come across snotty, anyway. It is not at all my intention to start an argument, or continue an old argument, or whatever. It is my intention to draw attention (if anyone has any interest in this) to the rhetorical implications of the way the discussion played out.

It's not what you said; it's how you said it. It's not what I said; it's the way I said it.

Tone matters. I wasn't as invested in paying attention to your point as I was in reacting to your tone. I don't know why you chose to phrase yourself the way you did in your initial post, nor what you intended to have people do with your post. I do know what happened. Reaction, not deliberation. And this is why I think it's important enough to address, instead of letting sleeping dogs lie. With most of the writing we do, we have no idea who is on the other end and how they will take it. I'm not concerned with the rights, the wrongs, or the indifferents of the discussion itself. It is what it is. (That fact that all of the snotty barbs essentially expressed agreement on the basic claim is cake.) I am about the whole what can I learn from this cliche. And since this is a thread ostensibly about how to write something important, of a persuasive nature, I think the whole what can I learn from this cliche might be of use.

The general point of this, and why I thought it important enough to risk stirring the pot all over again, is: a key part of the rhetorical art is phrasing oneself for a desired result on the part of the reader. Rhetoric is inherently manipulative (which is why politicians use it as a dirty word). Sometimes people make rhetorical choices deliberately and sometimes they don't. And, intentional or not, rhetorical choices exercise limited, um, control (for lack of a better word) over a reader's response. It's the reader's choice to think, react, be offended, laugh, or whatever. However, it's the writer's choice to consider probable reader responses when making writing choices.

Writing is a social relationship, which means it's all about choices made by the writer and, if there are any, the reader.

Hm. That'll cover it.

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This is a great thread. It's a shame that not many people post more on here as opposed to making the same threads over and over.

 

I am in need of advice for writing SOP's when mentioning why I am interested in the department/why is it a good fit for me: should I include specifics about some of the research (by faculty, ofc) in the department I'm applying to? And how specific should I be? Would it be considerate to mention facilities which you would like to work in and have been quite knowledgeable about for some time? Maybe mention a paper that really garnered my interest by one particular faculty member?

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