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Take a look at my SOP

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I'm looking for any tips or ideas. If you think any of this is too general or not general enough, please let me know. this is not finished. it's my third rewrite. I have left out the school specific final paragraph.

thanks everyone.


To the graduate chair and admissions committee at WHEREVER,


            In the late Spring of 2011, I had the opportunity to present a research project concerning Thomas Jefferson and early national religion at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). The conference subsequently published my research in the NCUR Proceedings. This presentation solidified my preliminary commitment to the research and writing of history. It was my first taste of being a professional historian and I began my plans to pursue a career in academic history.


            I completed my Master of Arts degree in American History at BLANK University last spring and I now face a year off as a student during the 2013-2014 academic year. This year off has given me an opportunity to explore teaching. I am teaching my first world civilization survey courses this fall and in the coming spring semester. This time teaching has given me the ability to see the academic world from the other side of scholarly life. I had a degree of uncertainty concerning the teaching aspect of becoming a professional scholar. I worried that I would not be a good teacher or I may not enjoy teaching but this semester had dispelled any uncertainty, as I love it.


            I was exposed to Twentieth Century American politics in a seminar with Dr. BLANK as a graduate student.. I enjoy exploring the changing nature of the presidency and what the office of the president means in recent American politics. Most of my interest concerns mid-Twentieth Century presidents (Franklin Roosevelt up to Reagan). My "go-to" book during classroom discussions was always William Leuchtenburg's In the Shadow of FDR.


            I also have enthusiasm for outside of political history. As a second area of major interest, I have always been drawn to the American Civil Rights Movement and African-American history. I enjoy exploring the meaning of equality in recent American history. Mary Dudziak's Cold War Civil Rights first opened my eyes to the possibilities for combining political and civil rights history. However, I would like to take more reading and research seminars before I commit to any one topic.

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1. The first paragraph told me close to nothing about you. You presented a paper in an undergrad conference, that's all I know now. That information should already be on your CV, so there is nothing new here. Not what you are interested in, not why you want to study it. I'd rewrite to add details - what did you present, what did you learn, why did it make you want to study more?


2. The second paragraph is too wordy, and doesn't give much useful detail. The beginning rehashes details that should be on your CV with no additional information, the part about teaching is too long. Get rid of the discussion of doubts and uncertainties. What you wrote doesn't need to be more than 1-2 (short1!) sentences mentioning that you have teaching experience, what you taught, and the positive bit at the end about what you learned from it. Also, expand on this experience more. You have teaching experience -- that's good, but what did you teach exactly? Did you do anything different? Learn anything from the experience, besides "I like teaching"? Anything specific you realized students do/don't know, should/shouldn't know? Some material is better taught in this way or that, etc.


3. The third paragraph seems very shallow. I assume you are applying to PhD programs since you say that you completed an MA. If this is your main research area, you need to be more specific. Mention some specific issues or questions and tell the adcom why they are interesting. Give details!. You might also want to rewrite this to make it clearer how the school will support your interest. Is the author you mention a professor at that school? If not, I am confused about why you mention this book by name. Even if he is, I would explain how his research/interests will support yours, and not mention the textbook at all. That seems really out of place.


4. This again is far too generic. You don't say anything beyond "I am perhaps interested in X, but not committed to it." You don't sound passionate, or even like you carefully considered your interests. In fact, after reading this I am unsure why you want to go to grad school at all, what you want to study, and how the school is a good fit with your goals. Again, I would not mention a book unless it is clearly relevant, and "opened my eyes.." is just so uninformative it reads very shallow. You don't need to say you can't commit to a topic now, no one will be expecting it. What they will expect, however, is that you've actually given this some serious thought, beyond taking one class or reading one book on each topic you now say might be your PhD concentration.


My overall impression is that at the moment this is quite short and unfortunately I think it needs a serious rewrite, possibly starting over from scratch. Give details. Be specific. What questions do you want to study specifically? Why are they interesting? Why is this school a good place to study them at? Have you done work in the past that prepares you for graduate school - what was it? You need to expand and give examples about each topic you mentioned in your SOP. If the best you can do is tell the adcom that one course here and one book there made you want to study for a PhD, you run a serious risk of coming across as unprepared.

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I don't know how to open a statement like this - that's why I have the bit about the presentation and teaching that feels, even to me, shallow.


I mention the books because they are well known to professors that would supervise a topic in the area. Is this still a bad idea? I could add plenty more titles but I thought one of the well known books in the area showed that I know the basic literature.


As to the specificity - what I gather from the internet, I shouldn't be too willing to commit to any one topic on my statement. Just that I should have an idea of the area I want to study. I think it's different in the sciences but most of the suggestion sites I read said they would view this as a bad thing because I'm not open to change. I can be more specific I just thought it was bad.


Thanks for your help

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I don't know how to open a statement like this - that's why I have the bit about the presentation and teaching that feels, even to me, shallow.


As to the specificity - what I gather from the internet, I shouldn't be too willing to commit to any one topic on my statement. Just that I should have an idea of the area I want to study. I think it's different in the sciences but most of the suggestion sites I read said they would view this as a bad thing because I'm not open to change. I can be more specific I just thought it was bad.



On these two points:


1. I suggest finding some successful statements and looking at the structure of those. I was able to find statements at one university (highly regarded) that were from students who were admitted. They were offered as examples on that university's web site. These were extremely helpful to me.


2. Here's the thing. They KNOW that you will probably end up studying something completely different from what you write about in your proposal. Almost everyone (outside of so-called 'hard' sciences) does. So, the key is to present a compelling argument for studying something VERY specific and to sound like you really, really know what you're talking about. Basically you do that by saying:


Paragraph1 (or first sentence of paragraph 2): I plan to study X. More specific info about X. Interesting question about X.

Paragraph 2: These scholars have looked at A, B, and C (Citations). And these scholars have looked at D, E,  and F (Citations). But they haven't looked at how A and D relate to X in terms of B, C, and F. I will address this gap by looking at X through the work/lens/framework/ideas of Person Q and Idea Z.

Paragraph 3: I developed these ideas because I blah, blah, blah. My previous work on blah, blah, blah has prepared me to look at this.

Paragraph 4: The PhD program in History at University X is the best place to do this research because of the focus on Topic S. I want to work with the following faculty: John Green, Sandra Blue, and Linda Purple. Prof. Green's work on Topic W fits with my work because... Prof. Blue's work on Topic M fits with my work because...


Obviously you don't use the language I used - just the structure. And this is just one approach. But you need to show that you can write an organized proposal in a short space. The idea is to make a proposal for what you will study and WHY you should study it there.


Think about it this way - they are HIRING you to work with them for as long as 7-8 years. All based on this statement describing what you'll do while you're there. Obviously you might end up writing on a different topic, but you need to convince them that not only do you have the ability to figure out a cohesive research topic, but you understand what kind of work they do there and how your work fits into it. It's find if you want to suggest several topics of interest. Or if you want to suggest a broad area and several ways you might study it - but being concrete is good and helpful. If you're concrete then you show a match between you, your interests, and the interests in the department. There are concrete ways that each department looks at the world, and topics that each department studies and you need to align with them. It sounds like this must be a department that has lots of great faculty in American Political History - otherwise you wouldn't have chosen it, right?

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thank you for the tips. I have rewritten most of my statement again. please keep in mind that this is a very rough draft, so i am not as concerned about word choice and grammar so much as content. i look forward to your critiques. I will also post a new thread, so maybe you will see it there


  I write to apply to BLANK University's PhD. program in history. I became interested in Twentieth Century American political history and ideology in a seminar course at Salisbury University (SU). I was drawn to questions of the changing nature of the presidency, in particular I enjoy investigating the legacy that Franklin Roosevelt left on the office. While I am attracted to this topic, I should also stress that I am equally interested in exploring issues connecting politics and the changing nature of the office of the president to the American Civil Rights Movement on a national and a local level. Specifically, I would like to investigate the relationships between  local and national leaders and how these relationships influenced policy. My decision to apply to BLANK is based on the belief that your program provides the optimum setting for me to refine my interests, my skills as a historian, and to prepare for a career of independent research and teaching at the post-secondary level.

            During my career at SU, I had a number of academic and research experiences that strengthened my desire to pursue a career in academic history. Perhaps the earliest and most formative experience was my pro-seminar research paper, entitled "A Non-Christian Republic: Thomas Jefferson on the Private Role of Religion in the New Republic," which, after refining, I was able to present at a conference and publish. In consultation with my undergraduate advisor, I investigated the idea of whether or not the United States was founded as a religious nation by comparing the views held by leading scholars on the topic. Specifically, I examined Thomas Jefferson's affirmation that Christianity was "a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, and the freest expansion of the human mind," but he was still determined to live by the idea that religion was a private matter. By considering the opposing views of historians, my study provided me with a model for my future research projects.

            I extended this comparative model that I used for all of my undergraduate research projects to my first historiographical essay as a Master of Arts candidate, entitled "Africans in the New World: A Diaspora or Creolization?" In this essay, I investigated the available literature on the topic to answer the question of whether or not a true Diaspora took place when Africans were brought to the Americas as slaves, or if these displaced African slaves created a Creole culture. I examined this question with a more interdisciplinary approach than I ever did as an undergraduate. I incorporated history with anthropological and sociological studies, always keeping the comparative model in mind.

            I seek admission to BLANK University's department of history because my interests in Twentieth Century American history would be matched by the department's strengths. I am particularly enthusiastic about working with Professor BLANK on Twentieth Century political topics from the national to the local level and with Professor BLANK on topics in high politics and political ideology. I understand BLANK University also has political scientists with interests that overlap my own

            I feel prepared to begin the life of an academic historian for a number of reasons. First, I have spent a year off as a student in which time, I am teaching my first world civilization courses. It can be daunting to teach an introductory level survey course to a group of students with little interest in the topic. I found that keeping classroom lectures on a conversational level with conviction and good humor, even a class of non-majors can become interested in ancient Persian history, for example. I am fortunate in that the Chair of the history department allowed me to develop my courses independently, giving me the opportunity to develop my own curricula drawing from my time as a student and my own research and reading.

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  • 2 months later...

 Not to unnecessarily bump this post but the original SOP I have up there got me accepted into a PhD program despite the warranted criticism and many, many faults with it. In case anyone is looking through this in the future.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Kindly take a look at my SOP and please post your comments at the earliest as deadlines are hitting . Thank You


Study Plan

Amanda Sharon DSouza


Since childhood I have been quite fascinated by the sensing ability of the touch-me-not plant. Being too small to reason out what really happens I finally convinced myself to believe that it was pure magic. As I grew up the same magic was everywhere, in computers and electronics and that’s when I decided to pioneer my interests sharply in this field respectively.


To start with initially when I took up my Bachelors degree in electrical and electronics engineering at BMS Institute of Technology, India I had no idea about what I would really want to do until I attended my first course in micro electrical and mechanical systems. This gave me a sharp surge and hence I decided to make it my career. Over the course of four years at BMSIT I have learned subjects such as logic design, signals and systems, power electronics and analog circuits to name a few which has now made me ready to raise the bar. In each of these I often raised a lot of questions and would be convinced only with a valid proof. Academically, I hold the sixth place in a class of sixty two.


Further, under the guidance of Mr. Prashanth Athavale , assistant professor of the department of electrical and electronics engineering, BMSIT  I have  presented a technical paper titled “Graphene versus silicon: A Survey” at a National Level Conference on “Emerging Trends in Power Electronics” held at BMSIT in 2013. Various areas where in graphene could be more beneficial than the traditional silicon, especially in photovoltaic cells and upcoming research activities were revisited. Additionally I have also done technical seminars on digital jewelry, cryptography and fast Fourier transforms, concentrating on its use in image processing proving my interest once again in this domain. I have also participated in Schneider Electric’s Go Green Challenge 2014, and idea to improve efficiency of hybrid electric vehicles.


To bridge the gap between bookish and practical knowledge I undertook two in plant trainings, one at National Thermal Power Plant (NTPC), India wherein I was given a chance to familiarize with load commutated inverter systems (LCI) and power plant operation and control. The other was at Delta Constructions Co. W.L.L, Kingdom of Bahrain. Here I was given the opportunity to know about various electrical fittings and I a week working at the electrical quantity surveying department. Currently I am doing my final year project on “Railway Automation using Programmable Logic Controller”. This covers accurate train approaching detection, alarm, anti-collision between trains as well as indication of a vehicular breakdown between railway gates. My free time is invested in familiarizing myself with Ubuntu and programming ardunio uno.During my seventh semester I have been campus recruited by Capgemini Pvt. Ltd. And Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).


Apart from academics I have completed grades one to five in classical piano and have taken part in circuit debugging at the college fest namely “Utsaha”.


I strongly believe that in today’s 21st century, the integration of cross fields has scaled up significantly. Being appreciated in class for my efficient programming skills and passion towards electronics I am affirmative that the International Graduate Program offered by the Department of electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Nationa Chiao Tung  University will certainly play the fore front in shaping my future. Alongside the combination of subjects offered and that too English makes it an all-round package to make me industry ready. I am well convinced by the feedbacks received from this college, the outstanding faculty back grounds, their research expertise and its location in the Hsinchu science park has certainly left me with an insistent desire to be a part of it.Above all the opportunity of being able to follow your passion with the opportunity to obtain a scholarship at NCTU makes it a dream come true for any international student, particularly me.In the years to come I would like to work in a fabrication house tackling design, manufacturing and packaging problems of semiconductor devices and aim to pursue a Post Doctorate thereafter .


Admission to the International Graduate Program at National Chiao Tung University would be a privilege which I hope to honor through hardwork and distinguishing my self as an innovative creator of the future.I sincerely thank the selection committee for taking their time out to read my study plan.

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