Jump to content

How to talk about research experiences?


Recommended Posts

I'm writing a statement of purpose for a PhD program in linguistics, and I want to include my undergraduate researching experiences. However, now I'm really unsure about how should I present my research experiences. To be honest, my undergrad research wasn't really productive -- mainly conducting some behavioral experiments, collecting data and analyzing them in R; nothing really publishable so far. However, I think I did gain some skills from such work that might be useful in researches -- at least I learned something about R...

So my question is, in the PoS, when talking about research experiences, do you think it is OK to just focus on the research skills I learned, instead of talking about the actual contents of the projects, like the hypothesis/findings/conclusions/etc.? Thank you!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Talk about your skills and motivations - that's honestly the situation most undergraduate applicants are in (it's extremely rare that an undergrad comes up with productive research without a lot of help from a supervisor). 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, stressedschwa said:

So my question is, in the PoS, when talking about research experiences, do you think it is OK to just focus on the research skills I learned, instead of talking about the actual contents of the projects, like the hypothesis/findings/conclusions/etc.? Thank you!

I do think you want to talk about the projects, because that's a way of showing that you can communicate the science you are working on to an audience of smart people who are generally knowledgeable but don't know the precise details of your work. That's a very important skill, and being able to do this shows a certain kind of maturity as a researcher (turns out that explaining your research to others in a concise manner is actually pretty hard!). You don't have to spend too much space on it, but I think you need to have at least a sentence along the lines of "during my Nth year, I worked as a research assistant to Prof Awesome on a project whose aim was <large question>. Specifically, we were interested in <something a bit more detailed, or a subquestion, or some explanation of why this is interesting>. My contribution to the project was <this thing or another>. <We used whatever methodology with the goal in mind of seeing whether X correlates with Y, or whatever. We were hoping that this would teach us <this thing about our question>. We are currently in the process of analyzing the results.>" Then it's definitely also acceptable, and even advisable, to talk about the transferrable skills you learned. Those can include proficiency in R, but a more important skill is the ability to formulate an interesting and manageably-sized question and to pick an appropriate methodology to study it. Anyone can learn R; what makes you ready to pursue a PhD is the questions you ask and how you go about pursuing the answers to those questions. That should be what you talk about, more than just technical stuff. 

Note: none of this requires a publication/presentation. You can learn a lot just from the process of formulating a question, operationalizing it, collecting data, and analyzing it, even if eventually it doesn't lead to a publication. A publication will not be expected at this stage. 

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
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.