Research SoP – Tips To Write a Perfect Research SoP
Research SoP wherein SoP stands for ‘Statement of Purpose’. An SoP is a long essay about someone that is often asked by universities/Institution mostly abroad. This essay (usually about 1000 words) attempt to understand the candidate’s approach towards life, the motivations for the chosen career path and ultimately his/her goals. There are some important elements to a Statement of Purpose or a research SoP as it is famously referred to. The Universities/Institutes could ask for question-based essays or simply to present your statement of purpose. Unless a specific format is given, a research SoP must comprise a list of your goals, academic progress and your future plans to achieve your goals.
Other elements that are further important to the research SoP are also the personal motivations that lead you to choose the university/Institutes/Program you have applied to as well as how you anticipate that experience to achieve the goal. A research SoP is your key to directly communicate with the admissions committee. To convince the committee that you have the spark, the thirst for knowledge that could add value to your work.
You should give yourself enough time to submit a clear, thoughtful, polished essay that will heighten your chances for admission. Writing a reasonably good ‘Statement of Purpose’ is not at all an impossible task. It requires intuitiveness, attention, and patience. You should take enough time to write the SoP, show them to your mentors, seniors or experienced people and polish if necessary, the essay till you get the perfect version of your essay. If it is done in the right way, this will even turn out to be an enjoyable process for you as you will discover your purpose in life. It should be as lively as possible so that you can convince the admissions committee that you are capable of a seat in the program.
Why do universities ask for a research SoP?
The SoP assists institutes/universities decide if the applicants are really interested in the course of the program they’ve applied for, their capacity to pursue the application and completing it successfully, and whether they will have the ability to contribute significantly to the Institute. A good SOP helps applicants to highlight their strengths in the admission process like a proper cover letter or job application letter helps candidates present themselves successfully in the job market.
Importance of SoP in the Admission Process
The SoP is one of the most critical components of your entire admission process. The SoP portrays the major impression of you to the admission officers. Your SoP will say a lot of things about you silently that a strong profile might never be able to reveal. The SoP highlights your attitude, ambition, clarity of thought and your personality; and carries the potential of leveraging low GPA and/or average test scores (e.g. SAT, GRE or GMAT). The SoP gives you the chance to stand out from the crowd.
What do they seek in a STATEMENT OF PURPOSE?
The primary question admissions committee members ask themselves while reading a Statement of Purpose is: What does this essay epitomize about the writer?
Try to imagine yourself in an admission officer’s shoes. From among thousands of applications, you have to choose the fraction of interesting, confident and enthusiastic students who will make the laboratory a stimulating research place. Academic achievements and good test scores are also important. It becomes increasingly difficult to select the worthy person to give the admission offer where the majority of applicants have good academic records.
It is true that each of the items present in the admission check-list like references, extra-curricular achievements add an extra dimension to your personality & the application overall but it is the SoP that brings you to life. That is the reason that each essay is read carefully by at least two and more before taking the final decision. Do not think that the SoP is the main deciding factor. Your academic record, grades and the courses you have taken are the first things admission committee members turn to. Being from a reputed school or college confers a distinct advantage.
Another thing that you should keep in mind that you should not try to be something that you are not, rather project your inside honestly. It means you should be self-aware. The people who read your essay want to be convinced that you have thought enough about who you are, what are the things you are interested in, what inspires you, What you want out of life, and where you are going from here.
Finally, you must show a desire to become a skilful person and learn from books, your teachers, friends, music, art and from life itself. However, only the SoP or application essays can bring to the surface your individuality. As an applicant, if you are not taking enough care for the essay, you are discarding the best opportunity available.
Does it seem blurred to you? Continue reading to transform all these attributes into concrete steps to come out with perfect research SoP.
What to include in your SoP?
To begin with, this is not about the basic dos and don’ts of writing a statement of purpose. Arguably, an essay/SOP is perhaps the only aspect of the application that distinguishes you from the crowd. A personal statement lets you display how unique you are, how you are more than your scores and how you would be an ideal candidate and best suited for the university/ college. But we all know that. What we do not know is what we should include in the SoP to make it exceptional.
Following points may be included:
-Personal/ Financial Background
What students ought to understand that when universities are screening your applications, they are looking for areas that highlight you. If your story is exceptional, do include that in your Research SoP. But, do not be endless to how humble your background was. State it, as a matter of fact, and focus on how you defeated the same. For example, if you belong to a rural area, you can mention how you managed such a condition.
-Your extracurricular activities
Sports, debates, clubs and other activities are ideal ways to highlight your leadership qualities. Working individually or more importantly in a team are important aspects of your personality. It’s important to let them know how much of an individual you are and what kind of a leader you are, whether you are a leader at all. Apart from that, your participation also draws attention to your ambitious personality and your determinative nature. It is also a way to lay focus on things you are passionate about.
Yes, it is important. In fact, it is a must!
Many students never talk about the failures that have made them what they are at present. If you flunked an exam or lost a tournament do not be ashamed to talk about them. The idea is to focus on your ability to bounce back from situations of personal/professional failures. They will be interested to know how self-assured you are about winning and on the other hand how positive you are to failures/criticisms.
-Work Experience – part time, full time, voluntary, etc.
While MBA aspirants are required to provide mandatory work experience, the same might not be the case with other bachelors or masters courses. But if you have any work experience, even voluntary – you can include it. Do not consider it trifle as it is a two-month summer job. The main point here is that you must have learned something during that project – the universities would be interested in knowing all about that.
– Published works, papers submitted, etc.
Did you submit a research report in masters or during graduation? Then mention it if it was an important aspect and you managed to get some appreciation. That talks about your ability to think scientifically and work towards a goal in a dedicated way.
Start writing in note form the things that come into your mind while reading this and start ranking them in order of their importance to you, and then according to the chosen career path. Keep the qualities that you wish to highlight about you and then start eliminating accordingly. This would help you understand what has led you to the decision of research in the future. Once you have understood your purpose simply project them in words.
The next thing that matters is what you should not include in your Statement of Purpose.
Statement of Purpose is, in fact, the most important 1000 words that stand between your application and admission to the research program. Just as it is important to know all the things you should include in your SoP, equally or perhaps even more important is to know what not to include in your research SoP.
Often Universities find a lengthy statement of purpose, hence they discard it. Even when you cannot find one grammatical error, the outwardly excellent SoP would be rejected. Here the primary reason is – too much unnecessary information. For instance, just because you might want to talk about your family, does not mean you go on and on to talk about your family. This is not because the candidate is not aware of what to include, it is because what he/she fails to understand what not to include.
Few points that you should not include in an SoP:
Do not write too many words in your Research SoP to describe your maternal and paternal family to the admission committee. They have no consideration if your forefathers descended from royalty or not – until that has something to do with the personality that you wish to emphasize. Their focus is to understand you as a person. A small and brief statement, if absolutely necessary, should be enough to wrap up about your family. Remember no family history will be entertained.
Often, universities demand separate documentation for your financial status. Sometimes universities/Institutes would ask the candidates to provide a separate essay for the same while deciding about scholarships. Hence, details about your financial status and requirements are not necessary for the SoP. Unless money has truly changed your personality, stay away from mentioning lengthy details about it.
-All your accomplishments
You may have several accomplishments in academics, sports, art, recommendations from your teachers, etc. but it is not necessary to mention each of them in the SoP. It should not be a brag sheet of your achievements. You need to choose carefully only those accomplishments that make the most sense to your candidacy.
-Details about your Academic Projects or Jobs
It is important to include your academic Projects in your Research SoP but never go for explaining in detail about your project and what you did elaborately. Same applies for your work experience also. It is important to make a reference, illustrate perhaps the incident and then talk about what you have learned from it. Focus on your key learning and how it transformed you into what you are.
Now that you know what all you can talk about apart from your academics and your job profiles, maybe you are buzzing to start writing that essay. So before you pick up the pen and start jotting down, remember, the key to a good essay is not including everything about yourself but to maintain the balance. Sometimes little yet heavy words matter a lot. Keep it short, keep it simple and do it for a reason. Even if you are talking about saving an animal on the street or trying your area’s residents understand waste management techniques, the essence of the essay should be your target in life. How motivated you are about achieving your aims and what are the things that matter to you.
[su_box title=”About the Author” style=”glass” radius=”10″]This article was compiled by Dr. Tuluma Das who is associated with Biotecnika. A PostDoc with an educational background in chemistry, she is an ardent reader & writer. Loves to impart knowledge to students. Being from a research background she is well aware of the ways how a research SoP is selected. This article was an attempt by her to spread awareness among researchers on how to write perfect research SoP.[/su_box]