I recently completed my Masters in a particular domain from a university in India. Typically for most masters in India (as far as I know), research experience is hard to get by. I graduated in a field that is only taught in one or two universities here in Eastern India, and most professors aren't keen on letting post-graduate students do substantial research. However, after I majored in Physics, I chose to specialize in this field during my Masters, as I found my niche in this area of research and it provided me a way to pursue my career as a researcher. I worked on two independent studies during the first year of my master which I presented at two national conferences only. My final year proved to be much more favorable when I had the opportunity to work with a guest professor from a reputed research institute for my master's thesis. After my thesis, I am working under him unofficially for a few more projects, two of which have churned out two papers still in preparation, but it is on its way. The problem is, I still don't know which area I should do my Ph.D. in, but I have a few areas in mind. The research experience that I am currently gathering is not what I surely wanted to work on, but what I could get my hands on. I hope I am making the point clear.

I have made a draft of my statement of purpose (SOP) for foreign universities (especially the US) describing the research studies that I have worked and am working on, but is it possible that I indicate in some way that I am willing to work in any of the research interests that I have, not necessarily the ones I am currently working in or did my dissertation in. I don't consider the experiences I have gained to be stellar compared to the ones by top students who get admitted, but it is what I could get my hands on to the best of my ability. The education system here is not that great, so I had to teach programming and statistical analysis myself which I have used in the dissertation.

P.S. I apologize for having one more question. Should I archive my master's thesis in the likes of arXiv?

  • In my field (analytical chemitry), SOP means standard operating procedure. This is surely not what you refer to. Please expant the abbreviation. – cbeleites supports Monica Nov 23 at 18:36

In short, I think the answer is certainly yes: you can and should indicate what research you would like to work on in your statement of purpose (SOP), which can (and should) differ from your past experiences. I assume that, in addition to the SOP, you’ll be submitting a resume or CV which will comprehensively list all of your accomplishments and research experiences. The point of the SOP is for you to convey what you hope to get out of the PhD program. I think you should therefore consider the following questions:

  1. What are your current research interests?
  2. What do you hope to achieve in those areas, and how will this PhD program help you to reach those goals?
  3. How does the work you’ve done inform your current research goals, and/or enable you to succeed in them?

See a related article here (see Sec. 1: Know what grad schools are really asking).

From the Comments:

Regarding what details of past experiences to include in the SOP, my recommendation is to keep those details that either 1) help you explain your motivation (i.e., purpose) for applying to this PhD program and/or 2) provide evidence that you will succeed.


Regarding this statement:

I still don't know which area in atmospheric sciences I should do my Ph.D. in, but I have a few areas in mind.

This sounds like something you should discuss with your advisor or other mentors to try to narrow down your interests. The SOP will be more effective, I think, if you can focus it on a clear objective (even if those goals change later - that's normal!). See this post here (the section entitled "Your Research and Professional Interests").

  • Thank you. I wrote mostly about the projects I contributed to my SOP, but I will be sure to include these details you mentioned. Should I remove these project details? Because I have heard that the SOP needs to be crisp and short, atmost 2 pages. – Chayan Roychoudhury Banerjee Nov 19 at 6:02
  • That’s probably a good idea, and you should check to see if there is a page limit for the SOP. Two ideas come to mind: 1) keep the details that help make your case, e.g., if you want to convey that you’ve learned some important technical skill that will help you in the PhD program, or if some part of a research experience directly influenced your new research interests - again, the focus should be on what you want to get out of the PhD program; and 2) you can move some of those details about various research projects to a “projects” section of your CV/resume (but again, check the page limit). – J. Tylka Nov 19 at 13:25
  • Regarding your PS: you should check with your advisor to see if there are any publication restrictions on your work (e.g., IP/patent concerns), but otherwise open access to your work is generally a good thing. Are you concerned that the thesis won’t be available online otherwise? This depends on your university. Depending on the subject matter, arXiv may or may not be the appropriate venue. One alternative is to create a public repository on github with your source files (assuming it’s written in LaTeX), but you should ask your advisor about typical open access publications in your field – J. Tylka Nov 19 at 13:34
  • Thank you so much. – Chayan Roychoudhury Banerjee Nov 23 at 18:31
  • I had another question if you don't mind. Should I mention a few faculty names with their research interests in my SOP. I would also include the statement, "I would also welcome the opportunity to work under any other suitable faculty advisor if the situation came up". – Chayan Roychoudhury Banerjee Dec 7 at 10:44

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