I am applying for graduate studies in the US and in my statement of purpose I mention the name of a book and it's author, as the book is very relevant to my previous research work and the author is working in the university I am applying too.

Is this okay, or should I not mention the book's name?

If it is okay should I quote the book's title or should I do any special formatting regarding this reference?

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    What is it that worries you? Mentioning relevant references in your statement of purpose is fine. Are you worried that highlighting a book by someone at this university will look like empty flattery? I wouldn't worry about this, unless you are writing something really over the top in praise of this book. When you talk about not mentioning the book's name, do you mean not mentioning the book at all, or just referring to it cryptically without naming it? I would recommend against the latter (if you are going to mention the book, you might as well be clear). Nov 15, 2013 at 14:34
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    Well yes I am afraid it will bring me harm more than good. I just mention that when I started my research I had to read a lot of relevant papers and books such as XYZ book authored by Professor X.
    – The Hiary
    Nov 15, 2013 at 14:43
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    I guess I'm puzzled as to why mentioning a book would be harmful in the first place. I can think of various scenarios in which it might be a problem (for example, if it's a really controversial book), but under ordinary circumstances I don't see why it would provoke a negative reaction. Nov 15, 2013 at 20:15
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    It is not a controversial book at all (it is a mathematics book actually) but the thing is when I searched the internet about mentioning a book's name in my statement of purpose I didn't find anyone that has done it before in my field of study (computer science) but some English literature applicants do mention books in their statements and they get asked specific questions from or about the books they mention.
    – The Hiary
    Nov 16, 2013 at 5:09

2 Answers 2


As mentioned in the comments by Anonymous Mathematician, there won't be a problem with mentioning a book that you read in your statement of purpose. If your statement of purpose has a list of references, you can include it there and just use the standard referencing style to cite it. If you don't need a list of references, then just cite the book in the text, e.g., "Reading the book 'A nice mathematics book' by , I found that...".

The difficult part will be to make citing the book really worth putting it in your statement of purpose. Which books someone read is probably not as important for computer science students as it is for students of literature. Think about the following questions, as examples:

  • How did reading this book influence your decision to apply for graduate studies?
  • In which way will your planned research build upon what you learnt in this book?
  • Does the book define research problems that you are planning to tackle?

If you cannot write something along these lines when referring to this book, then I am not sure that it would be worth writing that you read it.

  • I agree with the need of assessing why a book title there, and why that particular book title. If it's a book that is simply related to your previous research (and not future research) and it's by a professor at your school, the reasons are weak. Also, from the point of style, saying "to read a lot of relevant papers and books such as XYZ book authored by Professor X" hurts the balance between papers and books. This sentence would make the reader wonder even more why that book, further prompting the importance of making the book relevant to you personally. Nov 19, 2013 at 19:54

Yes, it is perfectly acceptable, if not expected, for research statements (aka "statements of purpose") in computer science PhD applications to include references to the research literature. I recommend citing them exactly as you would in a research paper.

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