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Problem

I am now applying for the Ph.D. program in electrical engineering.

Now I have a 3-page (2500 words) SOP that should surely be reduced to 1.5 to 2 pages. Now the structure of my SOP looks like

  • Paragraph 1: Why I want to do a Ph.D. (0.2 page)
  • Paragraph 2-5: Research experience A (1 page). "A" is the research that lasts the longest time and contributes to publications.
  • Paragraph 6: Transition from A to B, C, D, E (0.2 page).
  • Paragraph 7-10: Research B, C, D, and E (1 page, each about same length)
  • Paragraph 11: Why I want to the University. Which professor I would like to work with (0.2 page).

My issues is that the more important experience ("A") is not directly related to "B", "C", "D", and "E". But for sure they are all in the realm of electrical engineering. Therefore, simply aligning paragraph 7-10 does not seem to be a good idea.

So how do I structure my SOP. Any input is appreciated.

  • Keep in mind that faculty are very busy people who will most likely just glance over the statement, so less is more. Try to be precise and to the point. Also, wouldn't something like "In addition to working on A I have experience with B,C,D and E." or something like that? – user347489 Dec 14 '19 at 5:50
  • I thought about this. But I am afraid that the review might think that I am just making up B, C, D, and E. Also, maybe a two page SOP looks more research dense than a one pager? – Mr.Robot Dec 14 '19 at 6:43
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    What I meant is that you shouldn't worry about how they relate to A. I do think it's important to explain what you've done in B,C,D and E. Claims need to be backed up. – user347489 Dec 14 '19 at 6:46
  • @user347489 Thank you for this! This makes me feel much better about my SOP. – Mr.Robot Dec 14 '19 at 6:49
  • Sorry, but I don't understand your outline. Are B,C,C,E different research areas? Topics? What? It seems a bit unfocused, which could be a detriment. Can you clarify? Is there an overall "thingy" that covers all those possibilities, assuming they are different? – Buffy Dec 14 '19 at 12:11
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You are confusing your CV with your SoP. Your CV details your past accomplishments. Papers and research reports of your experiences are listed there. Your SoP should be forward looking, not backward, so nothing in your list is really the right thing for the SoP. The "Purpose" in SoP is your goals for your education and beyond, including some idea of the area you want to work in.

Even something like "I want to study at MIT because..." is misplaced. Immaterial. Naming a professor may be necessary (some places) or not (other places).

But your past can be briefly mentioned in the SoP if it says why your background makes you a good candidate for success in your chosen field. "I want to explore F. B and E give be a good basis to begin that study..."

But you are wasting an opportunity if you just detail how A - E fit together. If they support F directly, then say that and assume the reader understands the connections.

CV = your past accomplishments

LoR = great candidate, certainly a success

SoP = goals and plans, research and career directed

Then a reader can get a complete picture

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  • Thank you for making this clarification (which freaked me out). I have been following Prof. Philip Guo's samples and advice when crafting my SoP (he is a professor in computer science, these samples come from his current students when applying). In those samples, the applicants did spend most of the pages describing their previous projects. I am not sure whether this varies field by field. – Mr.Robot Dec 15 '19 at 1:04
  • See this other recent question along with my answer there: academia.stackexchange.com/q/141593/75368 – Buffy Dec 15 '19 at 1:30

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