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I'm doing a PHD in physics (not in US), and I'm applying for a summer school in US (an example). I'm required to upload a statement of research interest.

I have searched for webpages on how to write statement of research interest for a while but found that most of them are for applying for graduate schools. So my question is, what is the difference between statement of research interest for graduate schools admission and that for summer school?

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    I believe one of the main difference is the length of the time. The link you provided says June 8 - July 5. The length of time you stay in graduate school is in terms of years. – scaaahu Jan 2 '14 at 12:08
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    I disagree strongly with what @scaaahu said; it's plain wrong, and unhelpful. Answer is forthcoming, but in case you are trying to take his response, I'm giving you a forewarning – user10269 Jan 2 '14 at 16:51
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So my question is, what is the difference between statement of research interest for graduate schools admission and that for summer school?

The way you phrase the question suggests that you see this statement of research interest as a form to fill in some details. But it's not like there's a "P27.B: Statement Of Research Interest for Summer Schools" form that's slightly different from the usual "P27.A: Statement Of Research Interest for Graduate Schools" form in Annex B. These things don't exist.

I think you're approaching the question all wrong.

A research statement is a letter you write to a person with a specific purpose. So a better question would be "what is the purpose of writing a research letter for a summer school?".

The answer is pretty much the same, but instead of trying to demonstrate why you and your background are a good fit for a grad school, now you're trying to demonstrate why you and your background are a good fit for a summer school and that you will benefit greatly from that school.

There's lots of tips on the Web on how to write a good research statement. Maybe some personal pointers ...


First and foremost you need to appreciate that it will be read by a human being, not a machine. So don't make it boring or clichéd, esp. if that human being will have to read hundreds of statements like yours. Keep it concise and interesting. Many students are too concerned with filling "the requirements" than communicating; the key part of such a letter is communication, not topic lists.

Second you need to figure out what that human being is looking for from you. Such statements are not just paperwork; they have a purpose. Why are they asking you for the document? Why will they spend valuable time to read it? What is important to them?

Third you need to frame your personal context into what they are looking for.


  1. If you can, try to figure out specifically who is going to read it ... what kind of technical expertise they have, what are their research interests, etc. That person will probably be a postdoc or junior professor in the area.
  2. In the research statement, they'll want to see how the student will benefit from the school ... why that student is worth the chair space. They will simply be looking for enthusiastic students with a convincing story as to why they will benefit from the summer school. If the school is very narrow and technical, there may also be a check to make sure that the student has sufficient background knowledge to follow the topics. If you sound too expert in a topic, that's not good either; they'll want you to learn!
  3. In the text, discuss your research interests and goals. Relate your goals to the types of topics covered by the school. Add details; perhaps a specific lecture or lecturer or topic you are especially interested in and why. Be enthusiastic but not fake. Don't get stuck in technical details. Try to make the letter sound personal, almost conversational, like a person wrote it ... versus someone taking a template and filling in topics. Edit and remove irrelevant statements. Get feedback from peers or an advisor.
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I have attended several summer schools as a graduate student. In my experience, the primary purpose of having a research statement for summer schools is to weed out the random applications. For example, a person not actually in academia (often called "cranks", because most of them don't have the necessary background nor the ability to carry out real research) applies to these things; it is a waste of resources to admit this person, and having them distracts the other qualified students in the summer school.

So you definitely don't need to put in as much effort into these research statements as the ones in graduate school, as the primary purpose of these statements is to show them that you are not a crank.

From here, you need to judge for yourself how much effort is needed. If you attend Harvard or Princeton, or if the organizers already know you, then one or two paragraphs describing your research and naming your advisor might be enough. However, if you attend a mediocre school outside of the US (where you expect no one to have heard of the school), you had better write about your research in some detail, so that no one dismisses your application.

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    This answer is outright offensive. There are dozens of reasons why non-academicians would apply to these programs, the top reason being that many, many researchers work outside of academia. While data is hard to come by, I can tell you from data shown in my PhD program that only 35% of that program's graduate students stayed in academia. – eykanal Jan 2 '14 at 17:20
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    @eykanal Well, maybe things are different based on what field you are in. I doubt that many PhD students from my field stay in academia, although I never paid attention to statistics. There was no offense meant by it, and if you find it offensive, well. I don't know what to say. – user10269 Jan 2 '14 at 17:29
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    The offense primarily stems from your referring to non-academics as "cranks". That term, which typically is used to describe someone performing poor science, is a fairly derogatory term to label to someone who happens to work outside of your particular field of choice—in this case, academia. – eykanal Jan 2 '14 at 18:53
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    shrug Leaving aside the ad hominem, you tell all the researchers at Merck, and Google, and Bayer, and Shell, and Heinz, and Medtronics, and in the military, and in small businesses, and in the thousands of other private sector industries across the globe that you think they're all "crocks", and see how they respond. – eykanal Jan 2 '14 at 21:02
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    @eykanal Other points: I've only heard of Google, among the companies that you have mentioned (please pardon an academic who pays very little attention to the real world), and if I were organizing a conference, I would definitely favor academics over peple working at Merck, Bayer etc. Besides, these people have relatively little to contribute, if they are tied to privacy clauses. And I am not feeling charitable enough to expend my resources towards people working for another company's profit. – user10269 Jan 2 '14 at 21:13

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