I am wondering about the CV format for PhD application. In professional setting, for example, in the research experience part, I write a lot about what I did in my research rather than doing so in the cover letter. The cover letter on the other hand should be short. This is recommended by the career service center.

Should I do the same for PhD application? Or maybe I should write about my research in my CV and repeat the same thing in the cover letter?

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    They know nothing about PhD application
    – FARRAF
    Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 10:27
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    @user111388 Career service centers often have very bad/outdated advice. I would not trust what they have to say about either industry or academia (many people who work in these centers haven't been applying for jobs in years and often propagate fad advice surrounding gimmicks that generally catch attention but don't communicate value and waste employers' time). In academia they are even less helpful, but luckily you, OP, are on a college campus so have actual academics you can talk to and get advice from!
    – Well...
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 12:05
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    PhD applications have cover letters????
    – JeffE
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 20:38
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    How you distribute things depends on what documents are needed. Is there also a Statement of Purpose? Letters of Recommendation? Personal Statement?
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 21, 2022 at 15:15
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    You should read and follow all the directions from each specific school you're applying to, and be as responsive to them as you can. Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 19:26

2 Answers 2


Write about your research (interests, current and relevant former positions, and your experience/skills/goals, all in relation to the position you are applying for) in the cover letter. Only mention positions and education milestones (and possibly supervisors of Bachelor's/Master's thesis) in your CV (and publications, if any, in a separate section).

The cover letter doesn't have to be short "short", 1-2 pages is totally fine in my experience.


When it comes to the CV format for a PhD application, it's important to strike a balance between providing detailed information about your research experience and maintaining a concise cover letter. I've not heard of a cover letter for a PhD program before, but there's nothing stopping you from including it even if its not required. Here's some guidance on how to approach this:

CV: In your CV, you can provide a comprehensive overview of your research experience, including details about the projects you've worked on, methodologies used, key findings, and any publications or presentations resulting from your work. This section should highlight your specific contributions and showcase your expertise in the field. By providing this information in your CV, you ensure that the admissions committee can easily assess your research background and skills. Also, applying for a professional job and an academic position / PhD, I would consider reorganising my CV so the academic experience and qualifications are first, sections for papers, grants, awards might also be important to prioritise, whereas in a professional CV your work history would be the priority (depending on the job of course).

Cover Letter: The cover letter should complement your CV and focus more on your motivations, goals, and how the specific PhD program aligns with your research interests. Rather than repeating the detailed descriptions of your research experience, you can mention the key highlights or the most impactful projects briefly, emphasizing the relevance to the PhD program you're applying to. Use the cover letter as an opportunity to convey your enthusiasm for the field, explain why you're interested in pursuing a PhD, and demonstrate how the program and research environment align with your academic and career aspirations. A lot of this may overlap with other statements that are required by the PhD application process, e.g. research statement, diversity statement, personal statement. Every PhD program can have slightly different application requirements, so be sure to customise it a little for the specific program.

By separating the detailed research experience in your CV from the broader motivations and goals in your cover letter / statements, you provide the admissions committee with a comprehensive view of your qualifications without redundancy. It also allows you to effectively utilize the limited space in the cover letter / statements to make a compelling case for your suitability for the PhD program.

Good luck with your application!

  • I think the need for a cover letter is quite country-dependent, linked to whether PhD recruitment is centralised or handled by individual professors.
    – avid
    Commented Mar 13 at 12:37

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