I'm a third-year bachelor of a science student. I'm shortlisted for an interview for the Integrated Ph.D. course. I'm Physics major student. It's asked by the institution for a Statement of Purpose.

One-page original research write-up by the candidate (research statement of purpose).

I have never written a statement of purpose in my whole life and this is the first one. Now after searching for what it is. I found several posts which help me a lot and the most important one is this one. If I summarize the points given in the answer as

  • What have you already done?
  • What are you working on now?
  • What might you want to work on in the future?
  • How does my department fit your research goals?

Well, this is it, and for me, it's quite satisfactory.

Now the shortcomings as a bachelor's student are that we are not exposed to real research. We just get an introductory idea of different branches of physics. Now the problem is, As a bachelor student, I haven't done any research work in the past (I did an intern on Astrophysics but it was based on introductory knowledge) nor I'm currently working on any project and apart from a little glimpse, I have not a big picture of what I'm going to do in future. I know I want to be a particle physicist but I don't know what specific thing in particle physics, I want to do work in and It might possible that the interest might divert to some other path, say Astrophysics.

This eliminates the first three points. The fourth one, again, I can only say, the department itself help me decide what I need to do in future. It gives me an understanding of the subject and so on.

So It seems there Isn't much to say in the Statement of Purpose as a bachelor student. So I want advice on How should I write my statement of purpose?

Please ask any information you need about me if necessary.

I'm not studying in United State. I'm a student from India. And I don't understand what's common between this and

How does the admissions process work for Ph.D. programs in the US, particularly for weak or borderline students?

  • "I have not a big picture of what I'm going to do in future." I strongly recommend you fix that before you enroll in a PhD. Maybe a PhD is not going to help you achieve your goals. Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 9:54
  • I haven't a big picture of ..... I mean I don't know very specifically what's I'm going to do in the future or what my thesis will be about. But I'm absolutely sure PhD is going to help me achieving my goals Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 10:07
  • 1
    I've added the India tag, to make it clear that this question is not a duplicate of the other one. Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 10:26
  • Is the course you are applying to also in India?
    – cag51
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 19:45

2 Answers 2


SOPs are a rather dreaded part of the application process for many students in the tagged geography, precisely because there is a big gap between the expectations and method of working that students are typically used to. The previous comments and answer are indeed relevant. Given your current situation, I'll add some specific things that you can think about, leaning towards pragmatism rather than the ideal.

(1) The SOP is essentially a narrative that has to sell. (Arguably so is most research, but that's another tale). You must know your audience. Don't make one boilerplate SOP for all the departments you apply to. Visit their websites, read up what they work on. Try to use social media to speak to current students. You may not know what you want to work on, but you must know with reasonable veracity what they work on. Don't start writing your SOP without doing this. The underlying benefit (arguably the real reason) is that you will me more updated about what is currently happening in the field now, and this will help you cultivate your interests more sensibly.

(2) Treat each SOP as an independent and exclusive document. Once you've identified the department & professor/group you would like to work with the most, think of everything you've heard, learnt or done that may be relevant to the topic. Oftentimes this is a research project, sometimes it is a class that really interested you and motivated you to read up further. Sometimes it is even a personal experience or anecdote that left a deep impact on you, inspiring you to move towards the respective field. You need not have done concrete research work on it, but you should be able to demonstrate some interest or passion, or even a convincing motivation. If you are not able to find yourself motivated by a certain field, it may be a strong indication to look elsewhere - one more underlying benefit.

(3) Connect your background (educational, personal if it is relevant), your motivation/experience/interest and relevant achievements to the field of interest. Avoid irrelevant history. The badminton championship you participated in is unlikely to be helpful, unless you are using it to make a point about striving for excellence. Or being fascinated by the aerodynamics of a weighted shuttlecock. I hope you catch my drift here.

(4) Take seriously the last segments, which describe how the university could help you achieve your goals, and equally, why you are a good fit for the university. Be very specific about the first. You should be able to demonstrate that you know what the department/group is known for, what sets them apart, what sort of impact they have. Use details if possible. If you've been able to speak to some students there, mention it (show your efforts and initiative). As to why you are a good fit, describe your attributes and qualities; but ensure that they relate to the personal history/experiences/achievements that you previously mentioned. This adds continuity, keeps you honest and prevents the SOP from reading like a boilerplate job application.

Take your time with this, and remember to respect the reader. Its a big opportunity for you and an important investment for the group/department that you join. The worst thing that you could do is treat it flippantly and churn out something that doesn't show serious thought.

  • Should I need to see if I have mentioned something that interests me but I don't have depth knowledge of the topic? Like, I want to be a particle physicist and I read about a g-2 experiment that interests me most in the field. But As I'm in bachelor's, I can't get into depth. Should I need to consider the possibility that they would you my SoP to ask me questions in interview? Because the topic most interest me might not be the topic which I'm good at. There are two different things. Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 4:17
  • They won't expect in-depth knowledge, but if you're interested in something, you'd be expected to know something beyond your regular coursework. It need not be extremely specific, i.e. a particular research paper or an experiment - that would be unusual. The field should be enough. Moreover, I'd suggest getting better at what you find interesting, its the safest strategy. Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 5:19

I am mentioning the following in terms of what you have said in the question and not in general.

  1. What you have already done?

Coursework, Homework, mini project? Something that really caught your interest or you spent good amount of time working on? Schools which give importance to classes are actually really good experience. Just writing that you attended the class makes no difference. But, if you have something worth while which explored out of the class, that's great!

  1. What are you working on?

This may sound foolish but start working on something if you haven't! Explore using the internet, try to finish a couple of courses! You can't immediately hit the big picture. There must be many sub-domains to astrophysics. Why not explore them? Search for a few open problems?

  1. What might you want to work in the future?

Suggest the open problem you find while exploring. Or mention that a specific sub-domain interests you because of so and so reasons. They don't really expect solved work or a ground-breaking idea. A personal experience, I was just simply surfing YouTube and came across this certain domain. I spent a week just reading simple articles and this one good review paper and it just really interested me. I haven't been able to generate anything worth while but I'm really loving the process!

Finally, try to relate these points with personal experience if possible. An internship needn't mean you publish something or get magnificent results. You could mention that your time spent in the internship brought you to a certain problem you would like to solve! I have had 2 internships till date. The first one, just like yours covered only introductory material. But I had two sessions which dealt with this one algorithm and that's what I focus on now!

(I am an undergrad as well, please do correct me if I am wrong somewhere, I can't really put the perspective of someone who has already gone through the process.)

  • Really I don't like the idea to explore the unsolved problem. It's not like haven't done so I know the unsolved problem in most of the field and what people are doing or what the currently hot research is. I also read the paper given by the noble prize community every year about the research or discovery made. But I believe and correct me if I'm wrong that If you want to get up to what is currently the research topic is, you have to know what has been done so far and to know you need to learn. It's just nice to learn about g-2 muon experiment and what they did. Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 9:43
  • But anyone with good knowledge of the subject will able to catch that I don't know much about this and how shallow my words are. Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 9:44
  • I spend most of my time reading books. That's all I have done so far. (Its pandemic here >> university is working remotely). Few question and concepts caught my attention which I have asked on PSE site and some of them interest me as well. Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 9:46
  • I understand where you're coming from. You don't really have to go in depth. Just mentioning that you would want to work in a particular domain should do well. I suggest if you have some time before your SOP submission, you could work on a mini project if possible. I'm sorry but I do not really know the Physics domain well. I hope someone from that domain answers.
    – Academic
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 9:49

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