I am planning on applying for PhD positions in Europe (both open calls and cold emails). I have two publications from the lab where I did my BSc. Of course, they are listed in my CV but I am wondering if I should mention them in the cover letter? They're my only publications so far so I thought it might be relevant but they involve a completely different set of techniques/model organisms than what I'm hoping to work with during my PhD. My master's thesis research topic and experience as a research assistant in a different lab are more closely related to what I want to do for my PhD but no publications have come from those yet. So far, I have been highlighting my experience in the last two labs and not mentioning the first lab and the publications.

The main advantage of mentioning the publications is that it shows I produce good quality results that can be published in peer-reviewed journals (the one I'm first author in is IF >6). However, since the field is quite different, I'm concerned it could detract from the overall message of "I want to work in X field/topic" and that it could seem like I'm just padding (see a similar question here where they were advised not to mention undergrad experience).

So I'm wondering if I should mention the publications on the cover letter/the email or not at all?

2 Answers 2


While I agree with eykanal that a cover letter is supplementary to the CV, it is also good practice to draw attention to the main strengths in your CV. For application to a graduate program, any peer-reviewed academic publication in any field is helpful. Even if it were a publication on 14th century French poetry, it still shows that you have experience with academic writing, you are able to conduct research up to a publishable standard, and you have successfully navigated the peer-review process before. That is a strength of your application and you should make sure it doesn't get missed by the admissions panel.

Your concern that this publiction will cause people to believe that you are less interested in your new subject is highly misguided. Academics understand that people are not robots in an assembly plant --- they have varied interests and may be interested in multiple subjects. Many successful academics have publications outside their main field ---sometimes way outside--- and that is not seen as a negative. (Prof Noam Chomsky is a linquist by trade, but he also writes plenty of books on foreign policy and politics. Prof Thomas Sowell is an economist, but he has written a book on late-talking children.) Your slight variation in techniques and methods within the same general scientific field is not even close to the kinds of varied interests held by many successful academics.


In general, the goal of a cover letter is to provide context & color to your resume. The resume is the facts, the cover letter conveys intent, motivation, and fit. As such, you can definitely reference your publications if you think it helps convey why you're a good fit for the position.

  • Some good examples of cover letters for PhD programs are at the end of this doc.
    – eykanal
    Oct 5, 2021 at 17:30
  • The examples here appear to be for cover letters for post-PhD programs. Oct 6, 2021 at 10:59

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