I cannot understand how broad is too broad of a research interest. Honestly, I have a lot to learn and it is difficult for me to narrow it down on my statement of purpose. I know that I want to research applications of machine learning. Does my statement of purpose need to have a particular research question? I don't have one. If I say that I want to contribute to Professor X's research on Y, is it acceptable? OR For example, if I say that I'm interested in enhancing my spatial analysis knowledge by working with professor X and concentrating on Spatio-Temporal load balancing in sustainable IT, is this broad or narrow or alright?

1 Answer 1


This depends on where you are and what degree(s) you hold. For a bachelors holder in the US it needn't be very specific at all. Some subfield of CS, say: languages or AI.

For someone with a masters, it should be a bit more detailed. Working with (in the same area as) Prof. X should be fine, but you'd better know something about what that is. Thus, a narrow subfield. The one you suggest seems sufficiently narrow.

However, don't make it read as if this is the only thing you will consider. Keep some flexibility. This or That. If the preferred professor can't take you on for whatever reason, you want someone else to consider you.

There are places, perhaps Germany, where you are hired into a position and need to be pretty much self directing. There you might benefit from quite a lot of detail. You are more of a colleague than a student from the start.

  • I am applying to top programs in the US, for a Ph.D. in Statistics or a related field. For a Ph.D. statement of purpose, is my research interest fine? Nov 28, 2021 at 21:03
  • Assuming there is someone at the place that has compatible interests, I'd think it is fine. But you seem to have that covered already.
    – Buffy
    Nov 28, 2021 at 21:14
  • Thank you for your feedback. Nov 29, 2021 at 5:30

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