I am currently refining my CV for PhD applications and I'm uncertain about whether to include certain academic experiences. Throughout my academic journey, I've had varying levels of involvement in academic groups and research activities, which I am unsure about how to represent in my CV.

  1. Internship at a Different University (Bachelor's): I did a brief internship where I read papers, attended mini-lectures, and gave a presentation about what I learnt to other students. My role was largely observational.
  2. Research Group Membership after bachelor's thesis (During COVID): I joined a research group at my university, but due to COVID-19, I wasn't assigned a specific research topic. My involvement was limited to attending journal clubs and lectures. My role was again largely observational.
  3. Group Member in Master's Program: In my Master's, I was part of a research group, participating in weekly discussions and journal clubs. This seems like a standard activity for most students.
  4. Research Assistant Post-Master's: I continued working in the same group as a paid research assistant, which is I think a significant experience. My question is: Should I include all of these experiences in the "Internships & Work Experience" section of my CV? The experience during my bachelor's feels less relevant, and the role in the research group during COVID was passive. However, I found the experience at the other university valuable, despite not conducting substantial research. I am also unsure if simply being a group member is impactful enough to mention.

I plan to detail my research assistant role in my statement of purpose, but I'm wondering if and how I should reflect these other experiences in my CV. For context, the current outline of my CV includes sections for Education, Projects, Awards, Technical Skills, and References.

Any advice on how to best approach this in an academic CV would be greatly appreciated.

1 Answer 1


All of those are valid in a CV. The CV details your past, especially those things that make it possible to judge your suitability for a future role.

But, while you didn't ask, don't wast unnecessary words in the SoP also detailing the past. It is about your goals for grad school and thereafter, not to further explain what you have already done. Brief phrases that connect the past activities to specific goals, especially research goals are fine, but don't restate what is elsewhere.

As for the CV, just be honest about your roles and don't overstate them. All seem to be positive indicators, which is what you want. They all express academic interest beyond the required.

  • Thank you for the feedback. Since you have mentione SoPs I have a quetion regaring that. From my understanding, the SoP should demonstrate my competence and elaborate on the diverse roles I've played in research. In my case, these roles include conducting literature reviews, authoring manuscripts for journal publication, developing and maintaining codebases, and utilizing complex computational tools etc...
    – GGphys
    Dec 31, 2023 at 21:14
  • Do Principal Investigators (PIs) expect potential PhD students to have concrete research directions in mind when applying? My experience as a master's student suggests that developing a clear research focus often requires at least a few months especially if one is not continuing with a topic closely related to their master's project. I am interested in understanding whether PIs expect a detailed research plan or are they more focused on assessing the candidate's overall research potential and adaptability?
    – GGphys
    Dec 31, 2023 at 21:14
  • Your SoP isn't about how great you are. It is about what you want to accomplish in the future. Let you letter writers praise you. Self praise is easily dismissed. CV = past, SoP = future, letters = suitability and likelihood of success.
    – Buffy
    Dec 31, 2023 at 21:16

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