I want to apply for a PhD positions and it says to include the following:

  1. a cover letter
  2. Research plan – this should be a personal statement motivating why you are applying for this position

I usually put in the cover letter the statement of why I am applying, but in this case how should I separate both of them?

1 Answer 1


In general, the discussion of research in a cover letter is much briefer than a research plan. The former is generally one or two paragraphs, while the research plan for PhD positions is typically one to two pages.

A good "research plan" (or in this case, more accurately a "statement of purpose") should explain why and how your past and present experiences prepare you to undertake the topic you'd like to study as a PhD student. Note that this is not meant to be a "life story"—we don't care what you did when you were five years old. Instead, tell us about relevant experience: research, professional experience, service work, and so on.

  • I would think that a 'statement of purpose' or a 'personal statement' is broader, unless it is specified what you should write in it. It might be that what you did when you were five is the thing that makes it unconventional and favorable.
    – adipro
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 21:28
  • I suggest the "statement of purpose" is equal to "Statement of research interest"?
    – maycca
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 18:18

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