I am in the process of trying to formulate my statement of purpose/intent for a PhD in criminal justice. I’m not sure how to go about this when I have two distinctly different areas that I’m very interested in. The first is wildlife crime (falls into conservational criminology, a very new field) and the other is biosocial criminology/mental illness. These are not related to each other in any way, but I’m fascinated by both.

There are a lot more schools that have faculty working on biosocial than wildlife crime. However, I have found one school that has one professor working in wildlife crime, and the rest working on mental-illness-related issues. I don’t know what to do. Should I write two different SOPs and submit them to the appropriate school? One for wildlife and one for biosocial?

When my past professors ask me for my research interests, I want to mention both of these, but I don’t want them to think I’m unfocused. I am going to a criminology conference in November, and I will be talking to the professors who are writing my letters of recommendation. Should I tell them everything I’m interested in or narrow down one specific thing?

  • Maybe you can find a common base for this. I am not into this field at all but I have heard of people suspecting a connection of mental illness/violent psycopathic behavior and early childhood animal cruelty (which could well be against protected wildlife).
    – skymningen
    Aug 22, 2017 at 9:09

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure how to go about this when I have two distinctly different areas that I'm very interested in

A PhD research project is judged on many attributes, one of which is if it has a single focused reasonable, scientifically interesting and unique research question or null hypothesis that can be studied/test.

You seem to have a problem identifying between two of your interests. This is quite common, scholars always have a number of interests and choosing one among them could be daunting and anxiety inducing, but the simple fact is that it is better to take control of the situation and decide between one of them, lest other external factors decide that for you with you having no say.

Also, please mind that it is not just your interest that decides your research project, but a myriad of factors such as your guide's and the research group/department's own long-running interests, laboratory facilities, your long term plan (how will your PhD help you in your career), etc. Please look at the topic again against other factors you might have ignored - you will find that your two topics are not equally attractive.

If you still can't, you could probably identify two guides and write two research proposals. The quality of each may suffer since you will divide your attention between them. But you might have postponed your decision crisis.

When my past professors ask me for my research interests I want to mention both of these

Guides usually will prefer their PhD candidates to be utterly loyal to their one research project - fidelity will ensure that the project has your undivided attention. Having two interests is not wrong in any way, but might be less appealing to a Guide. You may want to downplay the other interests.

  • When you say "guide" is that referring to the professor you are working with? I'm not familiar with that term.
    – GradGirl90
    Jun 23, 2017 at 2:56
  • Yep. Guide = Supervisor, the professor who oversees/mentors the research Jun 23, 2017 at 6:44

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