Writing a letter of motivation for your PhD studies can be quite a challenging process, but do not be discouraged. Knowing some main principles and tips can help you in this process.
The importance of a motivation letter stands in the fact that it enables the admissions committee to distinguish between excellent students and outstanding students. They will both succeed in becoming valuable research students, but admission committees will most times consider the latter category would bring a larger contribution to the research community of the university.
Proving you are outstanding does not necessarily rely on what you write, but more on how you write, specifically the tone you use and the level of enthusiasm you show in your writing.
Introduction of the motivation letter
Any letter of motivation should include a brief introduction specifying the programme you would like to apply for.
First, state a clear career objective of your future project and the reasons for choosing this particular PhD programme.
Provide the information about your previous academic and professional experience. You can also include teaching and research experience, work outside an academic sector and even volunteering, provided that all are relevant, in terms of the skills and knowledge you gained.
All your experiences should somehow connect to your chosen PhD programme, as you would have to specify how your academic and professional achievements make you a valuable candidate for the PhD degree you applied to.
Main text of the letter – What has motivated you to do a PhD?
Based on the background information you provide, you will be able to identify 3 or 4 key factors that motivate you to do a PhD.
Current research shows that PhD applicants may be motivated by many factors such as:
- willingness to improve career prospects
- passion for research work and teaching
- the aspiration to discover and learn new things
You need to clearly describe what motivates you and what you would like to achieve as a result of your studies.
If you published in academic journals, you should mention that and provide details or evidence about your published work.
State some of your native qualities and stress on how they could be considered beneficial for your research topic and for your field of study in general.
Closing of the motivation letter
In the closing of your motivation letter, add a few sentences on the impact your studies may have in your life, research area and society in general. This will help you to demonstrate the importance of your research in the context of a bigger picture. Mainly, show how the scientific community and university can benefit from having you as a student.
You should also state that you are aware that PhD programmes they offer attracts many prospective and competitive candidates.
Generally, a motivation letter should not be longer than one page. The key to success is a clear structure, passion for your research topic and ability to demonstrate the value and impact of your research.
Details and statements you should avoid in the motivation letter
Clearly, you should not include false facts, achievements and should not try to make any overstatement or use pompous metaphors. The staff from the admission committee will always figure out if a motivation letter is genuine or fake.
Avoid cliché sayings like: “my childhood dream’’, “I am highly motivated to study X”, “my greatest ambition is to pursue scientific research at the highest level”, “I have always been fascinated by scientific research”.
Try not to praise the university too much and don’t close your letter with the expression “It would be an honour to be admitted to this university.”
Key things to remember when you write the motivation letter
Important details you should stress on throughout your motivation letter are your intellectual interest for the PhD course and the field you plan to study and the research experience you had so far. Remember to keep a professional and serious tone, but at the same time, be positive and enthusiastic. Good luck!