Jul 20, 2018
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Hi everyone! Does anyone have any advice or can point me to any resources for writing statements of purpose for Clinical Psychology PhD programs? I think part of the trouble I'm having is because I'm trying too hard to be articulate right off the bat, when I really just need to be putting words down on the page for now and can fix them later. I'm also worried that when talking about my research experience I'm just regurgitating my CV into my statement, instead of discussing my experience in a way that goes beyond whatever anyone reading will have gotten out of my CV.

Any advice is appreciated! This is my first time applying to Clinical Psych PhD programs (or any grad school, for that matter) so I don't really have a solid frame of reference for this kind of writing. I've never been great at writing about myself but I've also been in my RA job for a bit over 2 years now so I feel especially out of practice writing anything that isn't admin/IRB/grant related. Thanks!
 

Temperance

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May 27, 2015
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Dr. Rodriguez-Seijas at the University of Michigan posted annotated sample statements of purpose that may help.

My advice would be to focus on research questions that you would like to answer during your Ph.D. and framing your research experiences as somehow contributory to either the development of those questions, to producing any research products you may have (e.g., presentations, publications), or to your interest in using certain research methods.
 
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YoungFrancis

2+ Year Member
Dec 25, 2017
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Make a list of your research interests. Then make a list of the potential research questions you want to answer for each of your interests. Type them into google scholar. See if your questions have been answered already. If they have, think about how you can expand (different population? better design?)

You might find that you have a lot of interesting questions for one interest. You might find yourself bored by one of your interests once you read more about it.

Once you have a solid set of interests and questions, then see how you can adapt your experiences to fit them. Even if your experiences are only tangential to your interests, just make some connection so your path makes sense to the reader. Then make sure you show how your interests fit the professor you apply to.

You also have to make the case for why this school. Many of these reasons will translate across schools and can be reused...research fit, training model. But try to mention something plausibly unique about the program. Skim the handbook if you're desperate.
 
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summerbabe

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Nov 22, 2016
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I think part of the trouble I'm having is because I'm trying too hard to be articulate right off the bat, when I really just need to be putting words down on the page for now and can fix them later.
Definitely, write as much as you can and then pare down, re-organize, etc.

I'm also worried that when talking about my research experience I'm just regurgitating my CV into my statement, instead of discussing my experience in a way that goes beyond whatever anyone reading will have gotten out of my CV.
Your instincts are right on. If somebody doesn't learn anything beyond you CV, then you've wasted a valuable opportunity to impress. When it comes to past accomplishments, my advice is to focus on process, rather than output.

Your PI will know from your CV which lab you worked in, the person running the lab, which published projects you've been a part of, etc. What they may not know is how you directly contributed to these projects, what you learned about the research process, how working on these projects informed your future interests, what parts of these project you found especially rewarding/interesting, etc.

Another way to think about this is, how would you translate some of what you'd say in an interview into a short written document that entices them to interview you to learn more?

Lastly, my personal opinion is that you're also a human being and your PI is also committing to spending a lot of time with you so if you're able to blend in appropriate context from your personal narrative, it can help a statement to stand out. You can easily go overboard with this so be thoughtful and get a lot of people to review this, including people outside of psychology/academia for their impressions on what your SOP conveys. Good luck!
 
Jul 20, 2018
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Thanks so much, everyone! All of this advice is really helpful and gave me some much needed clarity about how to move forward with my statements. I appreciate it!
 

CheetahGirl

Clinical Psychologist
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Feb 15, 2007
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Also, check out your undergrad or master's program (if you have a masters) Writing Center (usually in the Language/English Departments, of course). See if they have Zoom hours. During graduate school, my Writing Center gave me some great tips (for my dissertation writing) that I continue to use. It will help with brainstorming, and if you have an English Department graduate student helping you, all the better...they will be enthusiastic about the goal and end-product.

Don't forget to have fun! Believe it or not, this is a great beginning exercise in learning your own autonomous sense of self: who you are, what makes you tick, what motivates you, what's your worldview, how do you communicate/get along with others, WHY you want to use your communication with others to make tangible changes, and what informs your research interests, etc. (which is vital in the field of psychology, especially if you want to be a future practitioner).

Also, on SDN, I've seen few folks share their drafts to get feedback (and I've done it myself in the past & am eternally grateful for my fellow SDNer's feedback ;))...so this may be an option (and usually there may be a few takers with extra time & energy). BTW...always share privately because the field is too competitive to do otherwise.

Good luck! :luck:
 

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