How to Write Motivation Letter for PhD Program?

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What is a Motivational Letter?

A motivational letter is a one-page letter that’s used to describe why you are the perfect candidate for a certain position. It is usually attached to your resume. You are required to write a motivational letter in these 4 specific scenarios…

1. You are applying to get admitted to an educational program at a college or university (undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate).

2. You are applying to work at a non-profit organization.

3. You are applying as a volunteer in an organization.

4. You’re applying for an internship in a company.

The motivational letter shouldn’t be confused with a cover letter, the purpose of which is to highlight how specific information on your resume matches a job opening. Think of a cover letter as the introduction to your resume for a hiring manager and your motivational letter as the powerful closing sales pitch for a university or non-profit.

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So why exactly does the motivational letter matter? You’re a doer more than a talker: you’ve listed everything there is to know about you on your resume. That should be enough, right? Wrong!

All organizations are looking for people who genuinely want to be there and are excited about what they do. The intent should be your driving motivation! Writing a good motivational letter can be an absolute game-changer. It can provide a boost for your resume, but also make up for lacking required skills.

10 Tips to Write a Motivational Letter for PhD Program

1. Find out more: Before writing your letter, take the time to find out about the research lab and possibly the professors research interest for which you are applying. Don’t hesitate to insert some of this information in your letter.

2. Your letter of motivation must be personal: Adapt your letter of motivation to the research lab and PhD program for which you are applying. Your letter must reflect your personal style and your personality.

3. Adopt a direct and concise style: As it name indicates, the purpose of the letter of motivation is to… show your motivation to the professor/HR manager who will read it. Avoid convoluted sentences and go straight to the point. Explain simply and clearly what it is you are looking for and what you have to offer. Stick to what is important; the rest will be dealt with later. Make sure it is no longer than a page of A4.

4. Focus on your strong points: Your aim is to make the recruiter want to invite you for an interview, not put them off… Only mention your strong points in your letter of motivation, and preferably in the first few sentences. Your weak points will be scrutinised soon enough. As long as your letter of motivation and CV attract enough attention that is…

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5. Take your CV into account: Don’t fall into the trap of listing everything in your CV in your letter! Make yourself interesting and give an added value to your letter by speaking about yourself. Nevertheless, don’t mention any training or jobs that don’t feature on your CV. The letter of motivation and CV are two complementary documents that must coincide with each other.

6. Find the right balance: Of course you have to show yourself in the best light and convince the professor that it is you he/she should offer the PhD program. However, don’t be too arrogant. At the same time, don’t do the opposite and under-estimate yourself or appear too modest.

7. Clearly explain your motivation: This is the right PhD program for you? Clearly explain to the recruiter why they should choose you rather than someone else. Make use of all your powers of persuasion. Look at the qualities requested in the PhD program offer and explain they correspond to you.

8. Talk about your professional objectives: Don’t hesitate to place yourself in the future. Set out your career ambitions in a positive way. Also talk about what you have achieved and what you are proud of.

9. Support what you say: Saying that you are organised or have a sense of responsibility isn’t enough. Avoid set phrases and explain why you are organised. Give examples.

10. Address the right person: Do you know the name of the Professor? Use it in your letter by addressing them directly. If you don’t know it, you can always look the person up on the internet or call the university in question and ask for their name.

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Sample Motivation Letter for PhD Program

Dear Prof. XXXX,

I am writing this letter to express my interest to apply for the PhD position available in the group XXXX under the project “Molecular modeling study of the activation of transmembrane receptors involved in chemical senses” at the University of XXXX. In 2009, I graduated from the University of XXX in XXX with a five years degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Through my years of studying, I became fascinated by the research field in Computational Chemistry and by the way how these techniques are applied to the design of new molecules with possible biological activity. For this reason during my last 3 years of bachelor degree I joined a research group and participated in different research projects under this research line. Between the projects I worked in this group, the most significant for me was my bachelor thesis titled “Theoretical Study of morphine derivatives using molecular modeling” with which I got an excellent mark of 4,8/5,0 and therefore a Meritorious qualification. The Molecular modeling study of the activation of transmembrane receptors involved in chemical senses caught my attention immediately because it gives me the chance to apply computational techniques to biological systems that is what I like and enjoy the most.

Besides, studying physiological phenomena related with the intersensoriality between taste and smell is a really fascinating topic that can have excellent applications in the field of new molecules design. I would like to be selected for this PhD position because I think this project gives me the opportunity to develop and improve in a research field that is part of my professional goals.

I think this PhD position offers to me the possibility of receiving a complete training in computational chemistry applied to biological systems as well as the opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary environment, of a highly qualified academic level. I am aware of the dedication and perseverance that is needed to achieve the best results in this field and I believe that my experience will allow me to get it. I think that it is a great opportunity for me to demonstrate my abilities and acquire new skills, so I hope to be selected for this PhD position. I remain at your disposal for any further information, thanking you in advance for your attention.



Sample Motivation Letter for PhD Program

Dear Prof. xxx

I am writing to apply for the PhD program in the psychology department at Wien University. I am particularly interested in the doctoral program in the psychology department as research portfolio of this department matches perfectly my academic background.

While studying psychology on the undergraduate level I developed a particular interest in the neural structures which reinforce memory. As a matter of fact my Bachelor thesis was on the topic of semantic versus episodic memory activations in the prefrontal cortex, because I had such a strong interest for this area. After graduation I got myself enrolled to Master program in psychology where I have enhanced my enthusiasm and started to apply innovative experimental approaches to the study of memory. Therefore I now wish to continue my academic career with a PhD in psychology, and I cannot imagine a better place to study this than the psychology department at the Wien University. With the department’s expertise in both memory processing and in research methodologies like fMRI, it would be the ideal location for my project on neural correlates of episodic memory.

As I saw on the website of the department there are several world class experts working, so I would highly appreciate the opportunity to work with the world-leading expert in the use of fMRI techniques in the investigation of episodic memory. I strongly believe that this research has the potential to contribute to the scientific understanding of memory processes, but even more, it may impact wider society and healthcare sector as well.

With an ageing world population and increasing number of persons suffering from memory problems such as dementia, understanding the neural basis for memory processing will allow the development of better pharmaceutical and therapeutic methods for the management of these disorders. In the enclosure of this letter I am sending you research proposal. Having in mind my strong motivation and academic background I am confident that I can complete the research project. As you may note in my resume I already have experience in fMRI and I have used experimental techniques for the assessment of memory, and in running a research project. As especially relevant I would like to point out that I have experience in conducting academic research, which I gained during preparation of my master thesis. I have designed the experimental methodology, recruited participants, assisted with the data analysis, and contributed theoretical knowledge to the write-up.

I believe that these skills and experience will allow me to complete this PhD project effectively. After graduating from this PhD program, I plan to pursue a post-doctoral placement in the area of academic psychology, most likely in the expertise of episodic memory processing. Driven by a lifelong interest in human psychology,

I am keen to continue my education in this subject and to perform my own research which can contribute to the knowledge of the field. I would like to thank you for consideration of my application. I am looking forward to receive your call for an interview in order to take part in the next stages of selection process.



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