Statement of purpose for graduate school

When you apply for graduate programs or scholarships, the admissions committee is looking for more than just a list of grades. The statement of purpose (also known as a statement of intent or motivation letter) is your chance to stand out from the crowd and showcase your motivation, skills and potential. It should:

  • Outline your academic or professional interests and goals
  • Discuss relevant skills, experience and achievements
  • Demonstrate why you’d be a good fit for the program

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Personal statement for graduate school

In graduate school applications, the personal statement is your opportunity to show who you are and what drives you. Whether you’re applying for a PhD, a professional course or a scholarship program, your personal statement should:

  • Highlight your talents, interests and priorities
  • Demonstrate your enthusiasm for the program
  • Craft a narrative that shows your personality

Your resume and transcripts give a bullet-point summary of your experience. In the personal statement, you shouldn’t just repeat this information, but elaborate and enhance it. Aim to tell a compelling story that emphasizes your motivations and shows why you’re a good fit for the program.

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How to write an essay introduction

A good introduction paragraph is both engaging and informative. The main goals of your introduction are to:

  • Catch your reader’s attention and interest.
  • Give context and background on your topic.
  • Set up the focus and purpose of your essay.

This introduction example is taken from our interactive essay example on the history of Braille.

The invention of Braille marked a major turning point in the history of disability.The writing system of raised dots, widely used by blind and visually impaired people, was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. Although it initially met with resistance from sighted people, Braille eventually became central to blind people's education and autonomy, giving them unprecedented access to cultural activities and social participation.The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new; Braille adapted and simplified existing methods to create the first writing system specifically for blind people. But its success depended on acceptance among sighted people before the social status of blindness could truly be transformed, and this process was shaped by broader debates about disabled people’s place in society.

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How long is an essay?

The length of an academic essay varies depending on your level and subject of study, departmental guidelines, and specific course requirements. In general, an essay is a shorter piece of writing than a research paper or thesis.

In most cases, your assignment will include clear guidelines on the number of words or pages you are expected to write. Often this will be a range rather than an exact number (for example, 2500–3000 words, or 10–12 pages). If you’re not sure, always check with your instructor.

In this article you’ll find some general guidelines for the length of different types of essay. But keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity – focus on making a strong argument or analysis, not on hitting a specific word count.

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How to write a paragraph

Every piece of academic writing is structured by paragraphs and headings. The number, length and order of your paragraphs will depend on what you’re writing – but each paragraph must be:

  • Unified: all the sentences relate to one central point or idea.
  • Coherent: the sentences are logically organized and clearly connected.
  • Relevant: the paragraph supports the overall theme and purpose of the paper.

To walk you through the process of writing strong paragraphs, we’ll use an example from our interactive essay about the history of the Braille reading system. With each step, we will gradually build up the structure of a paragraph.

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How to conclude an essay

No matter what kind of essay you’re writing, the conclusion is one of the most important paragraphs. A strong conclusion doesn’t just summarize what you’ve already written. It aims to:

  • Make connections that tie together the essay’s main points.
  • Show why your argument or analysis matters.
  • Leave the reader with a sense of the essay’s broader implications.

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Topic sentences

Topic sentences indicate what each paragraph in your paper is about. Think of the topic sentence as a headline for the paragraph. Topic sentences help you to:

  • Identify the focus of the paragraph.
  • Show how the paragraph supports the overall thesis statement.
  • Make transitions between paragraphs (for example, by expanding on a point or making a comparison).

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Thesis statement

A thesis statement sums up the main point of your paper. It is just one or two sentences long, and usually appears at the end of your introduction. Most kinds of academic essays and research papers require a thesis statement, which can also be thought of as the answer to your research question.

Thesis statement example

To meet the Paris targets and mitigate the effects of climate change, the US Government should immediately begin phasing out fossil fuels and investing in renewable energies; as the world’s most powerful economy, it can take a global lead in reducing carbon emissions.

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Common knowledge: to cite or not to cite?

In academic writing, the concept of “common knowledge” refers to information that an average educated reader would accept without needing the validation of a source reference.

There are two main categories that can be considered common knowledge:

  • Information that most people know.
  • Information shared by a specific group of people, such as a national or cultural group, or members of a certain professional field.

In academic writing it is important to cite your sources, but statements that are considered common knowledge do not need a citation.

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