• Graduate School

How to Write a PhD Motivation Letter with Samples and Expert Tips

PhD Motivation Letter Sample

Reading over some PhD motivation letter samples will give you an idea of how to make yours a strong, central component of your application to get into grad school . In addition to your grad school CV , a PhD motivation letter is a chance for you to demonstrate objectively why you are an excellent candidate for the faculty to which you are applying. Unlike a personal statement, a PhD motivation letter is distinct in its unique focus on your academic and research background with little mention of your personal story. This article will take you through the significance of the PhD motivation letter, describe what makes a stellar motivation letter, and provide examples. 

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Article Contents 11 min read

Do you need to write a phd motivation letter .

Yes, you must write a PhD motivation letter. It is mandatory for most, if not all, PhD programs, regardless of your field of study. Disciplines ranging from arts and humanities to physics and computer science all consider motivation letters (aka “statement of purpose” in some countries) a major component of your application.

Of course, you will also have to fulfill the other documentation requirements, like submitting your transcripts, CV, personal statement, and letters of recommendation, but a motivation letter has a specific intent: to summarize your academic achievements up to the present and what you plan to achieve in the future at this particular school.

The faculty who ultimately consider your application look for how you and your PhD topic match with the mission and values of their program. Personal details and other motivations are best left to your personal statement or letter of intent because the motivation letter is strictly an academic summary.

A great PhD motivation letter should highlight how and why you are prepared for the rigors of PhD-level work. It should include the details of your academic career that have propelled you further into your field of study, like an inspiring professor or undergraduate course that sparked interest in your field.

The following list will provide more insights, but you should remember that whatever you write must be backed up by a concrete, real-world demonstration. It is not enough to say, “I am interested in XYZ because of XYZ.” You must include specific events in your undergraduate and graduate studies where you excelled.

If you are applying for a PhD, that in itself suggests you have a bevy of academic and extracurricular experience to glean from, be it co-authoring a published paper, your time as a TA, or some type of academic recognition. Many stand-out motivation letters single out specific instances when you showed an outsized passion for your studies.

Dos and Don’ts in a PhD Motivation Letter

1. Gain Skills and Experiences

The track to obtaining a PhD degree is a long one, which is why anyone who wants to become a PhD should commit early on to what it entails. All PhD candidates must have both an undergraduate and a master's degree to even apply, so that means structuring your studies around those requirements.

You should gain as much experience in your field, learn new skills related to your studies (a new language, for example, or technical skills), and participate in as many extracurricular activities as possible. Gathering the necessary skills and experiences to enter a PhD program should be the first step, since they are a reflection of your commitment.

2. Start Writing Early

You should begin drafting your PhD motivation letter at least a few months before the deadline. Because it is one of the most important parts of your application, you want to give yourself time to refine it. Refining means going through multiple drafts, soliciting and receiving feedback from other candidates, getting professional grad school application help, and making changes as you go along.

3. Consider Your Audience

The people who will read your motivation letter are renowned academics who have devoted their lives to one particular subject. Your letter needs to reflect your respect not only for them, but for the field of study that you both share. You should write with genuine verve when talking about your topic. Remind them of why they committed so full-heartedly to their career by demonstrating how enthralled you are with your studies.

4. Use Active Voice

You should put “you” in your story. Avoid using the passive voice and hiding behind your achievements as if they spoke for themselves. The admissions committee members want to read about how you approached your studies and learn about your insights into the future of your field of interest. They do not want a cold recitation of your CV but a spirited defense or explanation of what you value most about your topic.

1. Don’t Forget About the Formatting

PhD admission requirements differ between the many programs out there, so be cognizant of how they ask you to format your paper. If the requirements state a two-page limit, then write two pages. The same goes for other criteria like font size, paragraph spacing, and word length. A rambling, incoherent letter is the last thing you want to submit, so make sure to keep it within the guidelines.

2. Don’t Include Personal Stories

A personal statement is the place for formative stories from the past, not your motivation letter. You can include personal thoughts and opinions about your field of study, even unfavorable ones, to show you have a unique perspective, but steer clear of using personal elements like early childhood experiences or anything unrelated to your program.

3. Don’t Ramble

Keep in mind that your writing and organizational skills are also on display when you submit your motivation letter, along with everything else about you (grades, college letter of intent , transcripts). Again, remember who you are writing for: professors with years of experience researching and writing. They, more than anyone, know what good writing looks like, so be concise and clear in your writing.

4. Don’t Shy Away from Failures

The collected experience of those reading your essay guarantees that they know a thing or two about failure. Whether it was an unpublished paper, or a failed experiment, showing your determination in the face of adversity paints a complete picture of who you are as a researcher and academic.

But, again, setbacks in your personal life should not be mentioned. Limit your story to problems you encountered during your undergrad, graduate, or research fellowships and how you sought to overcome them. Mention a class or subject you struggled with or a drop in your grades and how you improved them.

Structure of Your PhD Motivation Letter

The structure of a great motivation letter is easy to follow because its focus is so narrow. The body of your letter should only mention highlights from your academic career, in a very specific chronology starting with your undergrad and progressing from there. But the structure should also cover three main points:

You can adjust the structure based on the requirements of the PhD program you are applying to, but it should cover the reasons you want to commit yourself to this program, what you plan on achieving, and how you have prepared yourself to accomplish those goals. If you already went to grad school, then you can rework your college statement of purpose to use as a template.

PhD Motivation Letter Sample #1

Dear Members of the PhD Selection Committee,

My name is David White, and I am writing to you to express my interest in pursuing a PhD in the Migration Studies program at X University. I recently completed a Master of Ethnography at Y University with an emphasis on the cultural exchange between migrant communities and their adopted homelands viewed through the lens of shared trauma and memory.

In the media, migration is often described as a “crisis,” a designation that has always made me bristle. I assert that migration is one of the most fundamental aspects of our species, yet it has been flagrantly mislabeled to serve the political and socioeconomic interests of a few.

My research is centered around the ways that migrants form new identities based on their experiences. Conversely, I have also explored how an innate identity based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation impacts a migrant’s journey and how those markers expose them to further exploitation or, at the other end, fortify their resolve and inspire perseverance in the face of tremendous odds.

The need for further investigation into identity and the interplay of migration and culture came into focus for me during my second-year undergrad Political Science degree at XYZ University. I was influenced by the work of writers like Franz Fanon and Edward Said, who questioned the foundations of a post-colonial identity and whether it was ever possible for colonized people to form an identity separate from their colonizers. I took an anthropology course, The Nature of Humans, that impacted me greatly. It prompted a Cartesian examination of my own beliefs around identity, as it firmly associated the emergence of human societies with factors such as migration, evolution, adaptability, and diversity.

During my time as a graduate student, I secured a place on a research project headed by Prof. Mohamed Al-Nasseri, a diaspora studies expert. Professor Al-Nasseri's thesis was that policymakers were ignoring the psychological profiles of migrants when assessing their material needs and financial assistance levels.

Our four-person investigative team liaised with a local, non-profit resettlement agency who connected us with volunteer migrant families based in University Town. Under the supervision of Professor Al-Nasseri, we formulated a questionnaire based on the diagnostic criteria of the DSM-V for traumatic events, while taking into account the newly revised definitions.

Mindful of the possible triggering effect our questions could have, we invited a peer, fellow survivor/migrant, and, in some cases, a religious leader before we conducted the interviews or to sit-in on our interviews.

During the interviews, I felt both inspired and indignant. I maintained my composure and objectivity, but the fire within raged. Unfortunately, our findings were inconclusive and what we discovered in our interviews did not wholly support Dr. Al-Nasseri’s thesis. But the experience and motivation I took from the project were enough to fuel my desire to explore the topic of identity formation in migrant communities who have undergone severe trauma.

The Migration Studies program at your institution will provide what I consider the perfect research and support network to further my investigation of these topics. I have followed the work of the esteemed Dr. Ellerman whose research into the treatment of post-traumatic stress has informed the direction of my own research. Dr. Ellerman has opened new pathways for thinking about trauma that I wish to incorporate into my thesis project when the time comes.

Until then, I am grateful for the opportunity to apply to this institution and am ready to discuss my future with you should my candidacy prove successful.

David White

My name is Melanie Hicks, and I am writing this letter to fulfill the admission requirements of the Visual Arts PhD Program at Z University. I have already submitted my audiovisual portfolio, CV, and transcripts, along with three letters of recommendation from, respectively, my master’s degree supervisor, Dr. Dana Redmond, my thesis supervisor, Dr. Allan Lee, and my research colleague, Mark Fowler.

I would like to take this opportunity to expand further on the conceptual themes I have focused on in my artistic output over the past decade, contextualize the pieces I have submitted, and elaborate on the goals I have should my application to this program be successful.

My artistic career, from very early on, has been defined by modes of observation, the interplay of observation and reflection between subjects and objects within a sociopolitical realm, and the harnessing of Blackness as a form of radical self-interpretation – all of it couched within the media of still and moving images.

During my undergrad as a Fine Arts student at X University, I was lucky enough to be showcased at the Kepler Gallery for my series, Painted Faces, a collection of photographs I took while working as a freelance photographer for an independent newspaper in Chicago. My focus in that series was the effort and preparation female congregants of an all-Black church put into readying themselves for Sunday services.

After my undergrad, I traveled to Boston to volunteer in local after-school programs with children from minority backgrounds who had an interest in photography. All of them had grown up with easy access to a phone capable of taking crisp, digital images and had never taken film photographs, so it fell to me to show them how to develop prints in a darkroom.

As part of my portfolio, I have submitted photos I took during that time, along with selections from my Painted Faces series. I never constructed a specific narrative with the photos I took during my volunteer work, but they were informed by the social realist photographers and photojournalists who captured the Civil Rights Movement by participating in protests and documenting the unrest.

Gordon Parks is a major influence and part of the reason I am pursuing my PhD studies at this institution. Prof. Alys is a foremost expert on Parks’ work and curated the Parks Retrospective at the Local Museum. Parks himself said that the subject was always more important than the photographer, and I agreed with that statement for a long time, until I began reading Arthur Danto and his artist-centered philosophy of art. While many disagree with Danto’s definition of art as an elitist utopia, I would argue that he opens the gates to everyone, and that anyone can gain entry to the “artworld.”

There is no better exemplar, I think, of the democratization of the “artworld” first posited by Danto than Basquiat, who was not only “allowed” access to the “artworld” but redefined it, in his indomitable way. Basquiat’s quality of outsider-turned-insider and Danto’s liberating of the parameters of what defined art are central themes of my project to understand whether “outsider” artists still exist, given how new technologies and platforms have pushed Danto’s definitions beyond their logical boundaries, if not obliterated them completely.

I hope this program can help me refine my project while matching my urgency to further expand the definition of art and artists to be more inclusive of not only racial minorities, but non-binary and trans people, who are at the forefront of questioning the validity of assigned identities through the curation of their very genders or lack thereof.

I am grateful to this esteemed panel for considering my application, and I would like to close by expressing my profound admiration for the achievements in art, art theory, and the philosophy of art each of you has contributed to a long, continuing train of thought.

I would be honored to accept a place beside you as a PhD candidate.

Melanie Hicks

Motivation letters are used in areas other than academia, but a PhD motivation letter is different for several reasons. Regardless of your particular field of research, the letter should include important points about your academic achievements, research interests, and why you want to continue your research at the faculty to which you are applying.

Even though PhD motivation letters tend to be short – between 500 and 700 words – their length is often the most vexing thing about them. Because students have a hard time condensing their years of study and research into a few words, we hope this article will help you focus your writing and give you insight into what to include.

No, they are not the same. A motivation letter has many different applications but is primarily a summary of your academic and professional achievements. A personal statement is an essay explaining your personal reasons for wanting to enter a specific profession or academic institution.

You should focus only on concrete, real-world examples of how you performed, learned, or grew as the result of an event in your trajectory toward a PhD and how you plan on contributing something new to your field of study. You should also make sure to have enough material, in the form of experience or academic goals, to write a compelling letter.

PhD motivation letters are important because they let prospective PhD candidates distill their background and experience succinctly, so that selection committees can more easily judge their character, commitment, and potential. 

Some people do find it challenging to write a letter about themselves without rambling or sounding incoherent. But if you prepare ahead of time, think honestly about your answer, and write several drafts, you should be able to write an above-average letter. If you are still struggling you can also get application help from professionals. 

Programs tend to ask for either a one or two-page letter, between 700 and 900 words. 

You can talk about anything that has do to with your past work to get to the PhD level, including aspects of your academic career, internships, independent or supervised research, fieldwork in a specific context, and any work experience you have related to your field of study. 

You should not mention any personal motivations for wanting to pursue a PhD. You can write about your intrinsic motivations to become a doctor of philosophy in your personal statement, if you are asked to submit one with your application. 

PhD programs around the world have various entry requirements that differ among schools. Some institutions ask for a motivation letter, while others ask for a personal statement or letter of recommendation and letter of intent, which has elements of a motivation letter but is not the same. 

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How to Write a Successful PhD Motivation Letter

Yelena Skosyrskih

Table of Contents Hide

What are phd motivation letters, understanding the key components of a phd motivation letter, initiating your phd motivation letter, do your research, aim for clarity and conciseness, connect your background and experience, show your research potential, demonstrate your connection to the program, be authentic, effective conclusion for your phd motivation letter, ideal length of a phd motivation letter, formatting the phd motivation letter, common mistakes to avoid in phd motivation letter writing, writing a successful phd motivation letter.

When you are applying to a PhD program, one of the requirements is likely to be a motivation letter. This letter is similar to a personal statement in which you will describe reasons why you want to pursue the degree and explain why you should be accepted into the program.

A well-written motivation letter for a PhD can easily become a deciding admissions factor. If you are competing against hundreds of applicants, your letter should help you stand out from the crowd.

No matter what your specialization is or the type of program you’ve chosen, you need to learn how to write a motivation letter for a PhD. Otherwise, your application may not look as persuasive as it could.

Let’s dive deeper into writing a successful motivation letter for your PhD studies.

PhD motivation letters are also known as statements of purpose or personal statements. While not all PhD programs require applicants to submit these letters, writing one can improve your chances of getting accepted.

A motivation letter gives you a priceless opportunity to speak directly to the admissions committee and explain why you are the top candidate. In this letter, you won’t just express your motivation, list research interests, and show yourself in the best possible light. You will demonstrate your commitment to studies and your mastery of words.

While the admissions committee already knows all about your credentials, they want to get to know you as a person. In this letter, you will be showing your passion for getting a PhD in a specific niche.

Interestingly enough, the Ph.D. motivation letter isn’t just a way to conquer the committee members’ hearts. It’s an opportunity to look deeper into what you really want. By writing and reading this statement, you can gain unexpected insight into what’s best for your professional future.

The structure and content of a motivation letter aren’t always the same. Each university may have a list of requirements. So, you won’t be able to write one letter and use it for each program you apply to. However, you can create a framework that makes writing several letters easier.

Here is what a general PhD motivation letter should include:

  • Introduction – a short introductory paragraph or two that catches the reader’s attention and explains what the letter will be about.
  • Research interests – a list and a brief explanation of your research interests, specific research questions, and topics you plan to explore during your PhD  studies.
  • Academic background – you can add a short summary of your academic background (degrees, coursework, research experience, publications)
  • Motivation – this is the most important part of the letter. You need to be clear about your motivation for pursuing a PhD in general and the reasons why this program is the perfect fit for your needs. This section must reflect your passion and enthusiasm.
  • Goals – briefly explain what your long-term career goals are and mention how obtaining a PhD  within this program can help you achieve them. Your ambition and commitment must shine through the words.

While the university may provide some requirements that can help you structure your motivation letter, the majority of it is your own creativity. Keep in mind that you aren’t just sharing cold facts but showcasing your personality.

In most cases, the introduction is the most important part of your PhD  motivation letter. While the committee is likely to read the entire letter anyway, if you don’t catch their attention immediately, they might simply skim through it.

Always begin with a compelling opening sentence. Consider using a thought-provoking statement or a curious question related to your potential field of study. For example, “My unwavering fascination with the intricate workings of the human brain is the power behind my passion for forensic psychology.”

Next state your purpose for writing the letter and your intention to apply for the specific program. Make sure to immediately highlight your enthusiasm, motivation, and genuine interest in pursuing the subject matter.

For example, “The opportunity to go further into the subject of forensic psychology and contribute to the advancements in the criminal landscape fills me with immense excitement and determination.”

How to Structure the Motivation Letter for PhD

Once you finish the introduction, you can go on to the body of the letter, which should include research interests, academic background, motivation, and goals. Here are a few important tips that can help you make the most out of this structure.

Understanding how to write a motivation letter for Ph.D. studies begins with in-depth research about the program. While you’ve probably done a lot of browsing online already, you’ve been mainly focusing on the way the program meets your needs.

Now, you need to do similar research from a different perspective. Ask yourself, “How do I meet the needs of the program?” The answer can help you make the right statements within your letter.

The admissions committee has to go through hundreds of documents and letters. A long letter with complex and confusing sentences is likely to cause frustration. This is exactly what you need to avoid.

Don’t include any unnecessary details or lengthy explanations. Just share the facts wrapped in positive emotions. If you manage to demonstrate your passion without boring the reader, you can stand out from the crowd.

Make sure to highlight all relevant academic, and especially, research experience. List and discuss projects or publications that demonstrate your knowledge. Talk about how the experience, whether professional or educational, has shaped your research interests. This is a great place to explain where your motivation comes from.

You need to demonstrate to the admissions committee your immense potential to excel in research. Here, you have to show that you possess the necessary critical thinking abilities and problem-solving solving skills. List research methodologies you have experience with.

Explain why this Ph.D. program is a good fit for your research goals. Discuss faculty members whose work aligns with your research (here is where your research will prove highly useful). Make sure to single out at least one unique opportunity that attracts you to the program. Show that you’ve done your homework and know exactly what you are applying for.

While it may be tempting to ask for assistance or use ChatGPT, outsourcing your motivation letter isn’t a good idea. An important part of the letter is demonstrating your own voice. You are the only one who can do it genuinely. Try to avoid any generic statements. Inject each sentence with passion and desire to achieve your educational goals.

The conclusion is the final impression you make on the reader. This is something they are likely to remember you by. Make sure to summarize the points you’ve made in the letter succinctly. This will serve as a reminder.

Next, talk about your goals for the future. Don’t try to share all of your educational and professional plans here. One strong goal is sufficient and easy to fit into a short conclusion.

Finally, express your gratitude to the program for the opportunity to apply and eagerness to hear from the committee soon.

Close the letter with “sincerely” or “best regards” and your full name. Don’t forget to provide your contact details.

The school of your choice is likely to define the length of your motivation letter for PhD. Usually, it’s between 500 and 1,000 words. However, even if the program doesn’t try to limit your writing, it doesn’t mean you have to go “all out.” The ideal letter should fit into one page. The font size shouldn’t be larger than 12 pt.

The font itself must be easy to read. Opt for Times New Roman or Arial. Avoid fancy fonts that can frustrate the reader.

Your motivation letter should contain several short paragraphs. Don’t make them longer than five lines. Otherwise, you could lose the reader’s attention.

Start your letter with “With whom it may concern.” Even if you know the names of the people on the admissions committee, you can never be sure which one of them will be reading the letter.

These common mistakes can hinder the quality of your letter:

  • Grammatical and spelling errors
  • Using generic or cliché statements
  • Lack of clarity
  • Overly lengthy explanations
  • Failing to tailor the letter to the program’s requirements
  • Lack of focus on the research interests and goals
  • Failing to demonstrate genuine passion and enthusiasm
  • Lack of understanding of the program
  • Irrelevant or unnecessary information
  • Poor organization of the letter

Many of these mistakes can easily be avoided by proofreading. Besides reading the letter several times yourself, ask someone else to do it. A fresh perspective or two can help you create a truly effective piece.

A PhD motivation letter is a wonderful opportunity to stand out from the crowd and get into the PhD program of your choice, even if you don’t meet the admissions requirements perfectly. It’s a chance to express your passion for studies and demonstrate your fit for the program.

Following a few simple formatting rules and keeping the letter authentic can help you achieve the desired admissions goals. Good luck!

Yelena Skosyrskih

PHD in Economics, Associate Professor, Department of Business Process Management, Faculty of Market Technologies IOM

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Motivation Letter

How to Write a Powerful Motivation Letter for PhD Program

An effective motivation letter assists the admissions board in distinguishing exceptional students from the rest of the pack. A motivation letter for a Ph.D. program helps the admissions board get a better sense of you than they will from your application. Hence, the design of the letter, its tone, and the level of interest suggested in the letter serve a crucial role.  Your goal is to stand out from other applicants.

When applying for a Postdoc or a Ph.D. program, you need to write a research proposal and a motivation letter. A motivation letter is a must for Ph.D. candidates. The letter elaborates on why you are the perfect candidate. We are going to give you some tips and structures to use as you write the motivation letter for your Ph.D. application.

At the end of the post, we will provide you with a sample to help guide you for your own motivation letter.

How to Write a Brilliant Motivation Letter for a Ph.D. Application

A motivation letter is very similar to a personal statement and a cover letter . All three documents explain and highlight your suitability for Ph.D. study when you are applying for a Ph.D. program. Typically, a cover letter would be for a job.  A motivation letter serves to show why you want to be part of the Ph.D. program and why you are a good candidate for it.

A motivation letter serves a fundamental role in the application process. It enables the admission board to evaluate several Ph.D. applicants with identical academic credentials and choose the perfect candidate and understand their inspiration for applying.

For the admission committee, academic credentials alone aren’t sufficient to showcase whether a learner will succeed in their doctorate program. A motivational letter enables them to understand an applicant’s enthusiasm, commitment, and appropriateness to the program, which better allows them to assess your capabilities.

How Should I Structure My Motivation Letter for a PhD

An outstanding motivation letter for Ph.D. admission will entail:

  • A concise introduction disclosing which Ph.D. program you seek
  • Your professional experience and educational background
  • Major skills, experiences, and interests that you have and what makes you an outstanding candidate
  • What drove you to apply
  • Final remarks and thanks.

This is the most straightforward itemization of a complex document.

The above framework will ensure that you keep your motivation letter for the Ph.D. brief and pertinent to the position you are seeking. Bear in mind that the letter’s purpose showcases your zeal and commitment and that you are well-suited for the program.

To simplify writing down a motivation letter for a Ph.D. application, we have defined what your introduction, main body, and closing segments should entail.

Starting Your Motivation Letter

Introduction: Open with a concise introduction where you openly declare your intention of applying for a given program. Picture it as explaining to a stranger what the document is all about.

Education: Describe what you studied and give the institution’s name, your program of study, and the research that you have done.

You want to provide the admissions team with an understanding of your course of study to date.  Ideally, you can include any research, including publications that you have been a part of.  This will show that you have the experience, interest, and tenacity needed for a Ph.D. program and the research that goes with it.

Work Experience: Condense your professional experience. Bear in mind that you will probably be requested to present your motivational letter alongside your academic résumé. Hence, you are advised to keep the section brief to eradicate potential redundancy. Make sure you include any other important experiences, such as charity work, teaching roles, or non-academic ones that showcase your skills and eligibility to become a Ph.D. scholar.

Key Skills: Highlight your major skills. Keep in mind that the admissions board considers your eligibility for the given program you are seeking; thus, state skills important to the Ph.D. program.

Motivation for Applying: Display your zeal for the program, the research involved, and why you want it.  Elaborate on your long-term ambitions. Begin by stating how that particular course caught your eyes and how your hunger to learn more about the topic has increased. Don’t forget to state all the other things you have done that showcase your curiosity in your suggested study topic, for instance:

  • Are you an experienced researcher?
  • Have you taken part in any seminars or workshops?
  • Are you conversant with the research field?
  • Are there any aspects of the topic which you have taught yourself?
  • Why this research?

Lastly, paint a picture for the admission board to help them understand what convinced you to commit the next half a decade to the program.

How to Conclude a Motivation Letter

Many people struggle with how to end a motivation letter . Normally, people can account for their academic credentials and why they desire to become part of the program.

A good way to conclude is with a summary of why you are a great candidate and an offer to discuss your candidacy.  It’s a good idea to provide your contact details so that a reader has them available.

Remember, getting admitted into a Ph.D. program is extremely competitive, and professors put a lot of work into mentoring their learners. Professors are naturally inclined to favor those who demonstrate the highest level of dedication. The conclusion must remind the admissions board that you are not only committed to the course, but the institution will greatly benefit from having you on board.

And lastly, thank the board for taking into account your application.

Motivation Letter for Ph.D. Admission Format

It is important to follow some basic guidelines when writing a motivation letter. The format mimics the report writing formats, which the professors are conversant with:

  • Use a sans serif font, for example, Arial or Times New Roman.  It should look professional.  Nothing fancy. 
  • Utilize a black standard font size. A 12-point font should work.  This makes it easy to read without being too large.
  • Adhere to professionalism all the way through and avoid the use of informal language or colloquialisms.
  • Write in the first person.
  • Address the motivation letter for Ph.D. to a named individual.  If in doubt, you can use the person in charge of admissions.

The Length of a Motivation Letter for Ph.D. Admission

For Ph.D. motivation letters, the standard recommendation is to keep them to one page. These are busy people and they won’t spend a lot of time reading information. You want to make it as easy on them as possible. Keep your letter to one page, usually 3-5 paragraphs.

Tips for Writing a Motivation Letter for Ph.D. Admission

opened book on textile

Below, we’ve stated the greatest tips for effectively writing a Ph.D. Motivation Letter. You want to keep these in mind as you write, review and edit your motivation letter:

Compose the Motivational Letter using a Professional Tone

It is crucial to add information in a motivation letter for a Ph.D. application professionally. It is in your best interest to write a letter with the right font, style, and grammar. Plus, doing this raises your odds of getting accepted into the program. Professionalism serves a crucial role in directing a great insight into your personality and lets you get acceptance.

Be Specific, Truthful, and Show Results

Where you can, the most powerful message is to show specific accomplishments, responsibilities and results.  This is true for research, academic achievements, or work or volunteer achievements.  Showing results demonstrates that you understand the impact of your effort and that the program can expect results from your work. 

This can be a powerful message.

Make sure that you can back up any accomplishments or experiences that you highlight.  It’s great to show accomplishments but the last thing you want to do is to create doubt about your honesty or your application. 

If you lack prior experience in carrying out Ph.D. tasks, this is alright – you are not expected to understand everything before you kick start the program. Nonetheless, you have to prove in your motivation letter for a Ph.D. that you can carry out this work. To achieve this, we advise that you concentrate on the expertise you possess – for example, writing, presentation, data analysis, etc. Attempt to illustrate how you have deployed these abilities in the past to indicate that you are well-prepared for the Ph.D. program.

Show Personality

The motivation letter must remain professional. Hence, steer clear of jokes and sarcasm. At the same time, it can be much more interesting to read, and much more powerful to show who you are in your writing.

Discuss your Future Plans and Your Interest s

Showing your passion and interest in the field of study can really make a difference in your admission.  Professors want someone who is interested in the work and the research.  You want to show how your background, goals, and passions fit into the work that you will be doing.

A great way to do this is to show why you are passionate about the research. Perhaps it means something to you personally or it’s a way that you can make a difference. Maybe you are just fascinated by the topic. Passion goes a long way if it’s genuine.

Check Your Spelling and Grammar

You are applying for an academic position.  You want a letter that doesn’t have any grammatical or spelling mistakes.  Even minor mistakes can make an admissions officer question your candidacy. Of course, use a spell checker. For something this important, a more robust spelling and grammar checker like Grammarly can be invaluable.

Additional Resources

We offer an editable version of the sample motivation letter for PhD program. You can download that here . It works with both Word and Google Docs and can help get you started on your own letter. 

If you need help writing your motivation letter, there is experienced help out there to help you.  Fiverr is a great resource for finding someone to help you write your motivation letter for your Ph.D. program.  There are a number of great freelancers there with experience writing motivational letters.  There are also freelancers on Fiverr who can help you with your research proposal. We’ve written a guide to help you get started using Fiverr.

If you decide that’s a good route for you, we’ve put together a guide to help you find the right freelancer for your needs.  They will help you get the motivation letter you need for that Ph.D. program.

Another great resource is Grammarly .  Grammarly is a spell-checking and grammar-checking tool that goes beyond anything you will find in Microsoft Word or Google Docs.  It will help you find misused words and common grammar mistakes.  That’s the free version!

The paid version of Grammarly is much richer and an amazing resource if you aren’t a natural writer or applying in a language that isn’t your primary language.  Grammarly will help you strike the right tone for your letter.  It points out grammar and stylistic problems and will often suggest improvements for your writing.  It’s a great resource for you when writing something as important as a motivation letter or application. 

A Sample Motivation Letter for a Ph.D. Program Application

Below is a sample motivation letter you can use to get started. Remember that this is to give you some ideas and the proper formatting. Do not use this letter or even change it for your information. It’s here to give you some ideas, but you must write your letter. You can download an editable version of this letter here .

Thank you and Good Luck!!!!

Motivation Letter for PhD

You can also download an Adobe Acrobat (pdf) version of the Motivation letter for Ph. D.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can my future plans and interests make a difference in a motivation letter for a ph.d..

Attitude is often as important as aptitude. Showing your passion for the area of research or having a personal tie can make a big difference in your selection.

Related posts:

  • Crafting the Perfect Motivation Letter for Study Abroad
  • Motivation Letter for Internship with Example
  • Motivation Letter For Scholarship With Example
  • Motivation Letter for University, College & School With Example

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what is motivation letter for phd

  • Writing an Academic Cover Letter for a PhD Application
  • Applying to a PhD
  • The aim of an  academic cover letter  is to convince the supervisor that you are a strong candidate for the PhD position on offer.
  • Your cover letter should be  half a page to a full page  in length; it should be concise and to the point.
  • Your PhD cover letter should include your  personal details , the position you’re applying for, your  motivation  for applying, what you know about the project, what  relevant experience  you have and what makes you suited for the position.

The two documents crucial to get right when  applying to a PhD  are your CV and covering letter.

In this article, we’ll set out the core guidelines you should follow to create an effective academic cover letter.

What Is An Academic Cover Letter?

An academic cover letter is a written document that accompanies your CV and application form when applying for a PhD.

It’s different from a CV as instead of being a structured summary of your skills and experience, it is a summary of why you believe you are suited for a particular PhD programme. As a result, all academic covering letters should be tailored for the specific position you are applying for and addressed to the supervisor who is overseeing the project. They also shouldn’t repeat what is already stated in your CV, but rather expand on the details most related to the position you are applying to.

Note:  An academic cover letter is sometimes referred to as a PhD application letter, but never a motivation letter. The latter is different in that it concerns the reasons as to why you want to undertake research, while a cover letter focuses on demonstrating your suitability for a programme. This is an important distinction to note.

What Is the Purpose of An Academic Cover Letter?

The aim of an academic cover letter is to convince the PhD supervisor that you are the perfect candidate for the PhD project.

Academic cover letters should complement your CV and sell you as a person – will your potential supervisor be excited to work with you after having read your cover letter?

What Should I Include in My Academic Cover Letter?

You should demonstrate that you have the skills which make you suited for research. It is essential that you recognise these skills in you and that you use them to promote yourself.

1. Your Personal Details

Include your name, address, email address and phone number in the top right corner of the letter. This is so the supervisor can reach you should they have questions or require any further information.

2. The Position You’re Applying For

Help the supervisor establish exactly which PhD position you are applying for as there may be several positions being advertised at one time. If they provide a reference number as part of the project description, it would be a good idea to include it in brackets.

3. Why You’re Interested in The Position

Use this section to explain your motivations for applying to the specific PhD and where your research interests stem from. Is it related to the dissertation you produced as part of your final year undergraduate dissertation, etc?

Whatever your motivation for applying to the PhD, make sure that your enthusiasm comes across clearly. The supervisor will appreciate how great a role self-drive plays in completing PhD projects and you will want to convince them you have the level of drive required to be successful.

4. What You Understand About the Project

Besides explaining your motivations for undertaking the project, show that you possess a basic understanding of it. In doing so, make sure you reinforce each point with some level of evidence; avoid making general statements or talking loosely around the research subject. This will show the PhD supervisor that you’ve taken the time to research the background to the project.

5. What Relevant Experience You Have

In this section, briefly discuss your academic background and any relevant experience you have within the field of research. Don’t worry if you have little experience in this area as this will be the case for most applicants. If this the case, then use this section to explain how you will be committed to the PhD research project. If you have experience in conducting research, explain what your role was, the analytical methods you used and any other aspects of your work which may be relevant. Similarly, discuss any teaching experience if you happen to have it.

6. Closing Statement

Keep this short and concise. Thank the supervisor for taking the time to read your application and let them know that you’re looking forward to hearing from them.

How Long Should My Academic Cover Letter Be?

Your academic cover letter should be between half a page to one full page .

To keep it effective, make it as concise as possible and only discuss points which are either relevant to the project or the aspect of being a doctoral research student. This may feel difficult to do, especially if you have much you want to include, but keep in mind that your cover letter can also be used as evidence of your communication skills, more specifically, whether you can convey important information in a clear and logical manner. As this will be a key skill of any research candidate, the prospective supervisor will take it into account when evaluating your capabilities.

How to Format an Academic Cover Letter for A PhD Application

Your cover letter should be written in paragraph format, with bullet points only reserved for situations where a list would improve clarity. This is because a cover letter is one of the few places where you are expected to show your personality, so using too many bullet points will diminish your ability to do this. The best way to approach writing your application letter is to see it as a very short personal essay.

Use a common font like Times New Roman or Calibri, and if possible, avoid the use of highlighting, underlining and tables as they become too distracting. Keep your font size between 10 to 12 points and your margins to at least 0.5 inches around all edges. Try to match the font size, type, line spacing and margin size to your academic CV for neat and consistent presentation.

Your cover letter should be addressed to the PhD supervisor, starting with a “Dear [academic title] [surname]”, for example, “Dear Professor Williams”.

Hopefully, you now know what it takes to write a successful cover letter for a PhD application. While a strong cover letter will go a long way to helping you stand out, you will need to learn how to create an equally strong CV if you really want your application form to excel. To this effect, we recommend you next read our step-by-step guide for creating effective academic CVs .

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  • Study Abroad /

How to Write a Motivation Letter for PhD Programs?

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  • Updated on  
  • Apr 25, 2023

Motivation Letter For PhD Programs

A successful motivation letter allows the admission committee of any institution to select students of excellent academic backgrounds. While applying for Ph.D. programs, a student has to submit a motivation letter that states why they wish to embark on that particular position and how appropriate they are to be studying in the chosen program. Ph.D. applications are not classified as any other random sample application. There are processes without which your chances of getting in may be reduced. For some institutions, academic qualifications are not enough to indicate whether a candidate is suitable for a Ph.D. In this sense, a Motivation Letter for Phd Programs are the perfect insight into who you really are. 

This Blog Includes:

How should you structure your motivation letter for ph.d., avoid false statements, be specific , include your skills and work experience , write in a professional manner , top things to be included in a motivation letter for ph.d. programs , sample of motivation letter for ph.d. programs , top ph.d. programs.

Ph.D. Scholarships in India

To write a strong motivation letter for Ph.D. applications you must include:

  • A concise introduction that must state the program you are applying for,
  • All about your academic background as well as professional work experience,
  • You can include skills you possess that make you the ideal candidate,
  • Your motivation and interest in applying for the program,
  • Concluding remarks with thanks.

Tips for Writing a Motivation Letter for Ph.D. Programs 

Here are the best tips for acing your writing a motivation letter for Ph.D.:

While writing a Motivation Letter for Ph.D. Programs, candidates often forget to add necessary things in the letter. It is important to know that without adding important information the application wouldn’t stand out. For instance, candidates tend to write, “I work well with other people or I am good at working under pressure.” Well, this is not how you write in a motivation letter as you should provide some real examples like, “My leadership skills were demonstrated when I had to lead a group of colleagues during my internship, which required intensive marketing management ability.”

Avoid being vague and imprecise while writing a Motivation Letter for Ph.D. Programs. Be specific while putting information in the letter. For example, If you describe it as “My marketing days were very interesting in my undergraduate days”, it would be inappropriate to fit it into a motivation letter. It depicts a very informal manner of writing a letter. You should include specific details about the courses you took as an undergraduate student such as, what made you choose them and what you learned from them. 

In a motivation letter, it is essential to add the skills you possess and the work experience you have. A Ph.D. is more than a continuation of your previous academic endeavors, it is a real educational test, and education is more than obtaining degrees. A Motivation Letter for Ph.D. Programs become impressive when you write about the skills and experiences you possess over the years which are strong enough to make you a qualified Ph.D. candidate. You can flourish your research and analytical skills in a motivation letter. 

It is equally important to add information in a Motivation Letter for Ph.D. Programs professionally. It is in your own best interest to submit the motivation letter with an appropriate font, writing style, and professional grammar. This will ensure your chances of getting accepted into a Ph.D. program. Professionalism plays a vital role in sending a good insight into your personality and helps you gain acceptance. 

Benefits of Pursuing a Ph.D. after MBA

A Motivation Letter for Ph.D. Programs share similarities with a cover letter and a personal statement. All three documents describe your suitability for a Ph.D. program. However, as compared to a personal statement and cover letter, a motivation letter gives more precision to your motivation for wanting to pursue a Ph.D. 

  • An introduction to the Ph.D. program: Begin with a brief introduction in clear terms that why you are applying for a particular Ph.D. program. Think of it as you telling it to a stranger. 
  • A summary of your academic background: Focus on your educational background and state what you have studied here and where. It is important to highlight extra curriculums that were a part of your studies. Mention what made you interested in a Ph.D. program, especially if you are applying in the same field. In addition, summarize your professional work experience and include any relevant work experiences such as teaching roles, or charity work. 
  • Reason to pursue a Ph.D.: Describe your long-term aspirations, and show your enthusiasm and passion for pursuing a Ph.D. program. You can also mention what made you interested in this field. You can also demonstrate your interest in proposed research topics such as the seminars you attended, research experience, and aspects of the subjects, and finally, specify what has convinced you to devote 3-4 years of your life to the research field. 
  • The significant effect of your research on society and career goals: At the of your motivation letter, add a few sentences on the research’s impact on your life and the experience as a whole. It should conclude the new contributions it will make to your field, and how it benefits society and fits in with your aspirations. In addition, state your career goals, for example, do you want to become a researcher or pursue an academic career? This will enable the reader to judge you based on how passionate you are about pursuing a Ph.D. program. 

Motivation-Letter for phd

  • Ph.D. in Entrepreneurship
  • Ph.D. in Commerce
  • Ph.D. in Accounting
  • Ph.D. in Management
  • Ph.D. in Economics
  • Ph.D. in Commercial Law
  • Ph.D. in Human Resource Management
  • Ph.D. in Operational Research
  • Ph.D. in Marketing
  • Ph.D. in Healthcare and Management
  • Ph.D. in Organizational Behaviour
  • Ph.D. in Finance
  • Ph.D. in Chemistry
  • Ph.D. in Computer Science
  • Ph.D. in Law
  • Ph.D. in IT
  • Ph.D. in Engineering
  • Ph.D. in Political Science
  • Ph.D. in Education
  • Ph.D. in Statistics
  • Ph.D in Psychology

Commonwealth PhD Scholarships

Ans: A motivation letter for the Ph.D. program should be 400-600 words.

Ans: Start with the introduction about yourself and the intent. Describe your experiences in the body of the letter.

Ans: A motivation letter is the exact same as a statement of purpose. You might hear colleges and companies use one or more of these letters.

This was all about Motivation Letters for Ph.D. Programs. We hope you find this insightful. Are you interested in making your career in Ph.D. abroad? Reach out to our Leverage Edu experts on 1800 57 2000 and we will help you in finding the best university.

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How to Write Motivation Letter for PhD

  • June 26, 2023
  • No Comments
  • WHAT IS THE MOTIVATION LETTER FOR MBA? HOW DOES IT MATTER?
  • WHAT IS THE NEED FOR A LETTER OF MOTIVATION FOR A PHD ?
  • HOW TO WRITE A MOTIVATION LETTER FOR PHD APPLICATIONS ?

What should you include in your Letter of Motivation for a Ph.D.?

  • COMPLETE STRUCTURE OF A MOTIVATIONAL LETTER FOR PH.D.
  • WHAT IS THE FORMAT OF LOM FOR PH.D. APPLICATION?
  • WHAT IS THE PURPOSE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF A MOTIVATIONAL LETTER FOR A PH.D.?
  • SAMPLE MOTIVATIONAL LETTER FOR PHD
  • TIPS FOR WRITING AN EFFECTIVE MOTIVATIONAL LETTER FOR A PHD
  • COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN WRITING A MOTIVATION LETTER FOR A PHD
  • THE DOS AND DON’TS OF WRITING A PH.D. MOTIVATION LETTER

Many scholars wonder what is the purpose of a Ph.D. Letter of Motivation, as it may seem daunting to get it right. Therefore, we can provide you with guidance for compiling your important information in the correct format. 

What is a Motivational Letter for PhD ?

A PhD motivation letter is an ancillary document that supports your admission application. Its main purpose is to present key aspects of personal competence, your academic interests, and your career objectives.  

The letter of motivation for a PhD program is different from a regular motivation letter or a cover letter. The one required for your PhD is more specific as it aids in the admission process and attempts to distinguish your abilities from other applicants. 

Writing a letter of motivation for a PhD can be beneficial in many ways for your admission. It provides details on every aspect of your research interests and personal achievements. It adds more significance to the knowledge and skills you possess as well as your intentions with regard to the PhD program. 

What is the need for a Letter of Motivation for a PhD ?

There are a number of reasons that make the Letter of Motivation for a PhD important. We have put forth some of them for your better understanding of the process. These include: 

  • Presenting your passion for your chosen area of research and what you plan to do with it. 
  • Delineating a clear idea about your future plans or prospects with regard to your research. 
  • Providing a clear picture of the factors that motivate you and your research. 
  • Giving details about your research and the pursuits you have undertaken to enhance your understanding of it, such as publications in academic journals and research activities.
  • Explaining any relevant skills that you may have for your research.

How to write a motivation letter for PhD applications?

It may seem confusing to write a letter of motivation, as you may wonder what you can say about yourself more than you have already stated in your application or CV. Therefore, we will provide suggestions on how you can write a noteworthy letter for yourself

  • Maintain a professional stance in your writing as it is a formal document in your application process. 
  • Follow a proper or prescribed format, as it will represent you in a better light. 
  • Present your thoughts in a comprehensive manner and ensure that they are relevant to the program. 

To sum it all up, you need to provide all the necessary details that will help its assessment. In addition to this, you need to approach this with a positive and formal tone, which will be quite helpful. 

Writing an effective letter is key to a successful application for a Ph.D. Therefore, in this section we have listed what you need to include in your letter of motivation to generate a favorable impact. These include: 

  • Details about your academic pursuits and professional roles that are in accordance with the scope of your Ph.D. research. 
  • Activities that you have been a part of that have complimented your journey so far. 
  • Details about your research, its niche areas, and its overall effectiveness in your academic field. 
  • The overall benefits of conducting your Ph.D. research. 

Complete Structure of a Motivational Letter for Ph.D.

To ensure you present your thoughts in a coherent manner, it is important that you follow a certain structure when it comes to writing a Motivational Letter for Ph.D. It is as follows: 

This initial paragraph will set the tone for your letter, so it must be concise and informative, where you will state details about yourself and the Ph.D. you seek to pursue. 

Main body text:

This section will contain important aspects of your profile such as your education, work experience, motivation to apply for the program, and other relevant details. 

Conclusion:

 For this, you will have to summarize the information you have provided in the letter, which will emphasize your reasons to pursue your field of research. 

What is the format of LOM for Ph.D. application?

The format of the motivational letter is vital for you to write more effectively. The following are the key elements that you should include in your letter: 

Introduction:

This is the paragraph where you can establish your identity and the personal details you want to share about yourself. A pleasant introduction is vital for the admission committee to get acquainted with you.

Academic background:

Here, you can explain in detail about your education and the degrees you have acquired. You emphasize more about the modules or courses you have completed that have much relevance to the Ph.D. and your current research.

Professional experience:

In this paragraph, you can provide details about any work experience you may possess in the field. In most Ph.D. applications, you will be asked to submit your CV as well, so you can keep this paragraph relevant to the roles that match your research field. 

Motivation for pursuing a Ph.D.:

You can present a detailed outline of how your interest was generated in the field of your research, your prior experiences, and what you planned in association with it. This is an important section of the letter and you will have to be mindful of what is written for it. 

Concluding remarks:

For this, you can write about the positive impact you anticipate in your research and how you can contribute to society at large with it. This will add a sense of cohesiveness to your letter. 

What is the purpose and significance of a motivational letter for a Ph.D.?

A Ph.D. is one of the most advanced research degrees, which makes it highly coveted among research scholars, especially in international universities. This makes the letter of motivation an important step in the admission process, because: 

  • It provides a detailed explanation of your purpose as a research scholar. 
  • It enables the college authorities to consider you for the program.
  • It presents your aspirations to the college authorities. 

The process of obtaining a Ph.D. is becoming increasingly varied and there are several varieties available for scholars. These include: 

1. Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

This is a degree for qualified managers and business leaders with extensive experience in the field. 

2. Integrated Ph.D. Programs:

These consist of a one-year master’s degree followed by three years of research experience. 

3. The Doctor of Education (EdD) Degree:

These programs are popular for experienced teachers and policymakers as it combines research with advanced training. 

4. Joint Ph.D. and Cotutelle Programmes:

These are collaborative efforts among two or more universities.

  • LOM For Scholarship
  • LOM For Volunteer
  • LOM For Leadership
  • LOM For MBA
  • LOM For Germany
  • LOM For PhD
  • LOM For Job
  • LOM For Learnership
  • LOM For Stipendium Hungaricum

In what ways can a motivational letter make your Ph.D. application more effective

Your Ph.D. motivation letter is a vital document in your application process as it provides a clear outline of your purposes and there are many ways you can enhance your letter for the selection committee. These methods are as follows: 

Write in the first person:

This may seem irrelevant at first, but this is necessary to establish your identity to the university as you are focusing on yourself as a suitable candidate for the program.

Align your research and goals with the university’s values:

As a prospective candidate, it is advised that you put forth the details of your research along with the prevalent academic conditions and values of the university. This will form a connection between yourself and the university and give you an advantage over other applicants.

State your research intentions with clarity:

This is an absolutely imperative step in your letter of motivation. In many cases, applicants focus more on explaining their achievements and overlook this aspect.

Present your story:

Although there are limitations on the word-limit of the motivation letter, you must ensure your story is presented in accordance with your goals and research. 

Do not repeat your CV:

This adds to the repetition of details as most motivation letters are required to be submitted along with your CV. 

Explain your candidacy:

By reiterating your intentions in the concluding paragraph, you provide an effective summary of your motivational letter.

Sample Motivational Letter for PhD

Here we are providing you with a motivation letter for the MBA example template:

Click Here to Read MOTIVATION LETTER FOR PhD. SAMPLE

[Your name]

[Contact details]

[Your current location]

[Your email ID] 

[Supervisor’s name]

[Supervisor email ID]

[Department]

[University]

To whom it may concern, 

My name is ————- and I am putting forth my interest to pursue the doctoral program in ———– at ——————-. This is a vital step for me to fulfil my long-term ambitions of ——————-. 

[Academic Background]

[Professional experience – if applicable]

[Motivation to pursue the Ph.D. program]

[Conclusion]

Thank you for considering my application, 

Yours sincerely, 

Analyzing the sample letter: Key strengths and strategies

It is important to assess what you are going to use to write your letter of motivation. In this, you need to: 

  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses as an academic scholar. 
  • Bring forth all the details about your academic background and state it accordingly. 
  • Do not be repetitive or informal in your style of writing. 
  • Be clear about your future plans and the potential of your research. 

What is the purpose of Motivation Letter for Phd

Key Elements of a Strong Motivational Letter for Ph.D. Admissions

Tips for writing an effective motivational letter for a phd.

  • Gather as much knowledge as you can on your Ph.D. prospects and the research you are interested in. 
  • Gain the experience you can about your field as it will give much weightage to your application. 
  • Begin early, as you will be able to plan your letter and avoid mistakes in the structure. 
  • Do not make abstract statements as it reflects poorly on your profile.
  • Avoid grammatical mistakes and convoluted sentences while writing the letter.
  • Honesty is the best policy and it is best to include a truthful account of your background and experiences.
  • Conduct multiple rounds of editing so that your letter can be free of errors.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Motivation Letter for a PhD

The occurrence of mistakes is common, but it would be helpful if you were mindful of the common mistakes that occur while your letter of motivation. 

  • ❌Addressing the letter to the wrong faculty in the department: This is a common occurrence where many may write the wrong name or the wrong spelling of the concerned supervisor. 

✔️To avoid this, check the university website and ensure that you have the correct names with you. 

  • ❌Not providing an explanation of why you are a good choice for the program: While explaining their accomplishments, many forget to explain why the university should consider them as an ideal candidate. 

✔️To avoid this, you must plan out your points in advance so that you can write all pertinent points about yourself in a lucid manner. 

  • ❌Not mentioning your motivation for applying to the university: Although a gross error, it is fairly common among Ph.D. candidates.

✔️To avoid this, one must be absolutely clear about their intentions to apply to that particular university and write it accordingly. 

  • ❌Not meeting the requirements of the motivation letter: The word limit of the motivation letter is generally short, so many times there are candidates who do not complete the parts required in the letter. 

✔️To avoid this, you must stress some points and ignore others. Give equal attention to all of the required points so that you can compile necessary points about yourself. 

  • ❌Using excessive flattering language: This can give a superficial look to your letter despite your genuine intentions, and it can also be immediate grounds for rejection. 

✔️To avoid this, write your letter without flattering language and phrases. Simplicity is key and it will help you a lot in the admission process. 

  • ❌Writing the letter in the wrong language: This is a common occurrence for international scholars as some universities do accept applications in English and the first language of the applicant’s country. 

✔️To avoid this, be sure of the university’s requirements as it will help you to write a compelling letter for the selection committee. 

What are the things to remember while writing a Motivation Letter for Ph.D.?

Out of all the things we have already mentioned about writing your letter of motivation, we would like to stress a few aspects of the process, such as planning your content, avoiding common mistakes, and the structural requirements of the letter. All of these will give you the impetus you need to tackle it well. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Ph.D. Motivation Letter

We have put together some points for you to consider, which will help you in the process of writing and putting your ideas together. 

  • Be genuine in your approach. 
  • Maintain a professional tone in the letter. 
  • Stress on your intellectual interests. 
  • Give prominence to your research activities. 
  • Be positive about your future prospects.
  • Avoid clichéd phrases. 
  • Do not use any flattery or praise for the university.
  • Do not be overly verbose  
  • Do not indulge in false claims
  • Do not make mistakes with formatting. 

Therefore, we hope that you have been able to get all the insights you need to write a successful letter of motivation. By keeping a positive mindset and having focused attention you will be able to secure your admission to your preferred program and receive your Ph.D.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of a letter of motivation for a ph.d. admission.

A letter of motivation can be an important part of your application. It will increase your chances to be selected significantly. 

How long should a letter of motivation for a Ph.D. admission be?

Ideally, the letter of motivation consists of one page, where your purposes for the program should be stated in a clear and concise manner. 

How can I make my letter of motivation stand out from other applicants?

In order to make your letter of motivation stand out among other applicants in the Ph.D. admissions, you can state important information about your academic journey and your aspirations in life. This will give it a unique form. 

Should I include my academic achievements and research experience in the letter of motivation?

Yes, by mentioning specific areas in your academic achievements and research experience, you can increase your chances for your Ph.D. admissions. 

Can I mention specific research interests or projects in my letter of motivation?

Yes, by mentioning key aspects of your research interests, you can present your credibility as a research scholar to the admission committee in a better manner. 

How can I showcase my relevant skills and qualifications in the letter of motivation?

By following a proper format style and using a formal approach to language, you can showcase the skills that are relevant to your application in a comprehensive manner.

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Motivation Letter for Ph.D.

Updated on 30 october, 2023.

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad Abroad Team

Upgrad abroad editorial team.

upGrad Abroad Team

A motivation letter for Ph.D. is crucial since it is a way to convey the candidate’s personality, motivations, interests, and commitment to the admissions authorities. It is a vital part of the Ph.D. application process and should not be neglected. 

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Table of Contents

  • Format of a Motivation Letter for Ph.D.

Tips for Writing a Successful Motivation Letter for Ph.D. Programs

Ph.d. motivation letter sample, format of a motivation letter for ph.d. .

There is no fixed format for a motivation letter for Ph.D. applications. However, here are some points that you must keep in mind. 

  • Introduction- This should mention your purpose and the program being applied for. 
  • Main Body- This should contain a summary of your educational background, your reasons for doing your PhD, and the importance of your research work. It should also include information on your future goals. 
  • Conclusion- Sign off by reiterating your admission goals while thanking the admissions authorities for their time and consideration. 

You can check out a Ph.D. motivation letter sample PDF for more insights. Here are a few tips that can be of immense help: 

  • Make genuine statements about your application and documents. 
  • Be specific and avoid vague or abstract statements. 
  • Discuss your research experience, professional experience, skill sets, and academic credentials. 
  • Maintain a professional tone throughout the motivation letter without being casual or too personal. 

A motivation letter for a Ph.D. sample will help you get a better idea. 

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To Whom It May Concern, 

I am writing this letter to express my interest in applying for the Ph.D. project available in the (group name) under the project (project name) at the (institution name). I graduated with a master’s degree in civil engineering in (year) from the (institution name) in (location, city, country).

I have been drawn to 3D modeling and simulation technologies since my undergraduate years, which gave me a solid foundation in the subject. I learned the basic concepts of structural analysis, CAD, mechanics , and programming and data structures simultaneously. My master’s program helped me enhance these skill sets further, giving me an in-depth glimpse of building materials, earthquake engineering, construction management , using technologies for 3D modeling, and more such areas. 

I have also been associated with a research project at the institution, successfully enabling VR/AR-enabled digital walkthroughs for buildings. This was the inception of my interest in deploying artificial and augmented reality, virtual reality, and 3D simulation for building digital counterparts of physical environments, applying this knowledge to real estate projects, infrastructural projects, and other ventures which are mainstays in the world of civil engineering. It naturally prompted me to apply for the Ph.D. position at your institution, which has an enviable track record in terms of global rankings, research opportunities, infrastructure, partnerships with leading research firms, and reputed faculty. 

I believe my foundational knowledge of these core concepts and research experiences will contribute towards making me a good fit for the doctoral program at your institution. I am aware of the perseverance and commitment expected of doctoral students pursuing research in this intellectually stimulating yet challenging arena of study. I will do my best to meet the high standards of your institution on this count. It is a great opportunity to demonstrate my skill sets while acquiring invaluable knowledge and research exposure if I am chosen for your Ph.D. program. I remain at your disposal for any additional information. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Sincerely, 

How do I start a motivational letter for my PhD?

You should begin by talking about the program you are applying for and mentioning your purpose explicitly. You should also briefly introduce yourself, i.e., your last qualification and so on. You can then move on to the main body and discuss the reasons for choosing the course, institution, research interests, and other aspects.

How do I write a letter of Ph.D. request?

You should include details without going overboard and demonstrate your research approach, outlook, and methods. Justify these methods while ensuring they are viable. Also, mention whether any ethical aspects are connected to your field of research and how you wish to address them.

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what is motivation letter for phd

Home » Best Motivation Letter for Phd: 07 + Samples

Best Motivation Letter for Phd: 07 + Samples

Motivation Letter for Phd

Unlock the door to your academic dreams with a Ph.D., but first, master the art of crafting a stellar motivation letter. Picture this: the admissions committee, drowning in a sea of applications, eager to discover the one that stands out. In this blog post, we’re not just offering tips; we’re handing you the golden key to create a Motivation Letter for Phd.

Your motivation letter isn’t just a piece of paper; it’s your personal symphony. It’s the melody that resonates with your aspirations and harmonizes with the expectations of the admissions board. Join us on a journey through ingenious examples and actionable insights that transform your motivations into a magnetic force.

Ready to script your success story? Let’s dive into the nuanced world of Ph.D. motivation letters, where every word counts. And your dreams await. Craft your masterpiece, and let your academic journey begin.

Table of Contents

Key Components of Strong Motivation Letters for Phd

  • Personal Connection: Establish a deep connection between your personal experiences, aspirations, and the Ph.D. program. Showcase how your unique journey aligns seamlessly with the academic path ahead.
  • Clear Research Goals: Define your research objectives concisely. Clearly articulate how your academic pursuits intersect with the program, demonstrating a well-thought-out plan that adds value to the institution.
  • Academic Achievements: Highlight your academic prowess but go beyond grades. Showcase specific accomplishments, projects, or research experiences that underscore your capacity to excel in the Ph.D. environment.
  • Passionate Narrative: Craft a compelling story. Let your passion for the subject shine through your words. Make the admissions committee feel your enthusiasm and commitment to making a meaningful contribution.
  • Future Impact: Outline the impact you aspire to make post-Ph.D. Illustrate how the program is pivotal in realizing your goals and how you, in turn, aim to contribute to the academic community and beyond.
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Motivation Letter for Ph.D.:

Motivation letter for ph.d. application:, motivation letter for p.hd. sample:, perfect motivation letter for phd scholarship:, motivation letter for phd in mathematics:, best motivation letter for phd in physics:.

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Motivation Letter for PhD in Chemistry:

Motivation Letter for PhD Scholarship

Motivation Letter for PhD in Life Sciences:

Sample of motivation letter for phd scholarship:, motivation letter for phd application example:.

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Do’s And Dont’s of Writing Impactful Motivation Letters for Ph.D.:

  • Showcase Passionate Curiosity: Express genuine enthusiasm for the subject, demonstrating a burning curiosity that propels your academic journey.
  • Align with Program Values: Tailor your letter to highlight how your values and research aspirations align seamlessly with the ethos of the Ph.D. program.
  • Illustrate Past Research Impact: Provide tangible examples of how your previous research or academic endeavors have made a positive impact, showcasing your potential to contribute meaningfully.
  • Emphasize Unique Contributions: Highlight your distinctive skills, experiences, or perspectives that set you apart, emphasizing how these qualities enrich the academic community.
  • Craft a Personalized Narrative: Tell your unique story in a way that resonates with the reader, creating a narrative that is both personal and compelling.

Don’ts:

  • Avoid Generic Statements: Steer clear of generic phrases and cliches; instead, focus on specific examples and personalized insights that showcase your authenticity.
  • Don’t Underestimate Clarity: Ensure clarity and conciseness; avoid lengthy, convoluted sentences that may dilute the impact of your message.
  • Don’t Overpromise: While expressing ambition is encouraged, avoid overpromising or making unrealistic commitments that may raise doubts about your sincerity and capability.

Final Thoughts:

In the intricate dance of job applications, the motivation letter emerges as your unique choreography, a compelling narrative that can either fade into the background or steal the spotlight. Today, we’ve unraveled the art of crafting a Ph.D. motivation letter that doesn’t just communicate but captivates. From showcasing your passionate curiosity to aligning with program values, each stroke of your narrative paints a portrait of a candidate poised for scholarly excellence.

As you embark on this journey, remember that your motivation letter is not just a formality; it’s your chance to step into the spotlight and shine. Tailor it to the specific program, let your unique contributions gleam, and weave a narrative that resonates with decision-makers. Your letter is not just words on paper; it’s a symphony of aspirations that can resonate with the hearts and minds of those who hold the key to your academic future.

So, here’s the curtain call – a call to action. Take these insights, revise your motivation letter, and let it be the crescendo that echoes in the minds of potential employers or decision-makers. Your dream position awaits, and your letter is the key to unlocking that door. Craft it with intention, wield it with confidence, and watch as your aspirations take center stage. Break a leg, and may your motivation letter be the standing ovation you deserve.

Motivation Letter for PhD Application Example

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what is motivation letter for phd

How to Write an Engineering Motivation Letter for a PhD

Read a summary or generate practice questions using the INOMICS AI tool

Ok, so the time has come to write your engineering PhD motivation letter. The cursor is blinking on the blank page. Your mind races. What do I write? How do I start? How do I phrase it? It can be a challenge, especially for us engineers who may not enjoy the written word as much as other academics do. But competition for some PhD places can be fierce, especially at good universities. Getting the motivation letter right is one of the most important parts of your application, so don't leave it until the last minute.

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how to write an engineering motivation letter for a phd

Basic Structure and Style

The first thing to realise is there's a big difference between the PhD motivation letter you should write for universities in North America and European universities. Typically, American universities expect to hear more about your general life, whereas European ones prefer to keep things mainly focused on your academic and work achievements. As a general rule of thumb:

  • America – 70% life skills, accomplishments, 30% academic/practical/work
  • Europe – 30% life skills, accomplishments, 70% academic/practical/work

Your letter should follow a standard formal letter format and should:

  • be no more than 500 words (approx. one typed page of A4)
  • be written in a clear font such as Arial or Calibri
  • have a font size of 11 or 12
  • consist of short easy-to-read and understand paragraphs
  • use sub-headings and bullet points to break up the text
  • be polite and formal, but not too wordy

Readability is a key factor in writing a successful motivation letter. Even though you're addressing academics, it's best to keep the language as simple as possible. Remember, this is a letter, not an essay. The professors may have to read dozens of these letters and want to find out about you as easily as possible, without having to wade through waffle, clichés or pompous-sounding sentences. Microsoft Word has a handy built-in readability checker (based on the Flesch-Kincaid test) and you want the "reading ease" score to be between 60 and 70 points to hit the right spot.

The structure

A recommended overall structure for the letter is as follows:

  • A brief (1 or 2 sentences) introduction
  • Your motivation for applying to do a PhD (personal statement)
  • Your academic achievements and relevant life experiences
  • The impact you hope to make with your research
  • Your future career plans

Before we move on to looking at the actual content of your letter, just a quick note that should really go without saying – stick to the facts. Never be tempted to make things up or "embroider the truth". It's not only unethical but if you're accepted on the course and your dishonesty is revealed at a later date, you could waste all that time and effort, not to mention your reputation will be in tatters. It's not worth it.

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Content of the engineering motivation letter, don't underestimate practical experience.

Let's face it, engineering is a hands-on subject, no matter which branch you specialise in. The single biggest mistake that graduates make when applying for an engineering PhD, is focussing entirely on their academic achievements and neglecting any practical or "in-the-field" experience. Make a list of any relevant work experience, field trips, projects, etc. Anything that had an engineering element to it can be included. A good tip is to go back as far as possible. Joined a robotics club in secondary school? Write it down. Helped a neighbour build their house extension? Write it down. Had a summer job with a construction company? You get the picture. Even if you decide not to use half of it, listing all of these things out will give you some ideas of relevant skills you can mention.

Be specific

Another mistake people commonly make is to list their skills without providing any evidence, or just generally making vague statements. Don't simply state: “I work well in a team”. Give an example: “During my time at XYZ Construction Ltd, I worked closely with various team members to plan and build a gherkin-shaped tower block”. Don't say: “I enjoyed my Environmental Engineering undergraduate degree”. Be very specific about what you enjoyed: “As part of my degree course, I studied the spread and effect of subsoil pollution, which I found really interesting. So interesting in fact, that I spent my summer working for a soil remediation company.”

Show a bit of personality

It's ok to add a bit of character to the letter. Avoid jokes and sarcasm, but you can phrase things in a way that adds some sparkle. Include some "insider" references that only a fellow engineer would understand, for example. A great way to get your letter to stand out from the crowd is to highlight how your personality has helped you to overcome difficulties or achieve things related to engineering. A good example of this could be if you have worked on any relevant community or voluntary projects.

Show them that you're perfectly suited to the rigours of a PhD

A PhD is very different from undergraduate and postgraduate studies and requires different skills . You need to be self-motivated, disciplined, industrious, resourceful and focussed. Try to think of events in your life that demonstrate these qualities and make sure to mention them.

Talk about your plans

Towards the end of your letter, make sure you mention what your long-term plans are. This shows that you are focused on engineering as a career and that you’ll work hard to achieve results. Talk about any relevant work experience you’ve had to date – paid or unpaid. Also, mention any engineering societies or institutions that you’re a member of or plan to join.

Gentle Persuasion Techniques

We're not going to go in-depth into the psychology of persuasion here, but there are some little-known copywriting (i.e. advertising) "secrets" that you can employ to influence them to accept you. First of all, come up with a concrete idea of what they are looking for in a student. Once you have this fixed in your mind, include a sentence or two that shows you understand this and that you're the person they've been waiting for. For example, if you think they're looking for somebody creative with good design skills and also demonstrates people skills, you could include something like this in your introduction: “You're looking for a high-calibre student with a keen interest in design. During my undergraduate studies, I took part in several extracurricular design projects which involved coordinating and working with a small team of engineers.”

Another copywriting "trick" is to use powerful verbs to inspire or evoke an emotional response – think Nike’s slogan "Just Do It". We’re not suggesting you include a cheesy slogan, but try to use powerful verbs such as:

  • I made sure…
  • I focused...
  • I endeavoured…
  • I innovated...

Also, if you remember your school English lessons, they may have mentioned passive and active voice. Make sure that the majority of your phrases use the active voice. Here’s an example:

  • Passive voice: “I was able to make a difference.”
  • Active voice: “I made a difference.”

Finally, try to end with an upbeat message. In advertising, this is known as a call to action – a rousing final pitch that encourages the person to take a specific action. In a motivation letter, it’s a good idea to summarise the key things that make you suitable for the course, then close with something like: “Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any more information and I look forward to your response.”

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Experiences of a London PhD student and beyond

PhD Motivation: How to Stay Driven From Cover Letter to Completion

Graphic of scientist writing on a whiteboard with a laptop in front of them. A thought bubble contains a graduation cap showing that they are maintaining PhD motivation

PhDs can be a long slog and it’s easy to lose touch with why you set out to do one in the first place. If you’re falling out of love with your PhD why not try these tips to help boost your motivation.

Note – This post, and its predecessor about PhD Burnout , were inspired by a reader who asked for suggestions on tackling PhD fatigue. I love hearing from readers of the blog, so if you have any ideas for posts which you, or others, could find useful please do let me know! Just pop a note in the comments section below or drop me a message .

This post is part of my PhD mindset series, you can check out the full series below:

  • PhD Burnout: Managing Energy, Stress, Anxiety & Your Mental Health
  • PhD Motivation: How to Stay Driven From Cover Letter to Completion (this part!)
  • How to Stop Procrastinating and Start Studying

Focus on the Big Picture

If you’re struggling with motivation during your PhD it can be helpful to consider what originally motivated you to pursue one. One way you may find it useful to capture these thoughts is through a vision board or spider diagram.

Try listing out each of the following:

  • What you hope to achieve during your PhD (both personally and professionally)
  • How you picture your life and career post-PhD

The vision board for the PhD itself will help you make the most of your time now, while your post PhD vision board will serve as a reminder of where you are going.

This can be a great way to increase your motivation and identify opportunities within your PhD that may help you to realise your long term vision.

Here is an example one I created about life after the PhD which could serve as some motivation during the PhD:

Brainstorm showing ideas for life post PhD: including moving to Germany, living alone, work/life balance etc

Set Short Term Goals

Depending on how far along you are in your PhD, reaching the finishing line may seem like a herculean task. Rather than risking getting overwhelmed, focus on making regular progress by setting achievable short term goals.

What are some examples of short term goals? Well let’s start by highlighting a few potential milestones during a PhD:

  • Completing your first set of experiments
  • Writing your first paper
  • Drafting your thesis
  • Passing your viva

Try to break down these large tasks into sub-tasks and set yourself short term goals. Importantly, make sure that the goals are actually realistically achievable! Although it is great to push yourself, if you set goals that are too lofty you risk demotivating yourself further! Small and consistent progress is what we’re aiming for.

Breaking tasks down will allow you to recognise your progress and how far you’ve come. While recognising what you’ve already accomplished with your PhD will help provide the motivation to achieve even more.

So for instance breaking down the first of those example milestones, completing your first set of experiments, could be broken down into much smaller short term goals:

Breaking down goal 1: Completing your first set of experiments

  • Read five relevant papers to get ideas from other studies. Which techniques did they use? What further work did they recommend?
  • Speak with my supervisor about first potential experiments. What is achievable in the lab? Do we need to order any consumables?
  • Get inducted into the lab if necessary and get trained on key equipment.
  • If relevant, shadow someone else in the lab to understand certain processes.
  • Give it a go: conduct a few preliminary experiments.
  • Build on these first experiments and suddenly you’ve become a self-sufficient researcher. Good job!

You may personally choose to set goals monthly, weekly or even set yourself one task to achieve each day. Try different lengths and see what works best for you.

Now as a postdoc I personally have an ongoing document which I always keep open with goals and tasks for me to complete which I add to as I have new thoughts and conversations. Every day I set myself a short list of tasks I set to complete myself to work towards these bigger goals and projects. Without this not only would I lack focus but also motivation.

Recognise What You’ve Already Achieved

As mentioned above it can feel like you haven’t achieved much when the big picture PhD goals still seem far away.

Sometimes we can get motivation from realising how much we already have to be proud of. I know what it is like to be in a downbeat part of your PhD and it can be tough to appreciate your successes but this is exactly the time when we need harness positive and motivational thoughts!

Let’s play a quick game. Set a timer on your phone for 2 minutes and write down a few things about your PhD you’re already proud of. Don’t worry, I’m not expecting a list of potential Nobel prize winning discoveries.

Here are some ideas:

  • Coming up with some ideas for experiments
  • Learning a new research technique
  • Facing a personal fear – such as public speaking

If you’re in the early stages, remind yourself that pushing yourself to apply for the PhD is an achievement and getting accepted into a PhD programme is no mean feat. Go you!

Reward Your Accomplishments

Along with setting short term academic goals it’s important to reward yourself once they’re completed. Depending on what length goal you set, the reward may be as simple as taking a break and indulging in something unproductive, taking an afternoon off to relax or treating yourself to your favourite meal.

It can be tempting to skip this step but celebrating when you complete tasks is really important. This will help to get you in the right mindset for progressing towards the next goal. Celebrating achievements is also a great way to instill better habits and we’ll cover more on this next.

Build Better Habits

Mastering self discipline and consistency is one of the best ways to maximise your potential both during your PhD and beyond. If this is something you struggle with then now is the perfect time to try making improvements in a very low risk environment. Here is some great advice on this subject by an incredibly successful guy:

Making these improvements through small actions can make surprisingly big differences. To illustrate this: a person who improved by 1% each day would be 37 times better after a year!

what is motivation letter for phd

Consistently improving 1% each and every day isn’t likely, but the cumulative effect of working on yourself by building better habits is undeniable.

It typically takes 40 days to master a habit, so start small and once you have your first habit ingrained you can start on the next. Realising success will empower you to master harder challenges too and also provide you with the confidence to know that you can achieve what you set your mind to.

Some ideas for areas you may wish to develop better habits for are:

  • Work schedule
  • Healthy eating

Habit Building Tips

  • Start small and focus on just turning up – When building new habits it is much more important to be consistent than to set lofty goals.
  • Gamify it – In 2020 I decided to start using Duolingo to learn Spanish. Not only is the format on Duolingo very engaging, so is the “streak” of uninterrupted days you use the app for. It is surprising how powerful motivation can become to keep the streak going. In fact, as of writing this post I’ve just passed 600 uninterrupted days on Duolingo! I now try to apply similar concepts in other parts of my life.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up – It’s natural to make mistakes but it’s what you do afterwards that counts. If you slip up with your habit fight the urge to give it up. Instead move on and work to get back.
  • Be accountable – Tell others about your goals and if you know another PhD student struggling with the same issue why not team up together to try and improve.

I’d also highly recommend giving the below video from Kurzgesagt a watch to learn more about how to build positive habits.

Prioritise Self-Care

PhDs are a marathon not a sprint and in order to make it to the end it’s vital to take care of yourself along the way. Exercising, socialising, eating healthily and prioritising mental health will all put you in the best position to keep your energy levels high.

PhD Burnout is a very real thing and the last thing you want is to lose all passion for research entirely. Check out my post here on PhD Burnout to learn the warning signs and how to intervene before things go to far.

Make sure to take time each week to recharge and don’t prioritise your research to the detriment of all else. It isn’t worth sacrificing your own health for your research. Make the most of opportunities during your PhD and find things you’re passionate about and look forward to.

I personally found it helpful to treat my PhD like a full-time job which meant having weekends and weekday evenings off. There were exceptions to this of course but in general it meant that I had a good work/life balance and didn’t feel desperate for the PhD to end.

Everyone will have different ways of structuring their time, but recognise that YOU are a priority and your life shouldn’t go on hold until your PhD is complete.

Define Success Differently

Reframe what you see as success. Instead of defining success by the achievement of a long term goal instead define success by the consistent actions taken to progress towards it.

For instance, if you’re nearing the end of your PhD then completing your PhD thesis may be months away. But, if you commit to working on your thesis for at least one hour a day (and achieve it) you’re already on a successful path.

I’d suggest giving the intro to this newsletter by Andrew Ng a read to learn more about process goals versus outcome goals.

Avoid Comparisons to Other PhD Students

We all know this one but it can be easy to forget. Looking at what others have achieved can sometimes be motivating, but it can also leave you feeling inferior.

No two PhD journeys will ever be the same so all you can do is aim to achieve the “best” version of your own journey.

Top Tips to Boost PhD Motivation

  • Focus on the big picture
  • Set achievable short term goals
  • Recognise what you’ve already achieved
  • Reward your accomplishments
  • Build better habits
  • Prioritise self-care
  • Define success differently
  • Avoid comparisons to other PhD students

I hope you found these suggestions on how to boost PhD motivation helpful. Do you have any advice of your own to share? Let me know in the comments section below.

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Cover Letter for PhD Application: Guide for Writing One & Example From a Real PhD Student

  • Klara Cervenanska , 
  • Updated March 27, 2023 9 min read

When applying for a PhD research position, you usually need to submit certain documents, including an academic CV and a cover letter for PhD application .

A PhD cover letter, also referred to as an academic cover letter, should be carefully crafted, well-formatted, and contain specific sections.

We'll show you how to do exactly that, along with a sample of an academic cover letter from a real person admitted to a PhD program at Lyon University in France.

And if you're not sure how to go about writing your PhD CV, check out this article: CV for PhD Application: How to Write One Like a True Scholar (+CV Example) .

Table of Contents

Click on a section to skip

What is an academic cover letter?

What to include in a cover letter for phd application, how to write a cover letter for phd application, how to format an academic cover letter, phd cover letter sample.

An academic cover letter is a document that PhD candidates submit alongside their academic CV when applying for a PhD. 

Essentially, it's a cover letter for a PhD application.

It's not exactly the same as your regular business cover letter. Nor is it the same as a personal statement or a motivation letter .

The purpose of a cover letter for PhD application is to explain to the reader, who's likely a researcher or a professor, what you can contribute to their institution and/or field.

Moreover, in a PhD application cover letter, you should explain why you're a good match for the research position on the program.

Differences between academic cover letter and business cover letter

Both these documents serve different purposes and people use them in different settings:

  • Academic cover letter is used when applying for positions in academia — most often for a PhD. More emphasis should be on education, research background and scholarly accomplishments. Moreover, it should explain what your contribution to the institution or field could be. It should also point the reader to your academic CV.
  • Regular (business) cover letter is normally used when applying for any kind of job . Hence, more emphasis should be on skills and past experience while being tailored to a specific job position. You should also explain why you're a good fit for the position at the given company. It should point the reader to your resume.

There are also other documents people often mistake for an academic cover letter. These include:

  • Motivation letter is especially relevant for fresh graduates when applying to a university, a non-profit organization, or voluntary work. A motivation letter focuses more on your interests and motives for applying.
  • Personal statement. Also used in an academic setting. It's always written by an applicant, often a prospective student, applying to college, university, or graduate school. You explain why you've chosen a particular course and why you'd be good at it. Other names include a statement of purpose or a letter of intent .

Like every cover letter, an academic one also needs to include specific elements and content sections. These are:

  • Header. Here, provide your contact information, such as your name, address, phone number, and email in the header of the document.
  • Formal salutation. In an official letter like this one, you should address the reader in a professional and formal way. If you know who'll be reading your cover letter, go with Dear Dr. [Surname] or Dear Professor [Surname] . If you don't, go with Dear Sir/Madam .
  • The specific PhD program or position. Clearly state in your letter which research position you're applying for or the name of the PhD program. A cover letter is usually read before a CV, so you need to make sure everything is clear.
  • Your motivation. Explain why you're interested in the specific PhD position — it's one of the key elements you should include.
  • Your academic background. Now, we don't mean you should list in detail every single university course you ever took. Instead, focus on the most relevant course for the PhD and describe in detail what you learned, any projects you worked on, why it was interesting (and optionally, what knowledge gap you identified). In this way, you also show a certain level of understanding of the field.
  • Your ambition. Briefly mention what your ambitions, intentions, and plans are regarding your contribution to the field when securing your PhD position. How is your research going to enrich the field? How will the institution benefit from it?
  • Conclusion. Keep the conclusion short. Contrary to a regular cover letter ending , there's no place for reiterating everything here. Simply thank the reader for your consideration and prompt them to read your academic CV.
  • Formal sign-off. Just pick from the usual: Sincerely, Respectfully, Regards... Then throw in your full name in the following line.

And that's all you need to include!

Now, let's take a look at how to write your cover letter step-by-step.

Applying for a PhD will be a lot less stressful if you follow these tips on how to write a cover letter for a research position:

Consider researching the background of the organization, department, ongoing research projects, and their past and current projects. All that before you start writing your cover letter. Knowing these things will help you tailor your letter to the specific PhD opening.

Before you actually start writing, try to sit down and take a moment to think first. Assess how your past experiences helped you prepare for the PhD position and scribble down those that are most relevant and significant for the specific program. These include any research experiences, research projects, courses, or internships.

In the first few sentences of your letter, you need to convey some basic information about yourself and what specific position you're applying for. The opening should also state firmly why you're a strong candidate for the position/program, by using a persuasive and convincing wording. Here's an example: "As an MChem Chemistry graduate with a narrow focus on the sustainable synthesis of biologically active molecules from the University of Dundee, I am excited to apply to a "Synthesis Of Small Molecule Inhibitors Using Enzymes" PhD programme at an institution with such a strong foundation and numerous research groups in this field."

This is the place where you may explore more extensively on the educational journey that brought you here. Set the foundation for demonstrating how your Master's degree and research experience seamlessly translate into the next phase — the PhD program. Emphasize how your thesis contributes to the field's body of knowledge. Mention any other publications that support your thesis. And, if you can, identify any knowledge gaps or topics that can be explored further.

This paragraph provides the opportunity to neatly tie in together everything the reader has learned about you so far. You can show how your previous experience, coupled with what you'll learn during the PhD program, will come together to produce something novel to enrich the field. First, identify the courses or topics within the PhD program that interest you the most and how they relate to you developing your research further. Second, introduce your future research aspirations and goals. Third, point out how this future work will enrich the field and what will the intellectual merit be.

When ending your PhD cover letter, briefly refer your reader to your academic CV and encourage them to examine all of the remaining projects, courses, publications, or references . Finally, thank the reader for their time and consideration and let them know you look forward to hearing from them. Sign off.

Put the letter in a drawer and don't think about it for a day or two. Then, when you read it again, you'll have a fresh pair of eyes to see the cover letter in a new light. Maybe you decide some things are redundant, or you think of something that's more relevant. Or you know, find a typo here and there.

Just like an academic cover letter needs to contain certain content components, the formatting should also align with the structural expectations for this type of document.

How long should a cover letter be? How to finish a cover letter? And what about the cover letter font and spacing?

Here's a recommended academic cover letter format:

  • Length. While STEM PhD candidates should aim for half a page to one page, humanities candidates can do 1–2 pages.
  • Font. Use one of the classics: Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial. Just no Comic Sans, we beg you. Keep the size between 10–12 points. Also remember to keep the text clean — no underlining, no bolding, and no color. However, you can use italics if appropriate.
  • Spacing. Cover letter spacing isn't complicated. Just single-space your text, make sure there's a space between each paragraph, and leave a space between the concluding paragraph and your formal sign-off.
  • Margins. The only rule here is that the margins on your cover letter should match those on your CV.
  • Consistence with your CV. Your academic cover letter should match your academic CV in all formatting aspects — including the cover letter font and spacing. For example, Kickresume lets you choose a matching template for your CV and your cover letter, so no need to worry about this.

If the institution provided any instructions for formatting your academic cover letter, don’t get creative and follow their guidelines.

Finally, to help you tie everything we talked about together, here's a cover letter sample from a real person admitted to a PhD program at Lyon University in France.

These things ensured Herrera's cover letter was successful:

  • She clearly states her motivation in the opening. In the first two paragraphs, Herrera introduces herself and her motivation to apply for the given PhD program.
  • She describes educational and research background thoroughly. The main body of the letter is dedicated to describing Herrera's educational background, research projects, internships, and skills acquired throughout the way.
  • She presents research aspirations in the letter. Herrera writes: "I have a history of proven results and profound findings. Given opportunity, I’m confident in my abilities to earn similar ground-breaking results while being part of your team."

Even though this example lacks some of the key elements, such as mentioning the specific PhD program or identifying the topics within the PhD program that interest her the most, this PhD cover letter still managed to impress the University of Lyon.

Lyon University PhD Student Cover Letter Sample

Klara graduated from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. After having written resumes for many of her fellow students, she began writing full-time for Kickresume. Klara is our go-to person for all things related to student or 'no experience resumes'. At the same time, she has written some of the most popular resume advice articles on this blog. Her pieces were featured in multiple CNBC articles. When she's not writing, you'll probably find her chasing dogs or people-watching while sipping on a cup of coffee.

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Motivational Letter Writing Guide + Examples for 2024

Background Image

You’re about to apply for the job opportunity of your dreams.

You’ve worked hard, and you can’t wait to take the next step in your career.

All that’s left for you to do is write a motivational letter.

But writing a motivational letter can be nerve-wracking.

Two hours and three coffees in, you’ve scrolled through your Facebook newsfeed (twice), watched one episode of the last season of Game of Thrones, sent angry tweets to its creators, and donated for the knee surgery of two dogs. 

You go back to your open Word doc, and all you’ve managed to write is, “This program seems like fun” or “I’ll totally be a great fit for your organization.”

Don’t worry! We’re here to help.

In this article, we’re going to cover:

  • How to Write a Motivational Letter, Step-by-Step
  • A Great Example of a Motivational Letter
  • Useful Motivational Letter Tips

What Is a Motivational Letter?

A motivational letter, sometimes also called a letter of motivation, is a formal letter that you might have to submit when applying for an educational program or a job. Its goal is to show the hiring manager or admissions officer why you’re the perfect candidate for the position.

Motivational letters are typically submitted alongside your CV or resume . Unlike a cover letter, which gives practical examples of how your skills and experience match the opening, a motivational letter focuses more on your personality, interests, and motivation to apply.

When Do You Need a Motivational Letter?

A motivational letter is usually required when an organization wants to gauge your enthusiasm, cultural fit, and motivations for a particular opportunity.

There are a few situations when you might need to submit a motivational letter, such as:

  • You’re applying for an educational program.
  • You’re applying to work at a non-profit organization or mission-driven company.
  • You’re applying for an internship in a competitive field.
  • You’re applying for a volunteer position at a charity or non-government organization.
  • You’re applying for a grant, fellowship, or some sort of scholarship .

No matter the situation, a motivational letter serves to express your distinct driving forces and convey your enthusiasm for that specific role, program, or opportunity. That’s why, done right, a motivational letter can convince the reader to go through your application in detail.

However, if the specific position doesn’t explicitly require a motivational letter or other written statement, you might be better off learning how to write a cover letter instead. Cover letters can be a great addition to your application and help you stand out from other candidates who are only relying on their resumes.

cover letter templates

How to Write a Motivational Letter

Now that you know what a motivational letter is, it’s time to write your own.

Just follow the steps we’ve outlined, and you’ll be done in no time:

#1. Address Your Letter Appropriately

Your motivational letter should include a header with all the necessary contact details.

For starters, this means you should include your contact information , such as your full name, email address, phone number, and any other details that might be necessary for your application.

Additionally, you should include your intended audience’s contact details. Depending on where and what you’re applying for, this might be either a hiring manager or an admissions officer.

To establish a connection with the reader, include a personalized greeting instead of the generic “To Whom It May Concern.” To do that, you have to find out who the hiring manager or admissions officer is.

Start by doing a bit of research. Review the job listing, the program’s official page, or the application instructions. If you can’t find their name there, check the organization’s website and look for a staff directory.

Once you have their name, address your motivational letter professionally . We recommend using an identifier followed by their last name. But if you’re not sure about their title or gender, you can just use their full name, too. For example:

  • Dear Mr. Smith,
  • Dear Dr. Singh,
  • Dear Cameron Smith,

Just avoid informal greetings like "Hey, John!" – your motivational letter is still meant to be a formal document.

#2. Stick to the Program Requirements

Writing a captivating motivational letter is all about showing the hiring manager or admissions officer how you meet the requirements for the position.

To help get the ball rolling as you start drafting your motivational letter, ask yourself: 

  • What kind of applicants are usually admitted to the program? 
  • How do you fulfill the requirements?

First, you need to know the exact program requirements and explain how your background and strengths align with the outlined criteria.

Comb through the details the organization has provided about the ideal skills, experiences, qualifications, or personal qualities they’re looking for in a candidate. Maybe they want someone proficient in data analysis , or they’re prioritizing candidates who are passionate about the industry.

Just remember –  you don’t have to highlight how you meet all the listed requirements if your application already includes a detailed academic CV . Just identify the top three to five requirements and give concrete examples of how you meet each.

Here’s an example:

Requirement: Minimum 2 years of volunteer experience

“I was a medical volunteer in Namibia for three years. It’s one of my most fulfilling adventures and transformative experiences so far since I am passionate about helping others. I believe it broadened my horizons and made me more resilient.”

#3. Align with Their Values

Your motivational letter should explain what drives you and show the reader how you share their organization’s values.

Take time to thoroughly research the organization , its culture, objectives, and driving forces. Find what resonates with your own beliefs and goals and mention it in your motivational letter.

But don’t just randomly sprinkle keywords into your letter. Instead, thoughtfully use your passion to build a narrative that shows how your values align with the institution’s mission. 

Be sure to give concrete examples. For instance, if the company values sustainability, you might want to share an anecdotal example, such as:

Values: Sustainability, Climate Action, Nature Conservation

I have a deep passion for nature conservation, and I have volunteered extensively with environmental organizations, especially in restoring local wetland habitats. I also practice eco-friendly habits in my professional life by advocating for reducing workplace waste and single-use plastics.

#4. Express Genuine Interest

Above all, your motivational letter should demonstrate that you really want to be there.

That said, there is a fine line between pleading and showing intelligent interest while also selling yourself. Generic statements can come across as insincere and unmotivated. Instead, write about what really attracted you to the opportunity.

Be as specific as possible and express your passion without necessarily begging them for a chance. For example:

  • I would love to live in Aberdeen because I’m fascinated by Highlander culture, and I’m excited to dive into the city’s rich cultural heritage and vibrant community dedicated to the arts, music, and preserving Scottish traditions.
  • It is my dream to be part of the Environmental Science Master's program because of its cutting-edge research in sustainable energy solutions and marine conservation efforts, which align with my passion for protecting our planet's ecosystems.

Specific examples and details show you've invested time learning about the organization, which helps your genuine passion shine through your motivational letter.

#5. Personalize It

While showcasing how you meet requirements is crucial, don't be afraid to let some of your personality and voice shine through.

Use descriptive adjectives to paint a fuller picture of who you are beyond just your credentials. Are you an endlessly curious, lifelong learner? A creative problem-solver? Passionate about how technological advancements can be used to increase sustainability?

Let your distinct character and values shine through to make your motivational letter more memorable and help differentiate you from other applicants. This can convey important soft skills and give the reader a glimpse of the person behind the qualifications.

Just make sure you’re still presenting a polished bit of personality and keeping it relevant to the opportunity. For example, if you’re applying for an MA in mathematics, don’t mention your passion for historical re-enactment.

Are you applying for an academic program? Learn how to write an academic personal statement here.

#6. Don’t Just Recap Your CV

Using your motivational letter to simply summarize your CV is a wasted opportunity. If the application requires a motivational letter, they’re looking to get to know you beyond the required stats and qualifications. 

The person reading your motivational letter is looking for the context around your motivations, passions, and aspirations. So, instead of just listing credentials, expand on the driving forces behind your experiences and decisions.

If you’re applying for a master's program, for example, mention your relevant undergraduate coursework, but also explain what sparked your interest in this specialization and why this path is personally meaningful. So, if you’re a History undergrad, elaborate on how volunteering at the archaeology museum made you pursue a graduate degree in Museum Studies and Curatorship.

Here’s a practical example of how that might look:

As a History undergraduate, my passion for preserving and sharing our cultural narratives was sparked by a semester-long museum internship. Working alongside curators as they brought ancient artifacts and stories to life through compelling exhibits opened my eyes to the vital role museums play in education and connecting communities to their roots.

This experience solidified my drive to pursue museum studies at the graduate level, where I can develop professional expertise in responsible collection stewardship, thoughtful exhibition development, and engaging public programming that keeps our shared histories vibrant and accessible for all.

Getting your documents ready for that application? Learn how to write a resume with our detailed guide.

#7. Convey Your Ambitions

Your motivational letter should express your ambitions and aspirations just as much as your relevant achievements . Admissions committees and employers who ask for motivational letters want to clearly understand both your goals and how this opportunity aligns with them.

Share your vision for how you plan to apply the knowledge, essential skills, or experience you'll gain. If it's a job, explain how it will prepare you for further career growth and impact in that field. For an academic program, discuss how you aim to contribute to cutting-edge research or become a leader and mentor.

Don't be afraid to think big - motivated candidates often have big goals of driving innovation, making a difference, or pushing boundaries in their discipline. Just make sure your aspirations are realistic and show that you have a plan and are truly invested in this path for the long term.

Here’s an example of how you can convey your ambitions in your motivational letter:

My long-term goal is to become a leader in sustainable urban design and planning that seamlessly integrates green infrastructure into the built environment. This master's program will equip me with the interdisciplinary skills to develop eco-friendly architectural solutions and climate-resilient city policies that prioritize environmental conservation alongside economic growth and social equity.

#8. Don’t Lie

One of the biggest mistakes you could make while writing your motivational letter is lying.

If you write anything remotely false, the reader will likely sense it. When you lie, you’re likely to unconsciously exaggerate your feelings and ideas. If you tell a fake story or inflate your excitement or achievements, you won’t get anywhere.

Your dishonesty is likely to be exposed and severely damage your credibility, leading to an immediate rejection.

Honesty and integrity are essential to writing an effective motivational letter. The goal of this document is to truly reflect who you are, why you’re the best match for this opportunity, and what you hope to achieve.

Don’t worry if you think your life so far just isn’t impressive enough to write a captivating story. No matter where you’re coming from, you can show the reader your unique perspective, personal growth, and unwavering determination to pursue your passions.

#9. Use a Motivational Letter Template

If you want your motivational letter to make a striking first impression, presentation matters.

A basic black-and-white document from a text editor will hardly stand out. Instead, try one of our professionally designed motivational letter templates for an attention-grabbing solution!

Novoresume offers modern, eye-catching templates that can give your motivational letter a polished look. You can even use the resume builder to match your motivational letter to one of our sleek resume templates for a coherent application.

Save precious time on formatting and create a visually flawless application in no time!

motivation letter resume matching

How to Structure a Motivational Letter

You’ve got the gist of how to write a motivational letter down, but it’s just as important to know how to structure it.

If your motivational letter is a messy, haphazard series of unrelated paragraphs, it simply won’t make the cut. You need your motivational letter to tell a coherent story, and this is where the structure comes in.

The whole process will probably require a few drafts until you get to the perfect, polished motivational letter. You might have to move around paragraphs or sentences until you have the ideal story that compliments your application, so don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time.

Let’s look at what each motivational letter looks like and includes:

How to Structure a Motivational Letter

#1. Contact Details

Start by adding all the relevant contact information at the top of your motivational letter.

Here’s what to include:

  • Full Name. Place your first and last name at the top of the page.
  • Professional Title. Match your professional title to the specific position you're aiming for. E.g.: if you’re applying for a Ph.D., write “Ph.D. candidate”.
  • Email Address. Include a professional and straightforward email address. We recommend sticking to something that combines your first and last name.
  • Phone Number. Include your phone number and add the dialing code in front if you’re applying overseas.
  • Location. Adding your city and state/country is more than enough.
  • Relevant Links. Optionally, you can include links to any relevant websites or social media profiles, such as a portfolio, a blog, a LinkedIn profile , etc.

Then, add the contact information of the admissions officer or hiring manager reading your motivational letter, such as:

  • Organization’s Name. Start with the name of the organization to which you're sending your application.
  • Recipient’s Name. If possible, find the name of the exact person who's going to be viewing your application, such as the hiring manager or the admissions officer for the department you're interested in. Check the organization’s website to get a head start.
  • Recipient’s Title. Always address the reader professionally. For example, if they’re a professor or doctor in their field, use the appropriate identifier.
  • Location. Provide the exact address of the organization you’re applying to. Include the city, state, country, and street number, and even specify the building if necessary.

#2. Introduction

Begin your motivational letter with a strong introduction.

The first few sentences need to be attention-grabbing – do this through a short, engaging pitch about yourself and why you are applying.

Here’s what you can include:

  • A summary of who you are and what you do.
  • Details about what you’re applying for and where.
  • A prelude to the bulk of your motivational letter.

Remember - this part only needs to include the general reasons behind your application, since you’ll have the opportunity to make a deep dive later on in the body of your motivational letter.

Let’s look at an example of what your introduction could look like:

Dear Dr. Octavio,

My name is Jane Doe, and I would like to express my interest in applying for the Ph.D. Robotics program at Columbia University. I’ve always dreamed of becoming a robotics engineer and contributing to advancement in the field, and I believe that a Ph.D. in Robotics from this university would set me miles ahead of reaching my goal.

The body of your motivational letter is where you get to really sell yourself.

It’s also where the bulk of your text is going to be, so it determines your motivational letter as a whole.

There are two things you should keep in mind when writing this section of your motivational letter: the paragraph structure and the paragraph contents.

Generally, there are two main paragraph-based structures for your motivational letter.

First is the classic, three-main-paragraph structure, where each paragraph accounts for your introduction, body, and conclusion. If you’re using a storytelling approach for your motivational letter, we recommend sticking to this one.

However, if you want to be more factual and to the point, we recommend trying the seven-paragraph structure. It divides the main body of your motivational letter into smaller paragraphs according to your main points, where each discusses a specific achievement, experience, or aspiration.

Use the body of your motivational letter to mention the stories behind your achievements, essential skills , and passion for whatever you’re applying for.

This is the right place to be as detailed and factual as possible. Give concrete examples of what motivated you to apply for this position, and show how that directly relates to what the organization is looking for in a candidate.

Here are some sentences you can paraphrase and use to help you write the body of your motivational letter:

  • My passion for [field] started when [experience] . 
  • I want to [join this organization] because [ motivation] . 
  • I have been part of [relevant organization or field] for [amount of time] . It’s the best thing for me because [reason] .
  • I remember once when I [experience] , which made me realize that I [gained interest in the specific field] .
  • [Organization or program] resonates with me because [specific reason] .
  • What distinguishes me from my peers is [something you’re proud of] .

Let’s look at a brief example of how this is put into practice.

I developed my passion for digital marketing during my internship at XYZ Inc. Working for a small startup allowed me to gain surface-level experience in most digital marketing channels. Now, I would like to deep-dive and gain advanced know-how by attending the Buffalo College Marketing program.

#4. Conclusion

After finishing the body of your motivational letter, it’s time to wrap it up and send it in.

Use this section to briefly summarize your main points and remind the reader why you’d be a great fit for the organization or program you’re interested in.

Then, mention your overarching career goal and how that aligns with their organization’s mission.

Finally, thank the reader for their time and sign off on your motivational letter. Here’s an example:

Therefore, I believe that my strong academic foundation in environmental studies and hands-on fieldwork experience are qualifications that position me to make outstanding contributions to your master's program. I believe that the knowledge I gain in the Sustainability and International Relations program will play a pivotal role in my mission of shaping innovative policies and scientific solutions to combat climate change and protect our planet's biodiversity for future generations.

Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the opportunity to join UCLA in the fall semester.

George Maxton

How to Format a Motivational Letter

Always review your motivation letter carefully and stick to any stated requirements or guidelines for your application.

Organizations will sometimes include formatting specifications, like word count or page limits, or even questions they want you to answer in your motivational letter.

If you’re writing a motivational letter for an academic program, you can usually find this information on the admissions requirements webpage or within the provided application materials. 

For job applications, these details are usually listed on the job ad or in the company's job application portal.

Always follow these rules exactly as stated. Going off script could get your application immediately rejected since it shows you’re either not attentive or you’re not taking the opportunity seriously.

If, on the other hand, there aren’t any guidelines for your motivational letter, we recommend you follow these tips:

  • Keep your motivational letter one page long.
  • Use a clear structure with concise paragraphs to make your letter easy to skim.
  • Choose a professional font like Lora or Roboto and make sure it’s sized 11-12 pt.
  • Set your page margins to one inch on all sides so your page doesn’t look too cluttered or too empty.
  • Include the date you wrote your motivational letter for an extra professional touch.
  • Use powerful words and action verbs (“designed” and “conceptualized”) instead of cliched phrases (“helped with” and “managed”).
  • Smoothly connect your thoughts through transition words.
  • Proofread carefully for any spelling or grammatical errors.
  • Include a professional closing line like "Sincerely" at the end of your text.
  • Print your motivational letter out and sign it, or send it as a PDF to preserve your formatting.

How to Format a Motivational Letter

Motivational Letter Example

Let’s look at an example of a great motivational letter for a Ph.D. program at Harvard University and go through just what this candidate does right:

motivation letter example

The candidate’s letter to Harvard University’s Department of Political Science starts by addressing the person in charge of admissions for the Ph.D. program they’re interested in.

The general requirements for the Political Science program are:

  • Being research inclined
  • Having a demonstrated passion for politics
  • Showing above-average performance during undergraduate studies 

The values of the university they’re applying to are integrity, education, respect, and accountability.

The candidate’s motivational letter is neatly divided into a total of five paragraphs, of which three make up the body of the text.

Here’s how they highlight their motivation:

  • They know the history of the university and share the same values.
  • They’re genuinely excited and passionate about the program and the school.
  • They show what their qualifications are and how they’ll be a great fit for the program.
  • They explain what they hope to achieve if they get the opportunity to study at Harvard.

Essentially, the candidate has listed all their qualifications through a personal story. After reading this letter, the admissions officer will feel like they know the candidate adequately, especially since they have communicated who they are by highlighting how they match everything the Ph.D. program is looking for in an applicant.

Need more inspiration? Check out our 60+ cover letter examples for different professions.

Key Takeaways

You’ve made it to the end of our guide!

Now, you know everything there is to know about motivational letters. We’re confident you’re a shoo-in for that position you have your sights set on!

But before we go, let’s quickly sum up what we’ve covered so far:

  • A motivational letter is a formal document that’s usually required when applying for university admissions, a non-profit organization, or a volunteer position.
  • Motivational letters are different from cover letters since they focus more on your interests, passions, and ambitions than on your skills and achievements.
  • Generally, there are two ways to structure your motivational letter, depending on whether you want to tell a story or factually go through all the points that make you an ideal candidate.
  • The introduction of your motivational letter should be brief and immediately grab the reader’s attention. Use it to tell them who you are and why you’re interested in applying for the specific opportunity.
  • Always do your research on the specific program or organization. This can help you show genuine interest and convey your aspirations for the future in this field.
  • Make your motivational letter stand out by using one of Novorésumé’s templates and giving the admissions officer or hiring manager a gorgeous first impression.

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How to Write Motivation Letter for PhD Program?

  • Post last modified: March 11, 2022
  • Reading time: 11 mins read
  • Post published: March 4, 2022

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.

Looking for Fully Funded PhD Programs? Click Here

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…

How to Write a Follow-Up Email? Mistakes To Avoid

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.

Motivation Letter vs Cover Letter I All You Need To Know

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.

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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what is motivation letter for phd

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  1. How to Write Motivation Letter for PhD

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  2. 14+ Motivation Letter For Phd Sample

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  3. Motivation Letter For Scholarship

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  4. Letter of Motivation For Scholarship

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  5. Tips for Writing a Successful Motivation Letter for Ph.D. [+Sample]

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  6. Tips to Write a Successful Motivation Letter for PhD

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  5. Motivation letter for scholarship with AI|How To Write A Motivation Letter|Step by Step Guide|#በአማረኛ

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a PhD Motivation Letter

    A PhD motivation letter is a document that describes your personal motivation and competence for a particular research project. It is usually submitted together with your academic CV to provide admissions staff with more information about you as an individual, to help them decide whether or not you are the ideal candidate for a research project

  2. Tips for Writing a Successful Motivation Letter for Ph.D. [+Sample]

    A motivation letter as used in the case of a Ph.D. application can be much likened to a Personal statement. There is a need to know if you're truly qualified to do a Ph.D. while writing an application to a school, so the motivation letter is the perfect insight into who you really are and they expect you to do it justice.

  3. How to Write a PhD Motivation Letter with Samples and Expert Tips

    1. Don't Forget About the Formatting. PhD admission requirements differ between the many programs out there, so be cognizant of how they ask you to format your paper. If the requirements state a two-page limit, then write two pages. The same goes for other criteria like font size, paragraph spacing, and word length.

  4. How to Write a Successful PhD Motivation Letter

    A PhD motivation letter is a wonderful opportunity to stand out from the crowd and get into the PhD program of your choice, even if you don't meet the admissions requirements perfectly. It's a chance to express your passion for studies and demonstrate your fit for the program.

  5. How to Write a Successful PhD 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.

  6. How to Write a Cover Letter for PhD Applications

    The first thing you should include in your cover or motivation letter is a few introductory sentences. Outline who you are, what you are currently doing, whether it be a Masters or a job, and what PhD position you're applying for. Make sure to include the PhD project reference number if one is provided in the description. Next, you're going ...

  7. How to Write a Powerful Motivation Letter for PhD Program

    An outstanding motivation letter for Ph.D. admission will entail: A concise introduction disclosing which Ph.D. program you seek. Your professional experience and educational background. Major skills, experiences, and interests that you have and what makes you an outstanding candidate. What drove you to apply.

  8. Step-by-Step guide to writing the Best Motivation Letter

    Hi👋, today I want to give you a few tips for writing an amazing motivation letter. Good luck applying ️00:00 - Intro00:29 - What should be in your letter?1...

  9. How To Write a PhD Cover Letter (With Template)

    Write the introduction. Once you finish the body of the cover letter, write the introduction. The introduction should clearly state what you're applying to. You may also use this space to briefly mention an ambition or goal for the future. 5. Highlight your key strengths and experiences in the first body paragraph.

  10. Writing an Academic Cover Letter for a PhD Application

    Summary. The aim of an academic cover letter is to convince the supervisor that you are a strong candidate for the PhD position on offer. Your cover letter should be half a page to a full page in length; it should be concise and to the point. Your PhD cover letter should include your personal details, the position you're applying for, your motivation for applying, what you know about the ...

  11. How to Write a Motivation Letter for PhD Programs?

    A successful motivation letter allows the admission committee of any institution to select students of excellent academic backgrounds. While applying for Ph.D. programs, a student has to submit a motivation letter that states why they wish to embark on that particular position and how appropriate they are to be studying in the chosen program. Ph.D. applications are not classified as any other ...

  12. A Quick Guide To Writing A Perfect Motivation Letter For PhD

    A PhD motivation letter is an ancillary document that supports your admission application. Its main purpose is to present key aspects of personal competence, your academic interests, and your career objectives. ...

  13. Motivation Letter for Ph.D.

    Ph.D. Motivation Letter Sample. To Whom It May Concern, I am writing this letter to express my interest in applying for the Ph.D. project available in the (group name) under the project (project name) at the (institution name). I graduated with a master's degree in civil engineering in (year) from the (institution name) in (location, city ...

  14. Best Motivation Letter for Phd: 07 + Samples

    Best Motivation Letter for PhD in Physics: Dear [Physics Department], In the universe of academia, your Ph.D. program in Physics is a celestial body of knowledge. My journey in [Your Field], particularly in [Your Specific Physics Area], fuels my desire to contribute to the cosmic narrative of your esteemed department.

  15. How to Write an Engineering Motivation Letter for a PhD

    The structure. A recommended overall structure for the letter is as follows: A brief (1 or 2 sentences) introduction. Your motivation for applying to do a PhD (personal statement) Your academic achievements and relevant life experiences. The impact you hope to make with your research. Your future career plans.

  16. PhD Motivation: How to Stay Driven From Cover Letter to Completion

    While recognising what you've already accomplished with your PhD will help provide the motivation to achieve even more. So for instance breaking down the first of those example milestones, completing your first set of experiments, could be broken down into much smaller short term goals: Breaking down goal 1: Completing your first set of ...

  17. Cover Letter for PhD Application: Example From a PhD Student

    An academic cover letter is a document that PhD candidates submit alongside their academic CV when applying for a PhD. Essentially, it's a cover letter for a PhD application. It's not exactly the same as your regular business cover letter. Nor is it the same as a personal statement or a motivation letter.

  18. How to Write a Motivation Letter (With Tips and Examples)

    Take a new paragraph for every new topic. Remember, your motivation letter aims to convince your recipient of your value, so use compelling facts to be persuasive. 4. Conclude your motivation letter. Write a conclusion to your motivation letter that summarizes your goal and leaves a positive final impression.

  19. Motivational Letter Writing Guide + Examples for 2024

    Convey Your Ambitions #8. Don't Lie #9. Use a Motivational Letter Template How to Structure a Motivational Letter #1. Contact Details #2. Introduction #3. Body #4. Conclusion How to Format a Motivational Letter Motivational Letter Example Key Takeaways. Share this article. You're about to apply for the job opportunity of your dreams.

  20. How to Write Motivation Letter for PhD Program

    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.

  21. PhD Cover Letter Examples & Expert Tips · Resume.io

    Here is what we cover in the PhD cover letter example and writing guide: Understanding how to structure your cover letter, with each part serving a purpose: header, greeting, introduction, body and conclusion. Effectively showcasing your academic motivations throughout the cover letter.

  22. How to Write a Standout Letter of Intent for Graduate School

    Header. Your letter of intent should follow the format of a formal business letter, which includes the name and address of the person you're addressing, the date, and a formal salutation. Typically, you'll want to find each program's graduate director and address your letter to them, using the program's or department's mailing address ...

  23. How to Write a Motivation Letter 2024 (+ 3 Examples)

    Craft an emotional story for the middle part of the letter. The body of the motivation letter gives you the chance to outline exactly how your motivations fit the opportunity that is on offer. If you are applying for a PhD programme, go deep into why you are passionate about your subject.

  24. How to Write an Exceptional Research Scholarship Motivation Letter

    However, you must use your best judgment to write a concise yet impactful scholarship motivation letter. It should usually range from 500 to 1,000 words. Divide them into 3 paragraphs for easy comprehension and better readability. This eases the job of the review committee members.