Clarification on writing a Statement of Interest
February 11, 2013 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Hello Hivemind, I will be entering grad school this fall and am in the process of applying for a research fellowship. The application states that you must submit a statement of interest that includes primary and collateral research interests, as well as career objectives. It should not exceed 3 pages. I am very aware that this is different than my statement of purpose, which I used when applying to grad school. However, I have several questions. My first question is, what are collateral research interests? Is this like a secondary line of research interests? If I had more research experience and was published, etc, I could see making the three pages. But, I only have a senior thesis and junior thesis. So I was thinking that I might explain why I am interested in the fellowship and mentors I might like to work with, as well as answering the above questions. Thanks
posted by TRUELOTUS to Education (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What subject are you studying?
posted by grouse at 10:12 AM on February 11, 2013

Response by poster: health policy
posted by TRUELOTUS at 10:20 AM on February 11, 2013

This is something worth asking your professors / recommendation letter writers about. If they are not familiar with the particular fellowship, or they are not in your intended field of graduate study, you can still ask them if they know somebody you could ask for advice on writing the particular statement of interest. You want to write something that fits the guidelines of the fellowship application itself, and is also appropriate for the field of study- what might work for Fellowship A might not work for Fellowship B, and the norm for field of study C might differ considerably from field of study D.
posted by research monkey at 10:29 AM on February 11, 2013

I understand primary research interest to be the specific objectives of your current research project (be it a Ph.D or other). What questions is your current research going to answer? What is your dissertation going to focus on? Where and to whom are you most likely to publish/present your research? (What field is going to be interested in your findings?).

Therefore, collateral research interests would be one of three things: 1. academic discussions that inspire your work but that you do not debate directly. (For instance, I use methods borrowed from critical discourse analysis, but I do not contribute to debates in that field). 2. Fields and debates related to your main research interest, which you will discuss in a very limited and specific context - likely outside of your main research project but during the graduate program (I did a paper on gender while doing my Ph.D, even though my thesis wasn't about gender. Inserting it directly in the research program would have detracted from the main argument of the thesis, but the findings were relevant to my field). 3. Questions your research findings are likely to raise, which will inform your future work/your career objectives.

What you discuss in the three pages accorded to you depends on the fellowship. Is it a fellowship granted by the department to its students? If so, it could make sense to talk about mentors you might like to work with. Otherwise, make it about positioning your intended research program in your field of research: show that you understand the debates, that your research program answers questions in the field and is original, that you have read the relevant literature, have a plan as to how you will carry out your project in a sensible amount of time (methodology). Show that your current program will help you achieve your current research goals and, more importantly, demonstrate how important your contribution will be.
posted by Milau at 1:05 PM on February 11, 2013

Best answer: It's a tough question to answer before you've started your research career... but what they want to know is what field of research you want to pursue? What questions are you interested in? List a few, in order of your decreasing preference. I think "collateral interests" just means you can list more than one.

They don't want to hear that you want the fellowship because you need the money. You could bring the mentors into it, but only because they relate directly to the research questions you want to explore.

For career objectives, you should tell them that you want to get a PhD, and then... what? Move into research? Guide health policy from within academia / from within an NGO / as a non-elected government official? You need to say something concrete here --- if they ask for it, it's not optional.

Good luck --- you will probably have to write several applications in order to have a high chance of having one funded.
posted by FrereKhan at 1:05 PM on February 11, 2013

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