PhD Cover Letter: Examples & Writing Tips for PhD Application

It’s not important whether you are trying to keep your student discounts long into your 30s or answer some questions nobody could in the history of humanity. It can all be achieved with a properly crafted PhD application. 

 

The places are very limited, and there are dozens of equally good candidates. This PhD cover letter guide will focus on some important steps that you need to think about when crafting the letter.


The first thing you ought to do is check the requirements of the institution that you’re applying to, firstly to make sure they require a cover letter, and secondly to see what sections they’d like you to cover. They differ from school to school, course to course.

 

Use the LiveCareer cover letter builder and your cover letter will write itself. Choose a professional template, answer a few easy questions and the creator will generate a professional cover letter for you with just one click.

 

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PhD cover letter example

 

Mohammed Whittaker

97 Castledore Road

Twyford 

RG10 9XT

07873254992

mohammed@whittaker.com

 

John Smith

Dean of Philosophy

Nottingham Trent University

50 Shakespeare Street

Nottingham

NG1 4FQ

 

June 1, 2021

 

RE: PhD Philosophy and Public Policy Programme

 

As an MA Philosophy Distinction graduate from UCL with a narrow focus on the Right to Privacy and the way surveillance, crime prevention and other governmental acts violate it, I am excited to apply to a PhD Philosophy and Public Policy programme at an institution so focused on evaluating global surveillance policy and influencing real, positive change. 

 

I completed my MA writing on the philosophical and moral basis of modern human rights, with a focus on the right to privacy in the digital world to assert whether the Declaration of Human Rights and other conventions could be being violated by national internet privacy laws such as the Investigatory Powers Act. During this time, I also worked as a Teaching Assistant, which allowed me constant feedback from the new generation of philosophers on these themes, which really helped guiding the process when I was selected to assist on interdisciplinary research with Sociology and Psychology colleagues: ‘I Have Nothing To Hide: Understanding and Perceptions of Privacy, Rights to Privacy, and Surveillance in the UK’. Having surveyed a sample of 3,800 subjects, we probed how strong innate feelings of rights are, and how easily apathy towards pursuing one’s rights can be affected by highlighting violations and abuses against the subjects. The results of the study are due to be published in the Journal of British Philosophy.

 

I am especially interested in the Evidence and Policy part of the course, as I am a firm believer that not only do certain regulations violate our human rights, they do not bring about the outcome that is touted as the justification for them. I am conscious of my need to expand my skill set and approach in the light of my ambition to advocate and advise non-governmental and governmental bodies on necessary concessions and compromises. 

 

When dealing with issues of global technology, it seems like the law and public policy are always playing catch-up. However, an approach based on classic philosophical themes seems to suggest that these measures are misguided and harmful to all. During my PhD study, I would like to stop focusing on the past and theory, and further explore the possible practical consequences of a world without privacy which we seem to be sliding towards, drawing on the body of knowledge in behavioural sciences My previous publications spanned from the root of the rights discussed, through their applications to modern situations, to analysis of the moral and rational shortcomings and violations. By delving into the exploration of possible behavioural consequences, which will no doubt have deep imprints on the future of mankind, I believe this publication will become a comprehensive treatise on the subject.

 

In the future, I hope there will be a government interested in listening to these concerns, but until then, there are a number of non-governmental organisations working to make a change, as well as some legal challenges that could use the assistance of an extensive authority on the subject. By allowing me to study the possible future consequences of this line of public policy, we will be able to better influence the imagination of future decision makers, as well as all citizens.

 

I invite you to find the publications listed in my CV and see the strong base, committed continuity and passion I devoted to the subject so far. I would love to discuss any finer or broad points with you.

 

Best Regards,

Mohammed Whittaker

 

That’s how to write a top-of-the-class PhD cover letter. Follow these cover letter tips and craft your own, step by step.

 

1. Begin with a professional header and salutation

 

Most likely you will be applying through an automated system and pasting this cover letter into a box, but if not, compose the header like in any other business letter: 

  • Right-align your contact details (including email and phone)
  • Left-align your hiring manager’s details
  • Put down the date
  • State the subject of your PhD cover letter

 

If possible, try to address the cover letter directly to the person dealing with it. In this profession, surname may be better than first name, initially. Reference against this PhD cover letter sample:

 

PhD cover letter example—header

 

Mohammed Whittaker

97 Castledore Road

Twyford 

RG10 9XT

07873254992

mohammed@whittaker.com



Professor John Smith

Dean of Philosophy

Nottingham Trent University

50 Shakespeare Street

Nottingham

NG1 4FQ

 

June 1, 2021

 

RE: PhD Philosophy and Public Policy Programme

 

Dear Professor Smith,

 

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2. Open your PhD cover letter with your motivation

 

Open your cover letter by stating clearly what position you are applying to and why. Quickly summarise your academic qualifications up to now, and show that you know exactly why you’re applying here, and not somewhere else. 

 

Show how your path has naturally led you here, and you will be off to a winning start.

 

PhD cover letter example—opening paragraph

 

As an MA Philosophy Distinction graduate from UCL with a narrow focus on the Right to Privacy and the way surveillance, crime prevention and other governmental acts violate it, I am excited to apply to a PhD Philosophy and Public Policy programme at an institution so focused on evaluating global surveillance policy and influencing real, positive change.

 

3. State your academic interests and background

 

Here is the space to evaluate more on the educational path that has led you here, and to set the stage for showing your Master’s education segues perfectly into this next step. Show how your findings situate themselves in the body of knowledge on the subject.

 

Highlight what is original about your thesis or approach, and how it expands the body of knowledge on the subject. Mention any other publications that supplement your thesis, even the ones that are planned or due to be published. 

 

Example PhD cover letter—academic background

 

I completed my MA writing on the philosophical and moral basis of modern human rights, with a focus on the right to privacy in the digital world to assert whether the Declaration of Human Rights and other conventions could be being violated by national internet privacy laws such as the Investigatory Powers Act. During this time, I also worked as a Teaching Assistant, which allowed me constant feedback from the new generation of philosophers on these themes, which really helped guiding the process when I was selected to assist on interdisciplinary research with Sociology and Psychology colleagues: ‘I Have Nothing To Hide: Understanding and Perceptions of Privacy, Rights to Privacy, and Surveillance in the UK’. Having surveyed a sample of 3,800 subjects, we probed how strong innate feelings of rights are, and how easily apathy towards pursuing one’s rights can be affected by highlighting violations and abuses against the subjects. The results of the study are due to be published in the Journal of British Philosophy.

 

You don’t have to create any content yourself. The LiveCareer cover letter maker will automatically suggest the best content for your cover letter with ready-made examples and expert tips.

 

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4. Explain the areas of interest in the PhD programme

 

Highlight your specific interests within the course programme and how they relate to you developing your research further. This will show you have done in-depth research into the course programme and chosen wisely.

 

Example PhD cover letter—programme interest

 

I am especially interested in the Evidence and Policy part of the course, as I am a firm believer that not only do certain regulations violate our human rights, they do not bring about the outcome that is touted as the justification for them. I am conscious of my need to expand my skill set and approach in the light of my ambition to advocate and advise non-governmental and governmental bodies on necessary concessions and compromises.

 

5. Show your research / thesis aspirations 

 

It’s time to start tying up all the ends and showing how your previous background and research, combined with the teaching you will receive on this programme, and your own efforts, will combine to spawn something new, novel, and useful to the discipline.

 

Balance your track record with your future plans, and try to be specific about what you expect to get from your research. Make sure it is realistic, as well as interesting.

 

PhD cover letter example—research goals

 

When dealing with issues of global technology, it seems like the law and public policy are always playing catch-up. However, an approach based on classic philosophical themes seems to suggest that these measures are misguided and harmful to all. During my PhD study, I would like to stop focusing on the past and theory, and further explore the possible practical consequences of a world without privacy which we seem to be sliding towards, drawing on the body of knowledge in behavioural sciences My previous publications spanned from the root of the rights discussed, through their applications to modern situations, to analysis of the moral and rational shortcomings and violations. By delving into the exploration of possible behavioural consequences, which will no doubt have deep imprints on the future of mankind, I believe this publication will become a comprehensive treatise on the subject.

 

6. Show your professional aspirations and close

 

If you have specific professional plans, highlight them and how your PhD will allow you to pursue them. Once again, be realistic, but bold. 

 

Once you are done rounding out your professional aspirations, close your cover letter out with a call to action—a request for some attention to your previous work, and perhaps a more in-depth discussion of how you imagine it. 

 

PhD cover letter example—closing

 

In the future, I hope there will be a government interested in listening to these concerns, but until then, there are a number of non-governmental organisations working to make a change, as well as some legal challenges that could use the assistance of an extensive authority on the subject. By allowing me to study the possible future consequences of this line of public policy, we will be able to better influence the imagination of future decision makers, as well as all citizens.

 

I invite you to find the publications listed in my CV and see the strong base, committed continuity and passion I devoted to the subject so far. I would love to discuss any finer or broad points with you.

 

Best Regards,

Mohammed Whittaker

 

6. Format your PhD cover letter properly

 

Follow these tips for a well-formatted cover letter:

 

PhD cover letter length

 

Consult your university resources for the length and type of the cover letter they expect. Sometimes, there is no cover letter required.

 

Use the CV format

 

Your PhD CV and cover letter must have the same style. They are two parts of one document. You won’t be allowed to continue your research if you can’t continue an application neatly.

 

Use an elegant font

 

Choose a font size between 10 and 12. Pick a readable, but elegant font that matches your CV font—think Arial, Calibri, Noto, Garamond.

 

Use even margins and white space

 

Pick a simple cover letter template without fancy graphics. Use white space between sections and paragraphs to guide the reader’s eyes. Center your PhD cover letter on all sides using even, 1-inch margins. If your university has a word limit for cover letters and you are running out of space, considering pulling out some bullet points.

 

Target each PhD cover letter

 

Tailoring your cover letter is key. This should go without saying. There will be only a few places where you can reasonably apply, and you ought to find out as much as you can about all of them before you even start writing the first cover letter.

 

 

A cover letter alone simply won’t be enough—you need an impactful CV, too. Create your CV in minutes. Choose a professional CV template and quickly fill in every CV section using ready-made content and expert advice.

 

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Does this answer how to write a cover letter for PhD application? Got any more questions on what to include? Did you find the PhD cover letter example helpful? Let us know in a comment!

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