Statement of purpose for taught postgraduate course

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Lupacante
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Hi all,

I am applying to a postgrad course in Mathematics and Foundations of Computer Science and am writing my statement of purpose.

Most advice I have found on the internet about it suggests saying what you want to do your dissertation on and what you would like to research later. However, I have only just started my undergraduate dissertation - how am I supposed to know what I want to study later in life?

Is it bad that I don't really know anything more specific than that I'd like to contribute to the field of graph theory? Will this be a problem for my application, and will it disadvantage me?

Thanks,
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SophieLK
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When I applied to do my masters in International Commercial Law (I got into 6 out of the 8 places I applied to with a 2.2) I just wrote a personal statement like the one that you have to write to get into your place of undergraduate study.

This included my intentions for wanting to study further, why I was interested in commercial law, my ambitions, and why the university in question. Also what I could bring to the university. I spent a long long long time writing it, and a good personal statement can really get you in anywhere. I never wrote about what I was going to write my dissertation on, as I hadn't learnt in depth enough yet. I'm not too sure that advice is sound.

Hope this helps,

Sophie
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iceflyier
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I did the complete opposite :fluffy::fluffy: I researched pretty thoroughly what I thought I might want to work on for my dissertation, since I actually found the research proposal easier to write than the personal statement. I was going through a rough patch in my life back then and found it easier to think and write about academia than about myself, if this makes any sense..! I ended up writing on a completely different topic for my MA, so there's no pressure to actually "carry out" your proposal, as it were.

Basically, the research proposal consists of four paragraphs/sections. The first paragraph is usually a broader outline of what you want to work in. The second paragraph zooms in a bit and mentions the scholarship in your field over the past ten years, the third paragraph indicates your methodology and how your research builds upon/differs from past materials, and in the fourth paragraph you can talk about the resources/modules that your prospective university offers, that would help you in your research.

Incidentally I got into all 5 Russell universities I applied to, although my marks weren't that stellar either (non-UK university, GPA 3.5/4.0). Hope this helps, and good luck!
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Lupacante
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(Original post by iceflyier)
I did the complete opposite :fluffy::fluffy: I researched pretty thoroughly what I thought I might want to work on for my dissertation, since I actually found the research proposal easier to write than the personal statement. I was going through a rough patch in my life back then and found it easier to think and write about academia than about myself, if this makes any sense..! I ended up writing on a completely different topic for my MA, so there's no pressure to actually "carry out" your proposal, as it were.

Basically, the research proposal consists of four paragraphs/sections. The first paragraph is usually a broader outline of what you want to work in. The second paragraph zooms in a bit and mentions the scholarship in your field over the past ten years, the third paragraph indicates your methodology and how your research builds upon/differs from past materials, and in the fourth paragraph you can talk about the resources/modules that your prospective university offers, that would help you in your research.

Incidentally I got into all 5 Russell universities I applied to, although my marks weren't that stellar either (non-UK university, GPA 3.5/4.0). Hope this helps, and good luck!
Thanks for your reply! However, I'm not applying to a research oriented masters, but rather a taught one.

I've got a basic idea of what I'd like to study, so I think I'll just say a few things about that.
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Klix88
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(Original post by Lupacante)
Thanks for your reply! However, I'm not applying to a research oriented masters, but rather a taught one.

I've got a basic idea of what I'd like to study, so I think I'll just say a few things about that.
You'll usually find that even a taught Masters contains a significant research element, in the form of a dissertation or independent project. Mine was one-third of my final mark, even though I was on a taught course.
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Lupacante
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(Original post by Klix88)
You'll usually find that even a taught Masters contains a significant research element, in the form of a dissertation or independent project. Mine was one-third of my final mark, even though I was on a taught course.
Ok, so do you think I should be researching what I would like to carry out my masters research in, or will I not be expected to have such a clear idea yet?
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iceflyier
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(Original post by Lupacante)
Thanks for your reply! However, I'm not applying to a research oriented masters, but rather a taught one.

I've got a basic idea of what I'd like to study, so I think I'll just say a few things about that.
The programmes I applied to were all taught masters, just so that you know.
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Lupacante
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(Original post by iceflyier)
The programmes I applied to were all taught masters, just so that you know.
Yes, I've understood that, and I've understood that researching what you wanted to do your dissertation on helped you get in.

What I'm asking is - do I need to know what I want to do my dissertation on? Is it that important to have a clear idea about it at this stage?

Thanks
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Klix88
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(Original post by Lupacante)
Ok, so do you think I should be researching what I would like to carry out my masters research in, or will I not be expected to have such a clear idea yet?
It's useful to have a rough idea of the direction, but it's not vital to have a specific research question in mind when you apply. You'll find that many students don't finalise their topic until well into their second Masters semester. You can gain a lot of useful insight by talking to your teaching staff during your first term. You'll be finding your supervisor at the same time and it can oil the wheels if you have a dissertation question which has been formulated with their guidance.
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Lupacante
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(Original post by Klix88)
It's useful to have a rough idea of the direction, but it's not vital to have a specific research question in mind when you apply. You'll find that many students don't finalise their topic until well into their second Masters semester. You can gain a lot of useful insight by talking to your teaching staff during your first term. You'll be finding your supervisor at the same time and it can oil the wheels if you have a dissertation question which has been formulated with their guidance.
Thanks
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iceflyier
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(Original post by Lupacante)
Yes, I've understood that, and I've understood that researching what you wanted to do your dissertation on helped you get in.

What I'm asking is - do I need to know what I want to do my dissertation on? Is it that important to have a clear idea about it at this stage?

Thanks
Not really, although I do think that it would give you an edge. You could always change it when you get in, of course (I did). What the admissions board are looking for is something that sets you aside from other candidates, and if you go the extra mile by showing that you've put a lot of thought in researching and thinking about your dissertation, rather than saying what a hundred other candidates have written already - "I want to get into X because of its prestige, I want to work with Y because of blah" it won't do you any harm. Just saying.

Incidentally I think it's worth mentioning that I didn't quite have the grades to meet the terms of my conditional offer (they asked for 3.75 overall minimum), but the course director emailed me saying that he was very impressed with other aspects of my application so he wanted to make me an offer nonetheless.

At the end of the day it all boils down to what you're prepared to do then I suppose. Obviously writing and researching a proposal is going to be a bit more work than a personal statement, but of course it's different for everyone. I actually think you could email your current tutor and ask him what he thinks about the personal statement/research proposal.

Hope this helped, and good luck!
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ihavemooedtoday
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You definitely don't need a clear idea. Some rough idea of even just which field (within the subject) you are interested in would be good, though. At least show that you know something about your subject, and where your interest lies.
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Lupacante
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(Original post by ihavemooedtoday)
You definitely don't need a clear idea. Some rough idea of even just which field (within the subject) you are interested in would be good, though. At least show that you know something about your subject, and where your interest lies.
Ok, massive thanks to everyone for your replies. I have an idea of what field within my subject I'd like to research, so I'll state that, what I've read about it and why it interests me.
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