The Student Room Group

How much wider reading should you mention in your science personal statement?

Instead of mentioning just books, could I replace reading some books by talking about interesting articles and research projects I've read about? I have seen some example personal statements do this with documentaries.
Original post by rbrillantina
Instead of mentioning just books, could I replace reading some books by talking about interesting articles and research projects I've read about? I have seen some example personal statements do this with documentaries.


Yes, definitely - so long as you've actually read these articles and have something relevant and intelligent to say about them.
Yes, as above that would perfectly suitable. Wider "reading" is really used in the broadest sense of the term "reading" and includes any kind of materials that may parallel those you would study in uni. For someone planning to study anthropology, ethnographic films would be very relevant wider reading; for someone planning to study English literature, viewing theatrical performances of dramatic works would be relevant wider reading.

However as noted, the point of wider reading is not just to list a bunch of things you've looked at uncritically. It's to use those experiences as a way to analyse their content critically and reflect upon them in terms of why you are interested in studying your proposed subject area. Remember you should aim to show not tell in your personal statement!
Original post by rbrillantina
Instead of mentioning just books, could I replace reading some books by talking about interesting articles and research projects I've read about? I have seen some example personal statements do this with documentaries.


Just to add to what the others didn't mention:

When selecting material to read, it's important that the material is 1 level above your current level.

So, for example, if you're an A-level student currently, you want to be reading undergraduate research articles, not articles designed for A-level students.

If you're studying for a master's degree, you don't want to read undergraduate research articles; you should be reading master's degree research.

Likewise, if you were studying for a PhD, the research articles should be designed for PhD students, so you shouldn't be reading master's degree research articles if you're going in for a PhD.

The level of the research and who it is aimed at, is important.
Original post by artful_lounger
Yes, as above that would perfectly suitable. Wider "reading" is really used in the broadest sense of the term "reading" and includes any kind of materials that may parallel those you would study in uni. For someone planning to study anthropology, ethnographic films would be very relevant wider reading; for someone planning to study English literature, viewing theatrical performances of dramatic works would be relevant wider reading.

However as noted, the point of wider reading is not just to list a bunch of things you've looked at uncritically. It's to use those experiences as a way to analyse their content critically and reflect upon them in terms of why you are interested in studying your proposed subject area. Remember you should aim to show not tell in your personal statement!

Thank you for your answer! So far, for the resources I've read, I've not found any criticism to express as they are more like scientific explanations, but I've commented on how the books and articles particularly interested me, what I learnt from them, and what they made me reflect on.

I'm not very sure if this would classify as show not tell. Do you have any tips on how I could not show and not tell on my personal statement?
Original post by rbrillantina
Thank you for your answer! So far, for the resources I've read, I've not found any criticism to express as they are more like scientific explanations, but I've commented on how the books and articles particularly interested me, what I learnt from them, and what they made me reflect on.

I'm not very sure if this would classify as show not tell. Do you have any tips on how I could not show and not tell on my personal statement?

Critical =/= criticism. Critically analysing something doesn't mean criticising it in the colloquial use of the term, it means using critical thinking in evaluating it.

For your other question, just focus on what you got out of the reading/experience, rather than just listing that you did it. So instead of writing "I read X and it was interesting", explain why it was interesting, what led you to read it, how that integrated into what else you have read or knew, etc. Basically show how that experience has developed your perspective through your writing (i.e. how your writing about that has fundamentally changed now you have read and know X).

It's kind of hard to explain without examples and I'm hard pressed to think of one offhand, particularly as I'm not really sure what you're applying to.

The only one I can come up with is an example from my recent PS (for applying to ancient languages) - I wrote about how I audited a module in a particular ancient language, then discussed examples of how that language compared and contrasted with another I had studied and related that to some reading I had done on a proto-language that they are both considered to have derived from. Rather than just saying "I should study ancient languages because I audited this module on an ancient language and found it interesting", I tried to show how that experience developed my understanding overall while (hopefully? I got an offer so...!) demonstrating the kinds of skills needed for that course.

Obviously the specific content isn't relevant for a science course in your case, but hopefully that illustrates the different approach.
(edited 1 year ago)
Original post by artful_lounger
Critical =/= criticism. Critically analysing something doesn't mean criticising it in the colloquial use of the term, it means using critical thinking in evaluating it.

For your other question, just focus on what you got out of the reading/experience, rather than just listing that you did it. So instead of writing "I read X and it was interesting", explain why it was interesting, what led you to read it, how that integrated into what else you have read or knew, etc. Basically show how that experience has developed your perspective through your writing (i.e. how your writing about that has fundamentally changed now you have read and know X).

It's kind of hard to explain without examples and I'm hard pressed to think of one offhand, particularly as I'm not really sure what you're applying to.

The only one I can come up with is an example from my recent PS (for applying to ancient languages) - I wrote about how I audited a module in a particular ancient language, then discussed examples of how that language compared and contrasted with another I had studied and related that to some reading I had done on a proto-language that they are both considered to have derived from. Rather than just saying "I should study ancient languages because I audited this module on an ancient language and found it interesting", I tried to show how that experience developed my understanding overall while (hopefully? I got an offer so...!) demonstrating the kinds of skills needed for that course.

Obviously the specific content isn't relevant for a science course in your case, but hopefully that illustrates the different approach.


Thank you, this was really helpful!

Quick Reply