Participatory genre analysis of statements of purpose
An identity-focused study
Keywords:personal statement, PhD application, identity
Writing Statements of Purpose (SoP) is a challenging task for students applying for English-speaking graduate schools, as they need to demonstrate their competence as junior members of the research community and satisfy the requirements of admission officers. Previous studies have focused primarily on the SoPs written by US applicants or the perspectives of admission officers. This study investigates how Chinese students wrote and revised their SoPs for US Ph.D. programs through an action research project which offered feedback on their earlier drafts. Through participatory genre analysis of a small corpus of both earlier and final versions of SoPs by 20 Chinese applicants admitted to US graduate schools, it is found that, after revising their SoPs, the applicants tended to enact their researcher identities by removing certain moves and steps that were less relevant to the rhetorical purposes and adopting the moves and steps usually found in research articles. A framework for writing SoPs based on the results of a genre analysis of a small corpus of the successful SoPs is developed to help future applicants and their language teachers.
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