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怎样开始应付PS写作

发布时间:2007-6-2 文字大小:  打印:打印此文
在美国印第安纳大学英语训练中心当任助理教授的布鲁斯・利兹博士,为研究申请者解答应怎样开始应付写作 。讨论题目有:
1. 我需要多长时间写一份完善的个人声明 (personal statement)?
2. 我怎么开始写呢?
3. 我的背景很普通,怎么办呢?
[bamboo] WELCOME EVERYONE!
[bamboo] I'm Bamboo :) host for today's event.
[bamboo] As most of you know, today's event focuses on HOW TO START WRITING MY PERSONAL STATEMENT (PS)
[bamboo] We're very privileged to have Dr. Bruce Leeds with us today.
[bamboo] Dr Leeds is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Center for English Language Training in Indiana University, U.S.
[BruceLeeds] Thank you. I am privileged to be here.
[bamboo] Professor Leeds is also very experienced in advising and guiding international students on writing their personal statements for graduate school application.
[bamboo] Hi Professor Leeds, Thank you for being here with us today. I believe it's 10pm your time?
[BruceLeeds] Yes it is. The time differences are very confusing to me sometimes. :)
[bamboo] Our session lasts for one hour today. I will first ask Professor one question and then invite all of you to ask your own questions. I'm sure you have many questions for our honorable guest today.
[bamboo] Yes, indeed, Professor Leeds, I always get myself confused with the time differences too. :-P So glad you can be here with us even though it's late in your time zone. :)
[bamboo] Professor, what role does the statement of purpose play in one's application?
[BruceLeeds] Most universities do not have the funds (money) to be able to interview prospective students personally. That means that the application essay is the main way that a university has to get to know the student personally, what he/she is interested in studying specifically, how well he or she can write and organize his/her thoughts. Things like that. It is considered a VERY important part of the application material, and truly can "make or break" a student in terms of getting into the school.
[bamboo] I see, so the PS (personal statement) is like a cover letter.
[BruceLeeds] It is kind of like a cover letter, but it allows the writer to go into greater detail of course. The personal statement is really a PERSONAL statement. Lots of students don't understand this and think that there is some kind of form that they should follow in writing. The form of your essay should follow what it is you are trying to communicate (form follows content). There is no special form to follow—just be sure your ideas are clearly expressed and well organized. They will be looking for your ability to write (clarity and organization) as well as trying to find
out your study interests and who you are as a person.
[aaron] My question is how to start it, it confuses me.
[bamboo] I guess every one of us have some framework in mind when we start writing our PS, but the daunting task is how to start the process WELL.
[BruceLeeds] You should always start with the familiar. That is very important. When you sit at the computer, your thoughts can block your writing. Don't think "On no. I am sitting here writing in a foreign language and I don't know what to say." Simply begin writing about how much you love your major and why (this more for the master’s application than the Ph.D.). Then in the later stages of writing, you can organize your ideas any way you want. The most important thing is to relax. (Easy for me to say).
[BruceLeeds] Let me say something quickly about the beginning again. Make the beginning a short paragraph that orients the reader. Tell them quickly what you are doing now and why you are writing the statement (what degree you are applying for and when you want to begin). It will help relax the reader!
[kimwin] Yeah. Prof, I wonder if PS should focus more on past activities or pay more attention to future prospects.
[BruceLeeds] Kimwin: past activities. Nobody knows the future! And everybody understands that, including your reader!
[pundit] Professor, what content should the ps mainly covers, in relation to master's or PhD application.
[BruceLeeds] Content should cover your area of interest, as specifically as you can. And if you can, tell the reader about how you got into your study career to that specific extent.
[kimwin] Prof, is it proper to start with a short story?
[BruceLeeds] Beginning with a short story is an excellent idea! Even for the Ph.D. application, which typically focuses on research interest, you can communicate the history of your deep interest in your major by telling the reader a story. Remember, the statement is partly for telling the reader about who you are. If you do begin with a story, make sure that after the story you connect it to your statement right away in the next paragraph.
[bamboo] How do we capture the reader's attention? I mean, the professor in the dept will be reading so many statements. How do I make mine stand out?
[BruceLeeds] You can make your statement stand out (this is a good question!) by making it as personal as you can without making it too personal. Whey you are finished with your statement, it should be one THAT NO ONE ELSE COULD HAVE WRITTEN.
[bamboo] To write a unique PS: how do I evaluate myself, see the good in myself? If my background is ordinary, how do I make myself look GOOD? :p
[BruceLeeds] I think it is important not to evaluate yourself in your statement. DON'T talk about yourself like "I did such a great job on ....." SHOW the reader how enthusiastic you are about your field of study and allow the reader to make his or her own decisions about you. I hope you see what I mean. Show, don't Tell.
[BruceLeeds] Notice the difference: I won the best student of the year award during my junior year of college. Instead of the above, say: I was so excited when I won an award in my junior year for the best student.........Do you see what I mean? Speak about yourself indirectly if you can. Speaking directly about your achievements can sound arrogant to the reader, and the reader is reading your essay, again in part, to try to find out what you are like as a person. No one wants to work with a person on his/her Ph.D. for several years if that person is arrogant, for example. I know that must sound scary.
[bamboo] All: this session is organized for you, so make full use of it. Don’t be shy in asking your questions.
[xdz] Professor, I'd like to ask how one can start with a story in an objective view. I mean a story always tends to be unconvincing especially for a Ph.D. program application, doesn't it?
[BruceLeeds] Everybody likes a good story. However, I would say that a story at the beginning of an essay is more appropriate for the master's application that for the Ph.D. The Ph.D. application is pretty formal and focused on research experience and interest (even including the discussion of a dissertation topic.)
[pundit] Prof. I want to know which personal stage we should begin with, such as high school or bachelor program and so on.
[xdz] I think for a graduate program application, bachelor program is a better starting point. We might mention high school, but a glance at most.
(to pundit)
[pundit] oh I see thanks
[BruceLeeds] For example, if you are applying for a master's degree, you could start with a story about when you where a child and you first fell in love with your major. Everybody loves the idea of a long love affair with one’s major. It makes it sound as though you WERE BORN TO STUDY THAT. But you are right: typically a mention of high school and more discussion of the increased sophistication of your interest through college. The basic idea is to CREATE A CONVINCING NARRATION. A narration that leaves the reader at the end with the idea: this guy really loves his major!
[bamboo] So the point is to arouse passion! ;P
[BruceLeeds] Arouse passion - YES. Demonstrate your passion in your writing. Yes yes yes.
[kimwin] Prof, is it proper to pay great attention to my own striving history? Say, how I improved from an ordinary student to a good one?
[xdz] To kimwin, I think it's meaningful to show your hard work. But it's necessary to be aware that you are showing that you are qualified for the program. I mean if you just convince the reader: I strove hard to get my current level....Well, what's more? Maybe the reader thinks that you weren't born to do this (otherwise you wouldn't have done so hard).
[BruceLeeds] Generally you should stay away from negatives. The danger of writing about your moving from being an ordinary student to a great one is that the reader will remember you being an ordinary one! :) It depends of course on the context of what you are saying. There ARE times when you need to create such a narration.
[cfyue] My university is not famous, is it a weak point for applying? Should I mention my research work in the ps very much? The quality of your university can be a weak point, but it is best not to focus on that. There is nothing you can do about it anyway. Just present the best image you can to the reader through your writing. Be positive and project a positive image of yourself. How much you mention your research work depends, of course, how important you think it is for your application. If it is a research degree, then you should emphasize it, yes.
[Rachel] Prof, if I'm applying for a different major, is it helpful to describe my current research experience in detail? Maybe this research isn't so related with the major I'm applying for?
[BruceLeeds] Whether you should talk about your research work I believe depends upon whether you feel that it is important for your application and degree, as I mentioned above.
[piglet] How should I talk about the research I am interested in since the professor knows more than me?
[BruceLeeds] Just talk about your research as clearly as you can. Don't think about the professor. Just concentrate on the clear exposition of your idea.
[piglet] Prof, what do you mean by exposition of idea?
[BruceLeeds] “what do you mean by exposition of idea”---explaining your idea.
[BruceLeeds] “How should I talk about the research I am interested in since the professor knows more than me”---don't think about the reader in that way. Concentrate on expressing your ideas. It is a little like climbing a high ladder. DON'T look down! :)
[BruceLeeds] You are not going to know more than the professor. But that is not why you are writing the statement. You are writing the statement, again, to tell the reader what kind of person you are: friendly, excited about studying in the States, excited about your major and your future. The person who gets hired for a job is typically the person that the interviewer feels like working with.
[bamboo] On piglet's question, will it help to talk about the direction he/she wants to pursue in research, but leave it open enough to inform the reader that she knows she still has a lot to explore in the field?
[BruceLeeds] Will it help to talk about the direction he/she wants to pursue in research, but leave it open enough to inform the reader that she knows she still has a lot to explore in the field? Yes!
[xdz] Prof, I'm applying for PhD. programs. As a senior undergraduate student, I'm actually not so strict with the research direction. So how should I strike a balance? I mean between "showing my specific interest" and "convincing that I have a broad interest in my major". Thanks!
[BruceLeeds] Between "showing my specific interest" and "convincing that I have a broad interest in my major------focus on what you love about what you have accomplished in your field so far.
[cfyue] I'm one graduate, and I want to apply PhD program, what should I mention much in my ps, the studying experience or the research experience, if I mention the research work too much , does that mean I will take more risk to get one offer, because one professor can reject me easily for the unmatchable research.
[BruceLeeds] cfyue: That is a tough one. Yes, if you say "I only want to study such and such," you're dead if they don't have it. As you know, fields are interconnected today, and it might be a good idea in this case to tell the reader that there are several aspects of a field that you would be interested in pursuing. If there is a specific area that you want to pursue, and the school does not have it, then don’t apply.
[BruceLeeds] If you are changing your major, give the reader a good reason. The American system is very flexible, but the reader will want to feel that you have purpose.
[bamboo] Prof: following up on Rachel’s question, how could Chinese students get a good feel about how flexible the system is? Is it by looking at what is the required foundation for the new major... or...?
[BruceLeeds] By flexible I meant, in this instance, that you are allowed to change your mind about majors. Lots of lawyers in the US were English majors! I simply wanted to stress that the reader is going to attempt to judge your character to an extent, and you do not want to project to the reader the image of someone who changes his/her mind "too" frequently.
[greenlight2005] dear bruceleeds, I want to apply PhD in USA, but I've done too little work beyond my research and have never entered a campus party activity, how can I compensate that in my ps. My major is electronic engineering. Thanks.
[BruceLeeds] Greenlight. I don't think the extra activities are significant, if that was your question.
[xdz] Prof: A good matching is always emphasized in PhD application. But as an undergraduate, many students don't have such matching and just have general interest in specific major (including many research directions). How should these students express their intention? Thank you.
[BruceLeeds] Intention should be expressed with as many specific experiences as possible.
[cfyue] As one graduate, what he/she does is not very broad, so what should I mention about my research work? Are there some rules?
[iceccn] Dear Prof, I want to ask a question about application, I want to apply for economics or statistic, and finance, but my research work done is not worthwhile by now. How can I put them in my P.S. more powerful? Or should I do something on purpose and then make my P.S. more presentable? Thank you :)
[BruceLeeds] I mentioned that the American system of ed. is flexible. That also means that it is OK to not know exactly what you want to pursue, at least up to the Ph.D. Education is a process of exploration and the reader is going to understand that. Demonstrate your varied interests in your writing. Suggest possibilities of investigation. Tell the reader that you look forward to exploring many areas and the advice of the teachers. Not for Ph.D. unless it is a special case.
[xdz] Prof, in application to PhD programs (engineering), how do readers evaluate one's social practice, say experience in student unions, clubs, Red Cross community, etc.? Thank you.
[BruceLeeds] Irrelevant in my opinion (question immediately above).
[ladybug] Prof Bruce, I am applying for PhD in computer science. Should I talk about my work experience as a programmer for 1 year?
[BruceLeeds] ABSOLUTELY talk about ANYTHING relevant to your major. Work experience is highly valued. When you talk about things in your essay, an experience for example, INTERPRET it for the reader. What did you learn from your job experience?
[Gracei] So you mean the working experience is quite important?
[bamboo] Gracei, that answer was in relation to ladybug's: she wants to apply for a PhD in CS and wants to know if she should talk about her one-year work experience as a programmer.
[Gracei] oh, ic, thx:)
[Rachel] Thanks, Prof. I expect to get a master degree in physics, now I’m applying for Electronic and Electrical Engineering. In my opinion, my current major is relatively theoretical, and I want to study more in applied major. Is that a proper reason for me to changing majors? May I say my interest is in appliance not in theory, but fundamental theoretical knowledge I've learned these years can help me greatly in the next learning of engineering.
[BruceLeeds] Saying that you want to switch to a more applied area is FINE. When you mention your past study, don't do what some students do: saying that they hated what they had been studying. Say something like, "Despite the fact that I learned a lot from....." See what I mean?
[iceccn] Dear Prof, is there any differences between the P.S. for master and for PhD? What should I pay more attention to if I apply for each one?
[BruceLeeds] Basically, as I mentioned, the Ph.D. application essay should be very focused. The master's less focused.
[bamboo] I have one very important question which I asked earlier :p I hope you could answer this one :)
[bamboo] Among the ps you read from international students, what are some of the top weak points you notice immediately? Just so we don’t repeat the same dumb mistakes :-
[Gracei] good question:)
[kimwin] yeah, we want to know that
[BruceLeeds] The main week point that comes to my mind immediately is the fact that many students tend, sometimes in an attempt to be humble, to be too negative. The statement is mainly about image, or persona, and it is important that the writer create the kind of persona that the reader will respond to positively: a person who is creative, interested in her/his major, flexible, for example in her/his ability to live in a “foreign” country, etc. Skip all negative comments and focus only on the positive in your statement.
[bamboo] Prof: before we end today's session, do you have anything to add as an advice to our applicants?
[BruceLeeds] Best advice? Easy to give but difficult to follow: BE YOURSELF. The more you project an image of a person who is happy with him/herself and his/her major and future possibilities, the more the reader will be drawn in to the essay and the more likely the reader will put your file on the top of the stack! :) Don't forget: a personal statement is personal (not too personal for the Ph.D., but still not an essay that could have been written by anyone else.)
[bamboo] Thank you everyone, for participating and bringing your questions. We hope this session has been helpful to you. We will publish the chat log tomorrow on our website. You can visit
http://www.instudent.com/blogs/inde...nBLOG?cat=295or
http://www.instudent.com.cn/blogs/i...ianDi?cat=188to view
the past chat logs we have on school application.
[bamboo] Prof: thanks a lot for being here with us today.
[BruceLeeds] Good night everyone! This was very enjoyable. We will do it again.
[bamboo] Prof, thanks again. Wishing u a very good labor day weekend. :)
[bamboo] BTW, Professor Leeds will be publishing a book on “how to write your PS”.
[bamboo] We expect that book to be available for download in October from the inStudent website.
[ladybug] Where can we ask more questions?
[bamboo] We have a new forum where u can ask more questions!!! Feel free to check it out.
[bamboo] All: best wishes for your application!!!
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