Admission to graduate study

My comments here refer primarily to the University of Illinois GSLIS doctoral program, but are somewhat applicable to the masters program, to other PhD programs, and to related requirements for academic job applications and promotion and annual reviews.

  • Letters of recommendation. Three letters of recommendation are typically required. For a doctoral program, it’s important that these speak to the applicant’s ability to do academic research and scholarship. That means that letters from employers are usually less effective than those from professors, and the professor letters are best when they emphasize the accomplishment of or potential for research.
    It’s appropriate and helpful for the student to offer detailed documentation to assist the letter writers. This documentation might include the written statements, a curriculum vita, details such as the exact title and date of an award or a conference presentation, reminders or links for a class project, or other talking points. Some letter writers will appreciate even actual text, which can be adapted for use in a letter, e.g, “Ms. Jones presented last Winter at the ALISE conference on her work in the area of information literacy. This work has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Education for Library and Information Science.”
  • Written statements.
    • Applicant statement–your previous academic work in your proposed or allied fields of study, including course work, other educational experiences, teaching or relevant employment, publications, and your plans for graduate study and a professional career. The Applicant statement is typically required for any level of program, whereas the Research statement is for doctoral programs only.
    • Research statement
      • my own view on the research statement
      • from GSLIS Doctor of Philosophy Applicant Research Statement: “designed to give you the opportunity of exploring a problem, question or issue that interests you, and that you might like to pursue in your doctoral work…As you discuss the problem, question or issue, clearly describe it and why it is of interest to you. Why is it important? Why do you think it has not been addressed sufficiently beforehand? Why should others be interested in it? How might you go about investigating it in order to come up with results that would further our understanding of it? In evaluating your Research Statement, the committee will look for how well you have conceptualized the question or problem and explained its implications. They will also consider the appropriateness, rigor, and creativity associated with how you propose to go about finding answers or solutions.”

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