East Carolina University
Department of English
PhD in Rhetoric, Writing, and Professional Communication

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Considerations for Writing a Statement of Purpose

When we review your application to the PhD program at ECU, we are particularly interested in learning more about your research interests and how ECU’s PhD Program in Rhetoric, Writing, and Professional Communication and the faculty in the program are well suited to your future work on that topic.  The more information you can provide us with on these areas, the better we can review and assess your application to the program. 

For this reason, when you write the “statement of purpose” that you will submit with your application packet to the PhD program, we encourage you to try to explicitly address the following items/questions:

Question 1: What do you wish to study/research?

In answering this question, present the general or overall area you wish to study (e.g., “I am interested in studying medical rhetoric.”). 

Try, if possible, to note the specific topic or area you wish to examine in relation to the overall topic in which you are interested (e.g., “I am particularly interested in the rhetorical patterns physicians use to convey diagnoses of medical test results to patients.”)

Question 2: Why do you wish to study/research this topic?

Explain what the source of your interest is in relation to the area you wish to study (e.g., “This topic is of interest to me due to my previous work as a physician’s assistant – a context in which I regularly encountered situations in which physicians had to make key, rhetorical choices of how to present the results of medical tests to patients.”). 

In so doing, be sure to note any previous research or other work you have done in relation to this topic (e.g., “In my Master’s program, I completed a thesis on the rhetorical practices physicians working in emergency rooms used to convey medical information to the family members of injured individuals.”) or any other experiences you have had in relation to this topic (e.g., “Through my five years of working in a medical clinic, I have gained an interest in the rhetorical choices healthcare providers use to convey information to lay audiences.”)


Question 3: How can the specific PhD program at ECU help you pursue this research interest?

In answering this question, note how various courses, faculty, or other aspects of the program can help you pursue this research interest (e.g., “Courses such as . . . can help me further research and understand various aspects related to rhetorical practices in different contexts, particularly medical contexts.  Similarly, I would be interested in working with faculty such as . . . whose previous research in this area would align well with my own research interests on that topic.  I also believe that opportunities available through related programs such as . . .would help me further explore my research interest in meaningful ways.”)