Crafting The Perfect History PhD Statement of Purpose (Example) -

Philippe Barr, PhD
9 min readJun 20, 2023

Embarking on the path toward obtaining a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in History is no small feat. This advanced degree signifies the highest level of academic achievement and requires a great deal of hard work and dedication. But before enrolling in a PhD program, you must first submit a statement of purpose, which outlines your motivations, experiences, and goals. Crafting an effective statement of purpose can be challenging, but it is also a valuable exercise in self-reflection and can make all the difference in gaining admission to a top program. Your statement of purpose should highlight your skills, experiences, and goals, and provide insights into why you are a good candidate for your desired program. In this blog post, we will delve into the importance of writing a strong history PhD statement of purpose, offer tips on how to craft an effective document and provide you with a history PhD statement of purpose example to give you an idea of the tone you should adopt to increase your chances of admissions into a top program.

How important is the statement of purpose when applying to PhD programs in history?

The statement of purpose is an essential part of the application process for a PhD program in history. The statement of purpose is typically the first item that admissions committees review when evaluating candidates. Its quality plays a crucial role in helping committee members, who are often overloaded with applications, decide whether to investigate the rest of an applicant’s file. As a result, prospective PhD students have only a brief window to make a good impression. A poorly written or unclear statement of purpose can often harm an applicant’s chances of acceptance.

(Would you like to know what PhD admissions committees are looking for? Watch this quick video to find out key elements to highlight in an application)

What is the recommended structure for a statement of purpose for a PhD in history?

While there is no strict rule about the order of presentation and while sections might vary from one applicant to another, the structure of the statement of purpose should follow that of a well-crafted essay. In general, it is advisable to divide the document into several sections, each devoted to different aspects of your academic and professional interests in history.

It should provide information about your background, and experiences that have led you to pursue a PhD in history. It should also provide space for an exploration of your research goals as they relate to the field. You may discuss any specific topics or areas of focus within history that interest you most deeply. Also, it can provide detail into any relevant prior research and publications that may have already been conducted in the field.

Finally, space should be allocated for a discussion of how your skills and interests align with the program’s curriculum, faculty, and research opportunities. Overall, your statement of purpose should be an intelligible narrative that allows readers to gain insight into your unique background and motivations as they relate to history. As demonstrated in your history PhD statement of purpose example, it is up to you to come up with a well-structured version that will reflect your personality and profile.

Reflect on Your Academic Journey

Your academic journey thus far is an essential thread to weave into your statement of purpose. Start by reflecting on the ways that your previous studies and research have contributed to your intellectual curiosity and shaped your research interests. What specific courses have been most influential to you? What scholarly works have resonated with you and why? Engage in self-reflection and think critically about the ramifications of previous research and how it can impact your future research.

Address Your Research Interests

Your statement of purpose should showcase your passion and interest in the field of history. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and research skills. You should highlight your specific research interests and discuss how they fit into your long-term academic and career goals. Make sure to be specific and clear about your research interests to demonstrate that you have put considerable thought and effort into your application.

As you will see in our history PhD statement of purpose example, it is important to highlight your research interests and demonstrate a strong level of familiarity with the field. Identify gaps in the existing research that you want to address, justify the importance of the proposed doctoral project, and place it in the context of the wider historiography. Explain what makes your proposed research significant and novel, and how it can contribute to the current understanding of historical phenomena. This is your chance to demonstrate your knowledge of the field and your passion for specific topics. Be specific and avoid broad generalizations. Make sure that your interests align with the research expertise of the department and faculty you are applying to.

Emphasize Your Skills and Preparation

History PhD programs require rigorous preparation. Outline your preparation to date, including specific coursework, relevant internships, and research experience, and qualify it with academic excellence. Showcase the technical skills you have acquired and how they are relevant to pursuing advanced research in history. Highlight any language proficiency, archival research experience, or data analysis expertise, as these skills are highly sought after in the field. Describe any research projects or papers you have written, academic awards, or scholarships you received. This information will help showcase your scholarly abilities and prepare you as a competitive candidate.

Discuss Your Future Goals

The statement of purpose is not only an evaluation of your current readiness but also an assessment of your future potential. Discuss your future career goals and the impact you want to have in the field of history. Bring up how you plan to use your PhD in History to become an authoritative voice or make a significant contribution to the field. Let the admissions committee know that you have long-term goals in mind that you hope to achieve with a PhD degree in history.

Connect your goals to the program’s offerings

When applying to a PhD program in History, it is important to explain how the program’s offerings will help you achieve your goals. A statement of purpose should include specific examples that illustrate how you plan to use the resources available through the program — such as faculty advisors, courses, guest speakers, and research opportunities — to pursue your academic and professional objectives. For instance, if you are interested in researching ancient history and applying a digital humanities approach, you might explain how working with certain faculty members who specialize in this field would allow you to develop these skills. You can also discuss any interdisciplinary projects or collaborations that could help you explore new topics or deepen your understanding of existing ones.

Additionally, stating how extra-curricular activities outside of the classroom would help you become a well-rounded scholar is also important. For example, attending lectures and seminars held by experts in the field or participating in scholarly clubs may supplement your academic experience. Finally, connecting your goals to potential future career paths should be included in your statement of purpose as well. Explaining how a PhD program has the courses, faculty members, research projects, and extracurricular activities to prepare you for postdoctoral work or professional positions demonstrates that you have thoughtfully planned out your academic trajectory. By explaining specific examples of how the program will support your educational and career objectives in your statement of purpose, you can demonstrate why it is an ideal choice for you.

Demonstrate confidence and clarity

Your statement of purpose should demonstrate confidence and clarity. Use clear, concise language, and avoid using jargon or overly-complex terms. Avoid vague and unsupported statements and make sure to provide evidence of your experience and skills. By demonstrating confidence and clarity, you show your potential advisor that you are a serious candidate capable of excelling in the program.

Review and Edit

Once you have completed a draft of your statement of purpose, take the time to revise, edit, and proofread. Have a trusted friend, family member, or consultant review your statement and offer feedback. Make sure that your writing is clear, concise, and error-free. Polish your statement so that it presents you in the most compelling and professional manner possible.

History PhD Statement of Purpose Example:

“As my studies progressed throughout high school and into college, I became increasingly fascinated by this pivotal era in history and its impact on modern society.

After completing a bachelor’s degree with honors in History at ABC University in 2019, I am now eager to pursue a doctoral program in Medieval History. At ABC University, I conducted extensive research on the role of women during the Middle Ages through period texts and archaeological sites. In my honors thesis, titled…. I investigated….

In addition to developing an impressive range of research skills during my undergraduate studies, I also worked closely with esteemed faculty members such as Professor X who encouraged me to take on ambitious projects and provided me with invaluable guidance. I am now confident that I possess the skills needed to conduct advanced research at an independent level.

In my doctoral program, I am particularly excited to focus on studying women’s status in the Middle Ages through various lenses such as politics, social customs, and religion. By extending this research into other areas of medieval history, I hope to eventually write a dissertation that will form a substantial contribution to modern scholarship in this field.

Additionally, I look forward to building upon the knowledge I gained during my undergraduate studies by engaging with experts in the field, taking advantage of diverse resources in libraries and archives around the world, and exploring groundbreaking methodologies for interpreting primary sources. At XYZ University, I am eager to enroll in A, B, and C courses because…I am also looking forward to taking advantage of….etc.

After graduation, I plan on seeking employment as a tenure-track assistant professor in history at a liberal college, and in the long term, I intend to continue to teach and conduct research on…

My commitment to achieving excellence is undiminished and I am confident that I have the skills, knowledge, and passion to succeed in a doctoral program. I am excited to take my research to the next level and contribute to our understanding of an era that continues to shape modern society.”


No matter how daunting the challenge of writing a strong history PhD statement of purpose may seem, the immense rewards associated with gaining admission into a top program make it an endeavor well worth pursuing. We hope that our history PhD statement of purpose example provided you a much better understanding of how to craft an effective document that will improve your chances of success. Additionally, we’ve provided you with a sample statement of purpose to use as inspiration as you work towards achieving your dream PhD program admission. Finally, if you’re looking for professionals who can provide guidance and support through the sometimes overwhelming process of applying for grad school, take some time to check out our PhD application services. In the end, taking the right steps to maximize your prospective PhD candidate profile will pay huge dividends that will certainly benefit your academic career and beyond. So don’t hesitate and start crafting and/or improving your statement of purpose today! Got questions? Sign up for a consultation, or send us your draft for an estimate. It’s FREE!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barr has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

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Originally published at on June 20, 2023.



Philippe Barr, PhD

I am Philippe Barr, founder of The Admit Lab, a graduate school admissions consultancy that helps students get admitted into grad school: