Thursday, June 14, 2012

The worst personal statement ever

The relatively new Section A: Personal Statement on NIH biosketches is still a mystery to many aspiring researchers.  Aside from questions regarding whether to write in first or third person or whether to restate degrees when they are already listed above, many people just have no idea what to write.  This is tough in general.  How can anyone easily sum up their life experience and career achievements in one or two paragraphs?  However, there are some basics that should be included in the personal statement.  First and foremost, don't forget to describe your experience related to the subject matter being proposed in the application.  If you are an expert in social sciences research and the proposed project is focused on the study of penguin births, how is your experience relevant?  What are you bringing to the project?  If you can't easily tie your expertise to the proposed project's subject matter, how can you expect a reviewer to do this?

So, what makes for a bad personal statement on an NIH biographical sketch?  Here are some things to avoid:
  • Failure to adequately link your expertise to the proposed project
  • Incorrectly explaining the project and its aims
  • Listing information that is included elsewhere in the biosketch without providing any elaboration or supporting information
  • Referring to yourself in a way that appears too egotistical (i.e. I am well-known for my work in...)
  • Leaving out your important contributions to the field.  Reviewers may not all be in your exact subject area.  Don't assume that everyone has heard of you! 
  • Allowing the PI to write your personal statement and not reviewing it.  Take some ownership of it and brand yourself in the way that you would like to come across to reviewers.  Don't leave it in someone else's hands where it may potentially be thrown together and/or look sloppy.
  • Failure to be consistent about whether you are writing your biosketch personal statement in first or third person.  If the 1st vs. 3rd question still perplexes you, read this.  Ultimately, pick one or the other and stick with it.


  1. The personal statement is giving me a lot of difficulty. There must be a balance between describing accomplishments and appearing boastful. I am still struggling.

  2. Thank you for share this informative post.

  3. That's really interesting post.

  4. I hope those ideas will of course work.

  5. I know everybody cannot be perfect writer specially in case of personal statemnt. So you should be best in statement of purpose for nursing school.

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