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How to Write a Job Application Cover Letter

Writing a cover letter is essential when applying for jobs. This is the perfect way to express how your specific skills are relevant to the open position. Wow your future employer with this simple cover letter example format.

Write a First Draft

Writing a first draft makes your letter concise and professional, states The Balance Careers. Organize your thoughts by making a list of what you’re trying to convey. Make sure you prioritize certain aspects like your previous job experience and why you would be a good fit for the position. Clearly state what position you’re interested in and why. Think about why you’re applying and what caught your eye about this specific position. Your cover letter will be easier to write after your thoughts are collected and organized.

Customize Your Salutation

When writing a salutation, make sure you know who you are writing to. Is this person the owner of the company or a Human Resources administrator? If you’re not sure, research the company to find out. Addressing your cover letter to a specific person shows initiative and attention to detail. After your salutation, start your letter with a short introduction of yourself. This gives future employers insight into who you are and the purpose of your cover letter.

Write Intentionally

Your cover letter should be no more than one page, so keep your points brief. Clearly state what position you are interested in and why. Explain why you are a good fit for the company because of your past job experience. If you have no similar job experience, let the employer know why you are changing career paths. Expand on your skills and give specific examples of how that skill set helped you at your last position. Name projects you’ve worked on and show results.

Close Your Letter

End your cover letter with a brief sentence and sign off. Thank the employer for their time and express your interest towards the job again. Let them know you’ll follow up with them if you do not hear back within a week and leave your contact information. Sign off with a professional farewell and leave room for a signature if sending a hard copy.

Edit and Proofread

As you finish writing your cover letter, make sure you take time to edit and proofread your document. Make sure it’s structured in a professional format with the company’s information, the salutation and introduction, the body of the letter, a brief closing sentence and farewell. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes to ensure a formal result. Make sure all names are spelled correctly, as well.


how to write a research cover letter

How to Write a Good Cover Letter for a Research Position

Writing a cover letter can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.

Some people believe cover letters are a science. Others seem to think they are more akin to black magic. Regardless of how you feel about cover letters, they are one of the most important parts of the job application process. Your resume or CV may get you an interview, but a good cover letter is what ensures that the hiring manager reads your resume in the first place.

Writing a cover letter for any job is important, but the art of writing a good cover letter for a research position can make or break your application. While writing a cover letter for a research position, you have to walk a fine line of proving your expertise and passion while limiting jargon and dense language.

In this post, we will explain cover letter writing basics, and then dive into how to write a research specific cover letter with examples of both good and bad practices.

hands typing on blank google doc

What Is A Cover Letter and Why Do Cover Letters Matter?

A cover letter is your opportunity to tell a story and connect the dots of your resume. Resumes and curriculum vitae (CVs) are often cold and static—they don’t show any sort of character that will give companies a hint about if you will fit in with their culture. 

Your cover letter gives you the chance to demonstrate that you are an interesting, qualified, and intelligent person. Without proving that you are worth the time to interview, a company or research organization will set your application in the rejection pile without giving it a second look. 

So, what is a cover letter, exactly? It is an explanation (written out in paragraph form) of what you can bring to the company that goes beyond the information in your resume. Cover letters give a company a glimpse into the qualities that will make you the ideal candidate for their opening. 

Note that a cover letter is not the same as a letter of intent. A cover letter is written for a specific job opening. For example, if I got an email saying that the University of Colorado was looking for a tenure track faculty member to teach GEO 1001, and I chose to apply, I would write a cover letter. 

A letter of intent, however, is written regardless of the job opening. It is intended to express an interest in working at a particular company or with a particular group. The goal of a letter of intent is to demonstrate your interest in the company (or whatever type of group you are appealing to) and illustrate that you are willing to work with them in whatever capacity they feel is best. 

For example, if I loved the clothing company, Patagonia and wanted to work there, I could write a letter of intent. They may have an opening for a sales floor associate, but after reading my application and letter of intent, decide I would be better suited to a design position. Or, they may not have any positions open at all, but choose to keep my resume on hand for the next time they do. 

Most organizations want a cover letter, not a letter of intent, so it is important to make sure your cover letter caters to the specifics of the job posting. A cover letter should also demonstrate why you want to work at the company, but it should be primarily focused on why you can do the job better than any of the other applicants.

How to Write a Good Cover Letter: The Basics 

Writing a cover letter isn’t hard. Writing a good cover letter, a cover letter that will encourage a hiring manager to look at your application and schedule an interview, is more difficult (but certainly not impossible). Below, we will go over each of the important parts of a cover letter: the salutation, introduction, body, and conclusion, as well as some other best practices.

How to Write a Good Cover Letter Salutation

Don’t start with “Dear Sir/Ma’am” (or any iteration of a vague greeting, including “to whom it may concern”). Avoiding vague greetings is the oldest trick in the book, but it still holds a lot of weight. Starting a cover letter with the above phrase is pretty much stamping “I didn’t bother to research this company at all because I am sending out a million generic cover letters” across your application. It doesn’t look good. 

The best practice is to do your research and use your connections to find a name. “Dear Joe McGlinchy” means a lot more than “Dear Hiring Manager.” LinkedIn is a great tool for this—you can look up the company, then look through the employees until you find someone that seems like they hire for the relevant department. 

The most important thing about the salutation is to address a real human. By selecting someone in the company, you’ve demonstrated that you’ve done some research and are actually interested in this company specifically. Generic greetings aren’t eye-catching and don’t do well.

How to Write a Good Cover Letter Introduction

Once you’ve addressed your cover letter to a real human being, you need a powerful introduction to prove that this cover letter is worth the time it will take to read. This means that you need a hook. 

Your first sentence needs to be a strong starter, something to encourage the hiring manager not only to continue reading the cover letter, but to look at your application as well. If you have a contact in the company, you should mention them in the first sentence. Something along the lines of “my friend, Amanda Rice (UX/UI manager), suggested I apply for the natural language processing expert position after we worked together on a highly successful independent project.” 

The example above uses a few techniques. The name drop is good, but that only works if you actually have a connection in the company. Beyond that, this example has two strengths. First, it states the name of the position. This is important because hiring managers can be hiring for several different positions at a time, and by immediately clarifying which position you are applying for, you make their job a little bit easier.  Next, this sentence introduces concrete skills that apply to the job. That is a good way to start because it begins leading into the body, where you will go into depth about how exactly your experience and skills make you perfect for the job. 

Another technique for a strong lead-in to a cover letter is to begin with an applicable personal experience or anecdote. This attracts more attention than stereotypical intros (like the example above), but you have to be careful to get to the point quickly. Give yourself one or two sentences to tell the story and prove your point before you dive into your skills and the main body of the cover letter.

A more standard technique for introductions is simply expressing excitement. No matter how you choose to start, you want to demonstrate that you are eager about the position, and there is no easier way to do that than just saying it. This could take the form of “When I saw the description for X job on LinkedIn, I was thrilled: it is the perfect job for my Y skills and Z experience.” This option is simple and to-the-point, which can be refreshing for time-crunched hiring managers. 

Since we’ve provided a few good examples, we will offer a bad example, so you can compare and contrast. Don’t write anything along the line of: “My name is John Doe, and I am writing to express my interest in the open position at your company.” 

There are a few issues here. First, they can probably figure out your name. You don’t need that to be in the first sentence (or any of the sentences—the closing is an obvious enough spot). Next, “the open position” and “your company” are too generic. That sounds like the same cover letter you sent to every single employer in a hundred mile radius. Give the specifics! Finally, try to start with a little more spice. Add in some personality, something to keep the hiring manager reading. If you bore them to death in the first line, they aren’t going to look over your resume and application with the attention they deserve. 

How to Write a Good Cover Letter Body

So, you’ve addressed a real human being, and you’ve snagged their attention with a killer opening line. What next? Well, you have to hold on to that attention by writing an engaging and informative cover letter body. 

The body of a cover letter is the core of the important information you want to transmit. The introduction’s job was to snag the attention of the hiring manager. The body’s job is to sell them on your skills.  There are a few formatting things to be aware of before we start talking about what content belongs in the body of the cover letter. First, keep the company culture and standards in mind when picking a format. For example, if I want to work for a tech startup that is known for its wit and company culture, I can probably get away with using a bulleted list or another informal format. However, if I am applying to a respected research institution, using a standard five paragraph format is best. 

In addition, the cover letter should not be longer than a page. Hiring managers are busy people. They may have hundreds of resumes to read, so they don’t need a three page essay per person. A full page is plenty, and many hiring managers report finding three hundred words or less to be the idea length. Just to put that into context, the text from here to the “How to Write a Good Cover Letter Body” header below is about perfect, length-wise. 

Now, on to the more important part: the content. A cover letter should work in tandem with a resume. If you have a list of job experiences on your resume, don’t list them again in the cover letter. Use the valuable space in the cover letter to give examples about how you have applied your skills and experience. 

For example, if I have worked as a barista, I wouldn’t just say “I have worked as a barista at Generic Cafe.” The hiring manager could learn that from my resume. Instead, I could say “Working as a barista at Generic Cafe taught me to operate under pressure without feeling flustered. Once…” I would go on to recount a short story that illustrated my ability to work well under pressure. It is important that the stories and details you choose to include are directly related to the specific job. Don’t ramble or add anything that isn’t obviously connected. Use the job description as a tool—if it mentions a certain skill a few times, make sure to include it!

If you can match the voice and tone of your cover letter to the voice of the company, that usually earns you extra points. If, in their communications, they use wit, feel free to include it in your letter as well. If they are dry, to the point, and serious, cracking jokes is not the best technique.

A Few Don’ts of Writing a Cover Letter Body   

There are a few simple “don’ts” in cover letter writing. Do not: 

The most important part of the cover letter is the body. Sell your skills by telling stories, but walk the razor’s edge between saying too much and not enough. When in doubt, lean towards not enough—it is better for the hiring manager to call you in for an interview to learn more than to bore them.

How to Write a Good Cover Letter Conclusion

 The last lines of a cover letter are extremely important. Until you can meet in-person for an interview, the conclusion of your cover letter will greatly affect the impression the hiring manager has of you. A good technique for concluding your cover letter is to summarize, in a sentence, what value you can bring to the company and why you are perfect for the position. Sum up the most important points from your cover letter in a short, concise manner. 

Write with confidence, but not arrogance. This can be a delicate balance. While some people have gotten away (and sometimes gotten a job) with remarks like, “I’ll be expecting the job offer soon,” most do not. Closing with a courteous statement that showcases your capability and skills is far more effective than arrogance. Try to avoid trite or generic statements in the closing sentence as well. This includes the template, “I am very excited to work for XYZ Company.” Give the hiring manager something to remember and close with what you can offer the company. 

The final step in any cover letter is to edit. Re-read your cover letter. Then, set it aside for a few hours (or days, time permitting) and read it again. Give it to a friend to read. Read it aloud. This may seem excessive, but there is nothing more off-putting than a spelling or grammar error in the first few lines of a cover letter. The hiring manager may power through and ignore it, but it will certainly taint their impression. 

Once the cover letter is as flawless and compelling as it can be, send it out! If you are super stuck on how to get started, working within a template may help. Microsoft Word has many free templates that are aesthetically appealing and can give you a hint to the length and content. A few good online options live here (free options are at the bottom—there is no reason to pay for a resume template).

How to Write a Cover Letter for a Research Position

Writing a cover letter for a research position is the same as writing any other cover letter. There are, however, a few considerations and additions that are worth pointing out. A job description may not directly ask for a cover letter, but it is good practice to send one unless they specifically say not to. This means that even if a cover letter isn’t mentioned, you should send one—it is best practice and gives you an opportunity to expand on your skills and research in a valuable way.

Format and Writing Style for a Research Position Cover Letter

Research and academics tend to appreciate formality more than start-ups or tech companies, so using the traditional five paragraph format is typically a good idea. The five paragraph format usually includes an introduction, three short examples of skills, and a concluding paragraph. This isn’t set in stone—if you’d rather write two paragraphs about the skills and experience you bring to the company, that is fine. 

Keep in mind that concise and to-the-point writing is extremely valuable in research. Anyone who has ever written a project proposal under 300 words knows that every term needs to add value. Proving that you are a skilled writer, starting in your cover letter, will earn you a lot of points. This means that cover letters in research and academia, though you may have more to say, should actually be shorter than others. Think of the hiring manager—they are plowing through a massive stack of verbose, technical, and complex cover letters and CVs. It is refreshing to find an easy to read, short cover letter. 

On the “easy to read” point, remember that the hiring manager may not be an expert in your field. Even if they are, you cannot assume that they have the exact same linguistic and educational background as you. For example, if you have dedicated the last five years of your life to studying a certain species of bacteria that lives on Red-Eyed Tree Frogs, all of those technical terms you have learned (and maybe even coined) have no place in your cover letter. Keep jargon to an absolute minimum. Consider using a tool like the Hemingway Editor to identify and eliminate jargon. While you want to reduce jargon, it is still important to prove that you’ve researched their research. Passion about the research topic is one of the most valuable attributes that a new hire can offer. 

Use your cover letter to prove that you have done your homework, know exactly what the institution or group is doing, and want to join them. If you have questions about the research or want to learn more, it isn’t a bad idea to get in touch with one of the researchers. You can often use LinkedIn or the group’s staff site to learn who is working on the project and reach out.

What Research Information Should be Included in a Cover Letter

A research position cover letter is not the place for your academic history, dissertation, or publications. While it may be tempting to go into detail about the amazing research you did for your thesis, that belongs in your CV. Details like this will make your cover letter too long. While these are valuable accomplishments, don’t include them unless there is something  that pertains to the group’s research, and your CV doesn’t cover it in depth. 

If you do choose to write about your research, write about concrete details and skills that aren’t in your CV. For example, if you have spent the last few years working on identifying the effects of a certain gene sequence in bird migration, include information about the lab techniques you used. Also, try to put emphasis on the aspects of your resume and CV that make you stand out from other candidates. It is likely that you will be competing with many similarly qualified candidates, so if you have a unique skill or experience, make sure it doesn’t get lost in the chaos—a cover letter is the perfect place to highlight these sorts of skills. 

Industry experience is a great differentiator. If you have relevant industry experience, make sure to include it in your cover letter because it will almost certainly set you apart. Another valuable differentiator is a deep and established research network. If you have been working on research teams for years and have deep connections with other scientists, don’t be afraid to include this information. This makes you a very valuable acquisition for the company because you come with an extensive network

Include Soft Skills in Your Cover Letter

Scientific skills aren’t the only consideration for hiring managers. Experience working with and leading teams is incredibly valuable in the research industry. Even if the job description doesn’t mention teamwork, add a story or description of a time you worked with (or, even better, lead) a successful team. Soft skills like management, customer service, writing, and clear communication are important in research positions. Highlight these abilities and experiences in your cover letter in addition to the hard skills and research-based information. 

If you are struggling to edit and polish your letter, give it to both someone within your field and someone who is completely unfamiliar with your research (or, at least, the technical side of it). Once both of those people say that the letter makes sense and is compelling, you should feel confident submitting it.

Cover letters are intended to give hiring managers information beyond what your resume and CV are able to display. Write with a natural but appropriately formal voice, do your research on the position, and cater to the job description. A good cover letter can go a long way to getting you an interview, and with these tips, your cover letters will certainly stand out of the pile.

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How to Write a Great Research Assistant Cover Letter (Sample Included)

A step-by-step guide to writing an effective cover letter for a research position, including a full-length example.

how to write a research cover letter

a strong research assistant cover letter can help you secure an interview

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: understanding the purpose of a research assistant cover letter, part 3: preparing to write an undergraduate research assistant cover letter, part 4: how to get a research assistant job when there are no ra job postings, part 5: drafting an entry level research assistant cover letter, part 6: research assistant cover letter example.

(Note: While this guide was primarily written for premed students looking to prepare a research assistant cover letter, the advice also applies to students who aren’t premed.)

Becoming a strong candidate for medical school is no easy task. A high GPA and strong MCAT scores just aren’t enough to guarantee your acceptance over other highly qualified applicants. 

So, you’ve decided to gain research experience to strengthen the Work and Activities section of your application—smart choice. It’s practically a medical school requirement at this point, and applicants with at least one year of research experience are more likely to be considered by noteworthy programs.

You’ve searched your university’s science department websites and found a page listing various research opportunities. After reading a few lab descriptions, one completely captivated your attention.

This lab focuses on the area of medicine you’re hoping to specialize in. And, as a research assistant, you’d have the opportunity to contribute to important scientific breakthroughs. Plus, the lead researcher (aka, principal investigator, or PI) has a strong reputation in the medical and scientific fields. You know a medical school letter of recommendation from him would boost your applications.

You’re excited to apply for the research assistant position. You’ve already begun picturing yourself in the lab, engrossed in the work. You sit down to write the perfect cover letter for the perfect research position. But you freeze. The blank page stares back at you. Where do you start?

How do you write a cover letter for a research position? What should a research assistant cover letter include? What can you say to prove you’d be an exceptional research assistant?

And, here’s another concern: How do you write the best research assistant cover letter when you have no experience? You know you’ll be competing with classmates and even upperclassmen ahead of you. What will make the researcher choose you ?

First of all, know this: No one likes writing cover letters. Whether you’re an undergraduate student applying for a research position or a seasoned doctor applying to be chief of surgery. It’s not easy for anyone to summarize their experience, potential, and passion into a single page. But it’s far from impossible. There is a strategy for writing the best research assistant cover letter. 

Keep reading to find out how you can maximize your chances of securing that coveted undergraduate research position.

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Remember the ultimate goal of a cover letter—to secure a job interview.

No one gets hired based on a cover letter. But your research assistant cover letter may be the difference between meeting the researcher face-to-face to discuss your fit for the position and having your application tossed in the recycle bin.

Dozens of students might apply for a single undergraduate research position, but the principal investigator will only interview a handful. So how do you capture the PI’s attention and convince him that you belong in that select group?

You must demonstrate that you’re the best applicant—in other words, you’re the applicant most able to complete the work and exceed expectations.

This may be an intimidating concept, particularly if you have no research assistant experience and you’re competing with others who do. But don’t worry—you’re about to learn the secret to cover letters that not everyone takes the time to learn.

The key to an effective research assistant cover letter is marketing yourself.

What makes you different from other undergraduate students? What makes you more suited to the research position? What are your unique selling points? 

As a science-minded person, marketing might not be your forte, and that’s perfectly fine. But it’s vital to the process of writing a cover letter. So what types of details should you market? 

Your expertise in the research assistant job requirements or duties . For instance, Sydney earned a high grade in her Neurobiology Lab. In her cover letter for a neuroscience research position that lists brain sectioning as a primary task, she will highlight her experience and success with sectioning brains in her lab class.

Your unique perspective of the research problem . Sydney spent a summer shadowing a doctor at a neurology clinic. She will explain her distinct outlook on neurological disorders gained from that experience.

Your impressive qualifications that demonstrate your skills and work ethic . Sydney’s professor chose her to be a peer tutor for the Molecular Biology course. She’ll use this recognition to show that she rises to the top of her class.

Your passion that relates to the research focus . Sydney will reveal her dream to become a neurologist and contribute to a cure for Alzheimer’s. Some researchers might be excited to support her career goals. But, more importantly, having a strong interest in the research area indicates that she’ll be committed to the work.

Demonstrate you’re the best candidate by proving—not just stating—your qualifications.

You can make statements about having experience relevant to the research assistant position, but it won’t mean anything to the principal investigator without evidence. You’ll want to use details, numbers, and results to prove all the claims in your cover letter. 

For instance, instead of Sydney writing vaguely, “I have experience with brain mapping,” she should be more specific. “For a class project, I used EEG equipment to map the brain activity of two classmates while they completed memory tests. We analyzed the resulting data to compare their short term and working memory abilities.” 

The second statement provides more information about the depth of her experience and her capabilities. It also offers a conversation starter for the PI when he interviews Sydney for the entry-level research assistant position.

One more example. Sydney could write, “I have a passion to cure neurological disorders.” But it would be more effective to prove her passion. “I’ve further developed my passion for curing neurological disorders by volunteering as a learning aide at a dementia care facility.”

Identify the main keywords, qualifications, and duties listed in the research assistant job description.

Read through the listing closely. Highlight or jot down important phrases. You can present yourself as the perfect undergraduate for the research position by echoing the key language used by the researcher.

For instance, “Dr. Carton’s research is centered on neural circuitry , specifically how it leads to understanding the neurobiology of learning and memory .” If you have experience with or an interest in these subjects, you can feature it prominently in your cover letter. 

Job descriptions usually include too many keywords or job duties for you to address—it’s a cover letter, not a novel. Select three or four phrases to focus on, based on a balance between what roles seem most important and where you have the strongest experience or interest.

Here’s an example. Many research assistant job postings mention “the ability to work independently” as a requirement. Maybe you have a lot of experience and strength in that area. But you wouldn’t want to focus your cover letter exclusively on your skill at working independently, not at the cost of demonstrating your research and scientific abilities.

Make sure you include evidence of your knowledge or experience in these three areas:

The research focus or the wider field of science it belongs to

A primary task required of the research assistant

A crucial but non-scientific skill (e.g., collaboration, initiative, organization)

Seek inside information to strengthen your cover letter.

Reach out to people with research experience to ensure you’re focusing on the right qualifications. This could be a close professor, your TA, or a current undergraduate research assistant. Here’s one way you might seek advice from your professor via email:

Dear Professor Manette, 

I hope your week is going well. I’ve decided to apply for the undergraduate research assistant position under Dr. Carton. I’m excited by his research on neural circuit function, which aligns closely with my interest in neurological disorders. 

I’m seeking your advice on writing the cover letter for the research position. I want to communicate my fit and excitement for the role sufficiently to Dr. Carton.

Having worked with undergraduate research assistants yourself, what would you say are the most valuable characteristics or skills for a research assistant to possess?

Thank you in advance for any input or advice you can offer. 

Best, Sydney Darnay

Use the feedback you receive to confirm or adjust the areas you intend to focus on in your undergraduate research assistant cover letter.

Search for research assistant positions on your own.

If your university doesn’t advertise undergraduate research assistant positions, you’ll have to do a little extra digging to find research opportunities.

First, check to see if your science department has a web page describing faculty research interests (the Stanford University Department of Biology Research Areas website is an example). Take the time to explore professors’ previous and current research projects. You should read their recent publications and watch videos of their lectures, if possible.

Please note: all university websites are not created equal. Some might provide links to the professors’ research sites, making your exploration easy. Or you might find a mere list of faculty research topics with no descriptions or current updates, leaving you to search Google for better info. If an internet search isn’t proving fruitful, ask a department staff member (e.g. student advisor or lab coordinator) for a more detailed run-down of the professors’ current research projects.

Next, select four or five professors whose work most excites you to contact with your research assistant request. Remember to tailor each cover letter specifically to the research project you’re applying to join. The best undergraduate research assistant cover letters are highly specific to the lab and researcher, not generic.

Email the principal investigator your cover letter and resume.

You should type your research assistant cover letter in the body of your email, and attach your resume as a pdf document.

Use a clear subject line to grab the PI’s attention and persuade him to open your email rather than send it to the trash. Remember, this professor hasn’t posted an open research assistant position, so he’s not expecting to receive applications. Here are a few examples of email subject lines you might consider:

Dr. Carton, can I assist with your neural circuit research?

In need of a research assistant with brain mapping expertise?

Professor Manette recommended I reach out regarding your research (if you indeed can use a professor as a reference)

Consider the best time of year to send out your research assistant cover letter.

If you want to secure a research assistant position during the academic year, you should email your cover letter to principal investigators mid-summer, before the fall semester starts. Professors at this time are typically finishing their summer research while looking ahead and planning for the impending academic year. You have the perfect opportunity to become part of their research plans.

If you’ve missed that window and it’s already the middle of the fall semester, you have two options. First, you can reach out and inquire about becoming a research assistant for the spring semester. You might get lucky if a current research assistant is stepping down or graduating mid-year. Otherwise, your second option is to wait until the spring semester and ask to join the summer research team.

Follow up if you don’t receive a reply.

Wait a week—but no longer—before following up with a principal investigator. Make your follow-up email very brief. Send it as a reply to your original email containing your cover letter and your attached resume, so the professor can easily review your initial research assistant request. Here’s an appropriate way to follow up via email:

Subject: Following up about assisting your neural circuit research

Dear Dr. Carton,

I wanted to quickly follow up on the possibility of joining your team as a research assistant. I know you’re busy, and I hope that as your research assistant I could take some work off your hands.

Please see my original email to review my qualifications and the passion I have for your work examining how neural circuit function contributes to neurological disorders. I would love the opportunity to meet with you and discuss how I can contribute to your research further.

Sydney Darnay

It’s appropriate to send one follow-up email, but do not continue to pester the principal investigator if you still don’t receive a reply. At that point, widen your search and find other PI’s to approach with your research assistant application.

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Part 5: Drafting an entry-level research assistant cover letter

Formatting your cover letter correctly.

Your research assistant cover letter should be one page, single- or 1.5-spaced and contain 4–5 paragraphs. Each paragraph will have a specific purpose. Here’s an outline showing the best format for research assistant cover letters. 

Introductory paragraph: Express your excitement for the research assistant position.

2–3 middle paragraphs: Demonstrate how your skills, experience, and passion make you the best research assistant candidate.

Closing paragraph: Reiterate your unique fit for the role and request an interview.

You want to break up the middle section into multiple paragraphs for the ease of the researcher reading your cover letter. One long paragraph is more tiresome (and more confusing) to read than two or three short paragraphs, each one addressing a specific area—skills, experience, or passion.

Remember: the researcher may be reviewing dozens of applications for a single research assistant position. Your cover letter needs to be direct and concise. This is formal communication, so use Times New Roman, 12-pt font and one-inch margins on your page. Submit your cover letter as a PDF document to avoid any formatting changes when the researcher downloads it.

Writing a research assistant cover letter with no experience

It can be frustrating when you seem to need experience for even entry-level research assistant positions. But, researchers will be willing to overlook a lack of official research experience if you can demonstrate the knowledge and skills needed to be an exceptional research assistant.

The trick is to translate other work and experience to relate to the research position. Here are several ways through which you can effectively do that:

Describe relevant coursework or lab work, including the applicable procedures you completed and the final results you achieved.

Recount pertinent extracurricular projects or volunteer work.

Share notable recognition you’ve earned from professors (don’t be afraid to name drop as long as you’re confident the professor will speak highly of you).

Discuss an undergraduate paper or thesis on the area of research. 

Illustrate your experience with tools or methods similar to those employed in the research position.

Describe a situation when you effectively collaborated with others (i.e. group project).

Connect tasks completed in previous roles with research assistant tasks (i.e. data analysis).

Use an example to show your capability to learn quickly, take initiative, and exceed your employer’s expectations.

Maximizing each component of your cover letter for a research assistant position

Address the salutation to the principal investigator. Using “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam” suggests you didn’t take the time to identify the researcher leading the project. If the researcher’s name isn’t included in the research assistant job posting, call or email a department staff member to find it.

Show excitement and confidence in your introduction. Start out your cover letter strong by expressing your interest and showing a bit of your personality. Alluding to your experience and knowledge of the research area will pique the researcher’s interest and keep him reading to determine if you’re a good fit for the research assistant position. 

Craft a focused, detailed body of your cover letter addressing the research position specifics. Spend 2–3 paragraphs connecting your knowledge and experience with the job duties and qualifications. This is your chance to prove you will excel as his research assistant and persuade him to bring you in for an interview.

In Sydney’s cover letter below, she uses two paragraphs of the body to demonstrate her expertise in the primary tasks of the research assistant position. Brain sectioning, brain mapping, analyzing data, and scientific writing are duties listed in the job description. Notice how she goes into detail to prove her experience, rather than merely state it.

Sydney uses the final paragraph in the body of her cover letter to reveal her unique perspective on the research area and her passion for this area of science. She even references one of the principal investigator’s previous research publications, which proves she has a true interest in the work done at his lab.

A quick note about language. Avoid using “very” or “really” to describe your level of experience or interest. They’re filler words that weaken the impact of your cover letter. Instead, use stronger descriptors and action words . For example, “I find your research inspiring” or “captivating” instead of “very interesting.”

Remember: you want to come across as professional, but not stiff or robotic. Imagine you’re in office hours with a revered professor for the first time. When you speak, you’d still sound like you, just a more put-together version of yourself. That’s what you’re aiming for. 

Close your cover letter confidently with a reference to receiving an interview invitation. Reiterate that you’re fit for the research assistant position, that you will add value to the team. You don’t want to sound pushy or arrogant by directly asking for an interview. But indicate your interest and suggest that it will be well worth the researcher’s time.

In this example, Sydney is replying to the following job posting for a research assistant.

“Dr. Carton’s research focuses on how neural circuitry affects perception, cognition, and behavior, which plays an important role in understanding the mechanistic basis of neurological disorders. The research centers on the study of neural circuit organization and function. Undergraduate research assistants are needed to complete work including brain sectioning and immunostaining, brain mapping, slice imaging, and data analysis. After training, research assistants are expected to conduct independent projects that require them to collect and analyze data, summarize it into scientific writing, and present the data to the team. In the past, some research assistants have been included as co-authors on Dr. Carton’s formal publications.”

Here’s an example of an excellent cover letter for an undergraduate research assistant that you can use as a template.

Subject: Research Assistant Application for Sydney Darnay

Sydney Darnay 500 Tellson’s Way Palm Desert, CA 12345 [email protected] (555) 433-2211

February 10, 2021

Dr. Alexander Carton Professor of Neurobiology, University of California - Palm Springs 1000 Greek Street Palm Springs, CA 12345 [email protected]

Dear Dr. Carton, 

I am excited to submit my application to be considered for the research assistant position on your Neuroscience Research team. As a Neurobiology major, I have gained the knowledge and experience necessary to contribute to your research on neural circuit organization and function. My skills, combined with a fervent interest in your research on the mechanistic basis of neurological disorders, make me an excellent fit for this role.

In my Neurobiology Lab, I sectioned the brain tissues of a rabbit and a sheep, earning a perfect score for following the correct protocol. For an Advanced Neurobiology project, I used EEG equipment to map the brain activity of two classmates while they completed memory tests. We analyzed the resulting data to compare their short term and working memory abilities. I took the initiative to gain more experience analyzing data by using PyMVPA software for neural decoding with the guidance of my faculty mentor. 

Last year I discovered my skills in scientific writing. My professor selected my piece on molecular genetics to use as an example for future students. I have continued improving my skills by meeting regularly with a tutor at the Writing Center and am confident that I would be an excellent co-author in one of your formal publications.

Prior to freshman year, I shadowed a neurologist specializing in work with Alzheimer’s patients. Observing her work gave me a unique perspective of neurological disorders, as well as a passion for finding cures. I have further developed that passion by volunteering as a learning aide at a dementia care facility, where I observe and record results of cognitive tests. I was captivated by your recent research on the relationship between neural circuit architecture and working memory, as well as the positive implications it holds for patients suffering from dementia. I hope for the opportunity to contribute to your future findings on cognition and memory.

I plan to devote my career—as you have—to increase our understanding of the brain and improve the lives of individuals with neurological disorders. Your lab perfectly aligns with my scientific and medical interests. I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss your research project with you and the contributions I can make as your research assistant.

Sincerely, Sydney Darnay

In this letter, Sydney establishes her experience and knowledge, not to mention her familiarity with Dr. Carton’s work. On top of this, she comes across as polite, professional, and enthusiastic, while demonstrating that she can write well. All of this goes a long way towards demonstrating that she would be an excellent fit for the job.

There you have it! Everything you need to create a compelling research assistant cover letter that will captivate the researcher’s attention and secure you an interview.

how to write a research cover letter

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Research Assistant Cover Letter: The Ultimate Guide

Research Assistant Cover Letter

Article Contents 17 min read

You should never underestimate the power of a good research assistant cover letter. Whether you are seeking to gain some research experience to bolster your applications for medical school and MD-PhD programs or seeking to get a coveted research assistant position, your cover letter is one of the key components of your application.

Research assistant cover letters can be tricky to write, but I'm going to guide you through this process. In this blog, you will learn why a cover letter is important, how to write your research assistant cover letter, learn tips to make your cover letter stand out, and get to read cover letter samples, including one with no research experience! Whether you're a premed or not, this ultimate guide will help you get your desired research position.

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Why Get Involved in Research?

Research is certainly one of the ways to build up your medical school application and impress the admissions committees with your extracurriculars for medical school . However, it is also your chance to build up professional skills and knowledge in the field of your interest. Admission committees appreciate applicants with a research background because these students demonstrate interest in actively shaping medical and scientific progress.

Since the research process is challenging and enriching, these students develop critical thinking skills and confidence to challenge the status quo. Research fosters patience and stamina. It provides freedom to experiment and a space for constructive criticism. If you are looking to gain research experience, do not limit your search to strictly medical positions. Pursue disciplines that interest you. Research skills can often be transferred to a variety of fields.

Unique research experiences will also make you stand out in your medical school applications. As you might already know, one of the most common medical school interview questions  you’ll be asked is how you can contribute to the diversity of the incoming class – research is your chance to add another unique experience to your application.

Research experience is highly valued by some of the top medical schools in the world. For example, over 90% of Ivy League medical schools’ matriculants have research experience. According to the latest data, 99% of  Stanford Medical School  matriculants have research and lab experience. Research is especially valuable if you are looking at MD-PhD programs.

Firstly, you should always send a cover letter in addition to your CV as part of your job or volunteer application, unless otherwise expressed by the recruiter. Even if you have had the chance to explain your motivation for applying in the application form or email, you should still include a separate cover letter. This letter is an additional opportunity to present yourself as the perfect candidate for the research position.

The primary goal of a research assistant cover letter is to intrigue your potential employer enough to invite you to an interview. Whether you’re an experienced researcher or an undergraduate student looking for research experience, your cover letter is the “face” of your application. Most likely, your cover letter will be the first document your potential colleagues read about you. A perfect research assistant cover letter should include the following:

Your cover letter must compel the reader to read your CV and other application components, if applicable. "}]' code='timeline3'>

Simply put, your cover letter should explain why you are the most suitable candidate for the position. Your letter must demonstrate how you meet the criteria for the research position and what makes you a unique candidate. Additionally, this letter is your chance to show off your communication and language skills. Remember, research reports require the ability to articulate clearly and succinctly. Your strong technical research abilities must be accompanied by excellent verbal and written communication skills.

How to Write Your Cover Letter

Let’s examine what steps you need to take to create an outstanding research assistant cover letter.

Research the Position

First and foremost, when you write a cover letter for a research assistant position, you must know exactly what the position entails, what expectations your potential colleagues have of the new hire, and how this research position might develop in the future.

If you found a position as a job posting, it would certainly be wise to study the job description closely. It usually gives you some important, albeit surface, information. You can start by carefully studying the position summary, duties and responsibilities, qualifications, requirements, etc. However, this is usually not enough. Whether you found this position as a job posting or not, it is important to do your research.

Your cover letter needs to show that you are the best possible match for this research position. The job description you have found can only give you so much. You need to find out how your research interests match with this institution’s research program, what the recruiters are really looking for, and how it can help you in your future career as a medical professional or a researcher.

Start by researching the institution or department you’re applying to online. Research their programs, their research profile, and the research interests of their staff. Often you can find important information about the institution’s latest research ranking and their research projects on their website. It could also be interesting to read reviews written by people who have worked in the institution to which you’re applying. Do take these with a grain of salt, but some of these reviews can give you insights into the program’s expectations.

Another way to find out more information about the position is to contact the institution or the department. There is usually someone who can answer your questions, such as an administrative assistant, recruiter, or someone directly involved in the research project. They will be happy to answer any questions you might have about the job, the department, or the institution.

Avoid asking specific questions that will be covered in an interview such as “how much does the job pay” as this will send the impression that you're only interested in the position for the pay, and not because it's what you really want to do. Calling to inquire about the job may also make your name stand out among dozens of applicants for this position. The recruiters may make a note that you personally called and showed enthusiasm about the job.

Before you call, make sure you prepare a list of questions. Beware that your phone call may turn into an unofficial interview, especially if you talk to someone involved in the research process. Be ready to speak about yourself in relation to the position and prepare to answer some of the most common interview questions like “ Tell me about yourself ?”, “why do you want to work with us?” and so on. These are common introductory questions that allow the interviewer to get some insights about you as a potential colleague.

If you are a current undergraduate student, you can also try speaking to your classmates and any TAs you know who may have worked in the research lab you are applying to. You can ask them what they enjoyed and what they found challenging about the work, allowing you to learn from a first-person perspective what it is like to work in that lab.

It might seem like a lot of work, but researching the position, the institution, faculty, and staff will give you a competitive edge. Whoever reads your research assistant cover letter and CV will be able to tell the depth of your research. Your dedication and curiosity will really show in your application and distinguish you as a serious applicant from the rest of the hopefuls. It is also great preparation for the interview stage.

A research position cover letter should be no longer than a page. Your language must be succinct and clear. You must be able to demonstrate that you can express your ideas fluently and clearly – do not use informal language or include any fluff. Your cover letter is not the place to give a detailed account of every research position you have held.

Remember, your letter may go through several readers and not all of them may be researchers, so do not use overly technical language. Your letter must capture the interest of any reader, while further details of your research experiences and education can be included in your CV. If you want to accompany your cover letter with a stellar CV, check out our blog on how to write a CV for graduate school .

For your cover letter, use a classic font such as Times New Roman or Calibri sized 11 or 12 and break your letter into paragraphs. This order of paragraphs is not set in stone, but it may give you some ideas about how to structure your letter:

Remind the reader why you are a good fit for this job and restate your interest in the position. "}]'>

Are you planning to apply to medical school? Check out how research can help you:

How to Stand Out in Your Research Position Cover Letter

When you prepare your cover letter, you need to reflect on what makes you a unique candidate for the research position to which you’re applying. To do this, think about what may differentiate you from the competition and try to anticipate what other candidates may offer.

First of all, try to analyze and have a clear understanding of your depth of expertise in this field. Do you have a high research profile? Have you had much research experience in this field? If your answer is yes, then it might be a good point to include in your cover letter. Perhaps you have demonstrated passion for this research field, and you want to commit your future to this area of research? Or maybe you want to stay and work in this particular institution? Perhaps you completed your undergraduate degree there and know the ins-and-outs of their labs? Try to think of yourself in relation to the position, your potential colleagues, and the department. You might find more connections upon a deeper inspection.

Another great selling point is your ability to access research and funding networks and organizations. If you have had success in applying to and receiving research grants or organizing fundraisers for your research projects, be sure to include this in your cover letter. A colleague who can increase funding for a research project is an invaluable addition to any team.

If you do not have a strong research background in this field, do not worry. Try to think of your personal research experience – do you have a diverse background? Does your particular blend of experiences give you a unique perspective? If you have had research experience in a variety of disciplines, it might be your competitive edge!

What if you have not had the chance to gain research experience? Maybe you have had a limited amount of opportunities for research? You can talk about this in your cover letter by expressing enthusiasm to be exposed to research. In this case, try to focus on your biggest successes and most relevant qualities. You might possess a qualification that would be highly relevant to this research position even if you’ve never had a serious research experience. Have your abilities to multitask been praised by previous employers? Have you received awards for teaching excellence? Are you particularly skilled with technology and computer software? All these qualities and accomplishments may help you impress the reader. Try to market yourself, your skills, and qualifications in relation to the position – you might have something other applicants don’t.

How to Look for Research Positions if You Have Little to No Experience

If you have little to no research experience, but want this experience for your medical school application or to be eligible to apply for a research position you really want – here are some tips:

1. If you’re out of school, finding out about research positions and opportunities is quite difficult. Oftentimes, research positions are not posted externally. Even within the institution, professors and PIs tend to select students they have taught to help them in their research projects.

With this said, there are things you can do to search for these opportunities. One of the most common ways to find a research position is to email professors in the departments you would like to join as a researcher. Whether you are still a student or a graduate, explain in your email that you want to volunteer in the lab. Do not mention money – state clearly that you want to gain research experience. Without experience, a paying research position is almost impossible to get. Start as a volunteer and see where it takes you.

Things to Avoid in Your Research Assistant Cover Letter

Some Important Don'ts for Research Assistant Cover Letters:

Do not make statements that are too general "}]' code='timeline2'>

Research Assistant Cover Letter Sample #1

Dear Dr. Smith,

With this letter and enclosed CV, I would like to express my strong interest in the Research Assistant position you have available in the X department. I am a recent master’s graduate with experience in facilitating successful clinical trials. My graduate research involved working with clinicians and patient populations. Before my master’s, I graduated from a premed program at X university with the highest honors.

This research assistant position is a perfect combination of my educational background and my clinical experience. During my master’s degree, not only was I able to read, analyze, and interpret information from professional journals, technical procedures, and government regulations, but I also participated in clinical procedures directed by my PI, Dr. John Johnson. I completed and maintained case report forms as per FDA guidelines and reviewed them against the patient’s medical record for completeness and accuracy. I was heavily involved in assisting my superiors with the clinical process. I collected, processed, and shipped blood and urine specimens at scheduled patients’ visits. I was in charge of ensuring that all laboratory results were given to appropriate doctors for review of clinical significance, then filed the results in the patient study binder. My dedication to research and my team earned me the Research Assistant Excellence Award. Today, I am still in touch with my PI and my colleagues, with whom I have maintained professional and friendly ties. After recently graduating from my master’s degree, I am looking to apply my skills and knowledge to your research project.

Aside from learning a set of clinical and laboratory skills, working in research has trained my other competencies. My research position involved working in a team of researchers from different disciplines and nationalities. This experience significantly improved my ability to communicate as I often found myself explaining complex concepts to people outside of the medical field. Working with such an international team taught me to problem-solve and find quick solutions. For example, one aspect of the project involved collaborating with team members in Japan. We had a hard time communicating due to the time difference. I suggested to my colleagues and PI that we create a message board online where we could quickly ask questions and send documents back and forth; this board was available both on mobiles and computers, allowing for easier communication between our two teams at any time. This initiative improved our productivity and speed, as well as allowed us to quickly communicate practical solutions to any problems that came up during research. This successful collaboration resulted in the university funding our research project for one more year.

My interests and responsibilities outside of research would also make great contributions to your team. I am particularly impressed with your Institution’s commitment to improving patient experience in deprived communities. As an active volunteer at my local Street Heath Community Clinic, your dedication to providing healthcare to all in need is very inspiring. I am also drawn to your department's interdisciplinary approach. As a master's graduate, I learned the value of combining academic and clinical research. I know from experience that thinking beyond your discipline will only improve your research approach and results.

I am confident that my clinical research experience, my in-depth educational background, and interests make me an ideal match for this position. I would appreciate any opportunity to discuss my expertise in more detail at the interview and I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Author’s signature

What makes this cover letter strong:

1. Uses a personal address.

2. States right away that his/her educational and research background are relevant.

3. Gives solid descriptions of his/her duties, experiences, and successes in the most recent research project.

4. Uses specific examples to show his/her soft skills, including superb communication skills.

5. Mentions that he/she was able to secure extra funding for a research project.

6. Includes interests outside of research that make him/her relevant to this institution.

7. Restates his/her interest and shows confidence in closing remarks.

Research Assistant Cover Letter Sample #2 (No Research Experience)

Dear Dr. Roe,

I am writing to you regarding the Research Assistant position available at the Biological Sciences department at X University. As a second-year pre-medical student at X University, I strive to gain in-depth, comprehensive research experience, and the position of an assistant in your research project may become my stepping stone into the world of scientific discovery and progress. I am certain that my academic and professional experiences make me the perfect candidate for this research position.  

Research demands high attention to detail and accuracy. As a sophomore student majoring in biochemistry, I understand the great responsibility of scientific research. I have been exposed to the intricate nature of scientific discovery and trained to think like a future researcher. Not only have I achieved grades in the 80th percentile in all my premed courses, but my lab experiences have taught me how to build a hypothesis and develop a method of inquiry. During lab work, experiments did not always work the first time. I sought feedback from my supervisor about how to refine my technique, always striving for better results. My attention to detail allowed me to reach great heights in my premed coursework and I am ready to apply the skills I have learned to a serious research project.

My interests and competencies reach beyond academia and can help me become a valuable member of your research team. As a member of the student council at X University over the last two years, I am in charge of developing successful state and federal grant applications. Last year, I was successful in obtaining a municipal grant that was used to renovate computer labs in the Y building on our campus. Additionally, my organizational skills are further demonstrated by the fundraising events I have helped organize with the student body. While research demands high levels of scientific expertise and knowledge, research also requires paperwork and financial support from the state – my background can help advance our research in this regard. 

While I have not had the chance to participate in professional research, I have substantial professional experience in keeping records and updating databases while working as an assistant to my mother in our family's grocery store. In addition to working with numbers at the till, I was in charge of keeping records of deliveries. This responsibility taught me to keep neat and accurate records while working with a lot of information – a skill that’s greatly valuable while documenting the research process and findings. 

Working at the grocery has also trained my ability to interact and get along with a variety of people. Through cooperating with people of different languages and cultures, I developed outstanding comprehension and communication skills, which help me not only in my academic work but also in my personal life. Research is not a lonely endeavor – rather, it is a cooperative effort where communication and patience are key. My professional background will certainly make me a suitable member of any research team, and I would be honored if you gave me a chance to showcase my talents.   

I look forward to discussing my candidacy with you further. If you would like any additional information that will help me gain this position, please let me know. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Author’s Signature

Check out our video for a quick recap:

In truth, the recruiter may decide to go with a candidate with more research experience than you. However, your cover letter is exactly the place where you can address any lack of experiences found in your resume or CV. This letter is an opportunity to reinforce yourself as a candidate, rather than highlight your flaws.

If you do not have specific research experience appropriate for the position, perhaps you can augment your candidacy by demonstrating other qualities that your recruiter is seeking for in their potential colleague. For example, you can demonstrate that you are a fast learner with experience in reading and analyzing complex information, or that you have experience in organizing and executing fundraising activities.

A cover letter is your chance to be more than a list of experiences and accomplishments. You can make them come alive and describe how they are relevant to the specific position to which you’re applying. CVs can be a few pages long, it's a lot of information for reviewers to sift through. Instead, they prefer an easy to read, one-page document that summarizes an applicant’s main accomplishments, experiences, and overall suitability for the role. Keep in mind that hiring departments may not even review your CV if they are not first impressed by your cover letter.

Your cover letter is an addition to your CV, and you need to show you can concisely focus on the strongest experiences you have had. A well-written cover letter demonstrates your ability to write and prioritize information clearly, which is something you must do as a researcher. Even though most job criteria have more than 3 qualities or skills they look for, it is important to stay succinct in your cover letter.

Remember, you cannot just list the skills but must show that you have them by using concrete examples of encounters and interactions you have had. Including examples will limit the number of skills you can include in your cover letter to a maximum of 3, as it is usually not possible to talk about more than 3 in any detail at all. So, reflect on your experiences and pick a maximum of 3 that you have solid examples for.

Your cover letter must be easy to follow and easy to read. Consider ordering your experiences in chronological order so the reader can follow the timeline of events easily. Include your most recent experiences.

Brainstorming experiences, creating an outline, writing, revising, and finalizing your cover letter may take a while, so think about giving yourself at least 1 week. Pay attention to the deadline to submit your job application and give yourself enough time.

Once you have created an outline and thought up experiences, you want to write your body paragraphs first, using a few sentences to describe each experience and what you gained from it that will contribute to this research position. You can then write succinct concluding and opening paragraphs. You want to ensure you read through your cover letter at least twice and correct any instances of unclear phrasing. Your first revision should be designed to change any wording or examples that are not as effective. Your second revision should finalize all the elements of your cover letter and include a check of grammar and fix any typos.

No, they don’t! You could have picked up relevant skills for a research position through academic experiences, but also through extracurriculars, volunteering, other work, or even personal experiences. For example, playing on a sports team teaches you a lot about perseverance, reliability, and teamwork. You can definitely include these types of experiences if you feel they are relevant.

To get an idea of what kind of experiences you should include, start by looking at the job posting. The job description should indicate the main criteria the recruiters are looking for in their candidates. Make a list of all the examples you can think of that relate to those criteria, and then choose a few that best highlight a variety of skills. Make sure to include the most recent examples in your cover letter.

If you’re an undergraduate student, start looking for research positions in your school. They may be posted in science department classrooms, on the departments' website pages, or around the lab spaces. It's also important to pay attention to your professors, perhaps they have mentioned that they are involved in a research project right now and are looking for a student assistant. If you're unsure, don't be afraid to ask them if they are looking for any help.

If you’re no longer a student, you can always reach out to your past professors and ask if they need any help with research. Make inquiries in local medical centers, hospitals, and other institutions. You will need to explain your situation and ask if they are looking for any help. Be aware that many entry-level positions are not paid well. Sometimes you may be required to help for free, but this will all depend on the position. If you have volunteered or shadowed a physician, you should reach out to them and ask if they are involved in research and could use your help.

If you are a serious researcher, you can look for research positions on job websites. These positions usually require an in-depth research background. If you are simply looking to gain some experience to build up your medical school applications, this option may not be for you. Some research projects last years and med schools can be skeptical of applicants who spend too much time on research and not enough time gaining clinical experience. They might wonder how well you will transition to patient interaction and clinical work.

You should avoid using any funky fonts, colors, or formatting in your cover letter. It is a professional document not suitable for experiments. So, stick to the standard font types and size, professional tone, and appearance.

You can certainly include these great achievements as long as they add to the overall narrative of your cover letter. Be sure to show what kind of skills and qualities your accomplishments helped you develop. Make your achievements come alive on the page.

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how to write a research cover letter

how to write a research cover letter

How to write an effective cover letter (with samples)

You will have to prepare a number of materials for employers while looking for a job. One type of document is the cover letter, which is included with your resume when requesting a job interview. An effective cover letter is directed towards a specific position or company, and describes examples from your experience that highlight your skills related to the role.

You want to convince the reader that your interest in the job and company are genuine and specific. You also want to demonstrate ways that your experience has prepared you for the role by sharing a few brief stories that highlight your qualifications. This takes time and research; use the job description and the company’s web site or LinkedIn page to identify traits and skills the company values.

Cover letter structure and format

A cover letter should be no longer than one page with a font size between 10-12 points. Be sure to include your contact information and address it directly to the hiring manager, using their name. If you are not sure who to address the letter to, write “Dear Hiring Manager.” If the role you are applying for has a reference number or code, be sure to include it in your letter so that human resources is able to accurately track your application. The reference code is usually included

Cover letters typically take the following structure:

Introduction (1st paragraph)

Example : I am a second year master’s student in MIT’s Technology and Policy Program (TPP) writing to apply for a consulting position in Navigant’s Emerging Technology & Business Strategy group. After speaking with John Smith at the MIT career fair, I realized that Navigant’s values of excellence, continuous development, entrepreneurial spirit, and integrity align with the principles that guide me every day and that have driven me throughout my career. Moreover, I believe that my knowledge of the energy sector, passion for data analysis, polished communication skills, and four years of consulting experience will enable me to deliver superior value for Navigant’s clients.

Body (2-3 paragraphs)

Example : As a graduate student in MIT’s Technology and Policy Program, I spend every day at the cutting edge of the energy sector. In my capacity as an MIT Energy Initiative research assistant, I use statistical analysis to investigate trends in public acceptance and regulation related to emerging energy technologies. Graduate classes in data science, energy economics, energy ventures and strategy, and technology policy have prepared me to help Navigant offer the expert services that set it apart from competitors. Furthermore, I will bring Navigant the same leadership skills that I used as the student leader for the MIT Energy Conference’s Technology Commercialization round-table, and as the mentorship manager for the MIT Clean Energy Prize.

Even before MIT, my four years of work experience in consulting—first at LMN Research Group and then at XYZ Consulting—allowed me to develop the skillset that Navigant looks for in candidates. As a science writer and policy analyst at LMN Research Group, I developed superb technical writing and visual communication skills, as well as an ability to communicate and collaborate with clients at federal agencies such as EPA and DOE. As a research analyst at XYZ Consulting, I developed an in-depth understanding of data analysis, program evaluation, and policy design.

Closing (last paragraph)

Example : I take pride in my skills and experience in several domains: critical thinking and analysis, communication, and leadership. I note that Navigant values these same ideals, and I very much hope to use my abilities in service of the firm and its clients. Thank you for your time and consideration, I look forward to speaking with you further about my qualifications.

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Home Cover Letter Examples Research Assistant Cover Letter

Research Assistant Cover Letter Example

November 3, 2020 | By the Resume Genius Team | Reviewed by Geoffrey Scott, CPRW

Showcase your academic experience and highlight your research skills with our research assistant cover letter sample that can be adapted to any field.

Research assistant cover letter example

We offer a variety of cover letter templates if you’re not happy with the way this cover letter looks.

Additional Templates & Samples Like a Research Assistant Cover Letter

Teacher Assistant Cover Letter

College student cover letter, research assistant cover letter template (text format).

Don’t forget to use the right cover letter format so that it looks professional.

[Today’s Date]

[Principal Investigator’s Name] [123 University/Lab Address] [City, State ZIP code] [(xxx) xxx-xxxx]

[[email protected]]

Dear [Dr./Prof.] [Principal Investigator’s Name],

My name is [Your Name], and I’m writing to you regarding the Research Assistant position in the Department of [Department Name] at [University/Laboratory Name]. As a [graduate/postgraduate] in [Your Qualification] from [Your University], I have the necessary academic background to be a competent contributor to your research team. Moreover, assisting with your research in [field of research] directly complements my career as I plan to pursue a [Master’s/doctoral degree] in this field in the future.

My experience researching and writing my [undergraduate thesis/graduate paper(s)] — [title of your thesis/paper(s)] — has helped me develop and fine-tune the skills necessary for a full-time research position. Specifically, my experience with reviewing literature and writing various academic reports, as evident from the publications listed in my resume, has equipped me with the reading and writing skills you’re looking for in your ideal candidate.

On the technical side, I have extensive experience working with statistical analysis tools, namely [Software Package 1] and [Software Package 2]. Together with the theoretical knowledge I’ve gained over the years (e.g., [Relevant Course 1], [Relevant Course 2]) and my love for spreadsheets and analysis, this part of the research assistantship is what attracts and excites me the most.

Through my prior academic projects, such as [Project example], I’ve learnt how to manage my work in a collaborative environment. Furthermore, I understand the intricacies of research work. I can maintain focus on my individual tasks, with full knowledge of how they contribute to the overall research goals, no matter how mundane and repetitive my tasks are. As an added plus, I can speak Spanish, which should come in handy given how frequently your department collaborates with researchers from the [Autonomous University of Barcelona].

I look forward to discussing my candidacy with you in person or over the phone. If any additional information will help move my application forward, please let me know. Thanks for your time and consideration, [Dr/Prof. Investigator].

[Your Name]

Research Assistant Cover Letter Tips

Learning how to put together a cover letter for the specific job(s) you want will help you land more interviews.

If you’re great at processing data and information, you’ll be in high demand for jobs supporting the work of primary researchers.

Show employers you’re a great fit for the job by showcasing your expertise in an exceptional cover letter.

Follow these three tips to write an impressive research assistant cover letter:

Highlight research assistant skills

As a research assistant, you’ll spend your time gathering information, checking facts, and presenting findings. However, your duties will vary depending on the research setting.

Highlight essential skills in your cover letter that go hand-in-hand with your research skills. For example, attention to detail and organizational skills are some soft skills employers look for in a research assistant.

Here’s a list of hard and soft skills to highlight in your research assistant cover letter:

Open with a strong introduction

Research assistant positions are highly competitive because they’re a great starting point for pursuing senior-level jobs in industries, such as science, business, and social science.

Knowing how to start a cover letter ensures your application stands out among applicants with similar research abilities.

Here’s how to write a strong introduction for your research assistant cover letter:

Research the company

The main responsibilities of a research assistant revolve around conducting research and gathering information, so do your research before you begin writing your cover letter.

Doing your homework showcases your research skills and ability to take the initiative. You can use this information to market yourself by aligning your talents with a facility’s needs.

For instance, if you find out it’s expanding its team to begin a new research project, talk about how you obtained a strong understanding of the intricacies of research work from your experience working with statistical analysis tools.

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How to Write an Effective Cover Letter for a Research Scientist Job

Published: Oct 04, 2022 By Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.

effective cover letter for Scientist job

Research scientists   are a critical component of the life science industry.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) , medical scientists earn a median annual salary of $84,810 and typically have a doctoral or professional degree.

Some may have an M.D. but conduct research in addition to, or instead of, practicing as a physician. The BLS projects job growth for medical scientists at a faster-than-average 8% up to 2028. 

Various structures are possible for cover letters, and hiring decision-makers don ’ t offer a consensus on the best structure. But if you ’ re inexperienced with cover letters, the following offers a basic roadmap for getting started.

How to Write a Cover Letter for a Research Scientist Job

One thing that ’ s changed in recent years since many professionals first started writing about cover letters is people's attention spans.

Hiring professionals used to recommend a maximum of four paragraphs – and some people can still get away with four. Three, however, is a safer limit these days, and the full letter should never be more than a page. Some experts say hiring managers scan the whole letter in about 10 seconds.

Here ’ s a structure for your cover letter, including an optional paragraph:

Opening Paragraph

Do not waste the opening paragraph of your cover letter. It is essential that the first paragraph sparks the employer ’ s interest, provides information about the benefits the employer will receive from you, and helps you stand out from all the other job seekers. Right from the get-go, identify one or two benefits you can offer the employer and tell how you can make a difference for the organization.   

Weak opening paragraph:  I am writing today to apply for the research scientist position you have posted on BioSpace.  

Better opening paragraph:  My Ph.D. in molecular biology and five years as a postdoctoral fellow in the U.S. and in Switzerland, along with my leadership skills and ability to contribute collaboratively, will enable me to enhance your lab ’ s success in a research scientist capacity, per your current job posting on BioSpace. 

Optional Next Paragraph

Provide more detail about your professional and academic qualifications to make it an effective cover letter. Include more information about how you can provide the benefits you mention in the first paragraph. Expand on specific items from your resume that are relevant to the job you are seeking. Use solid action verbs to describe your accomplishments and achievements. If responding to a job posting or job ad, be sure to tailor this paragraph to the needs described in the ad. 

Sample Paragraph

I offer proficiency in cell biology, techniques in molecular biology in general, and RNA methodologies in particular, encompassing various techniques of DNA and RNA isolation, linear RNA amplification for microarray hybridization, RNA microinjection, RT-PCR and quantitative RealTime PCR (TaqMan), in-situ hybridization, as well as a wide variety of lab techniques and computer skills, as outlined in my CV. 

Second or Third Paragraph

Relate yourself to the company, giving details on why you should be considered for the position. Continue expanding on your qualifications while showing your knowledge of the company. Be sure you ’ ve done your homework. To make an effective cover letter, show that you know something about the organization.  

Sample Paragraph : 

My current experience as a postdoctoral research associate in the Molecular Biology Group at Novartis Pharmaceuticals AG in Basel, Switzerland, translates well to the requirements of your research-scientist position. These past three years at a leading international pharmaceutical company, along with two years of postdoctoral research at the Center for Developmental Biology, University of Texas, have bolstered an eclectic combination of skills that gives me a solid foundation upon which to make an immediate and meaningful contribution at your lab. 

Closing Paragraph

The final paragraph of an effective cover letter must be proactive – and a call to action. You must ask for the job interview (or a meeting) in this paragraph. You must express your confidence that you are a perfect fit for the job. You must also put the employer on notice that you plan to follow up within a specified time.  

Don ’ t leave the ball in the employer ’ s court. Too many cover letters end with a line like this: “ If you are interested in my qualifications, please call me.” Proactive cover letters, in which the job seeker requests an interview and promises to follow up with a phone call, are far more effective.  

Weak closing paragraph:  I hope you will review my resume, and if you agree with what I have stated here, consider me for the position. I look forward to hearing from you soon.  

Better closing paragraph:  I am eager to help advance the success of your company, and I am confident that we should arrange a time to meet. I will call your office in the next week to schedule an appointment. 

Tips and Tricks

Employer focus. Avoid telling the employer what the company can do for you instead of what you can do for the company. This rookie mistake is particularly common among new college graduates and other inexperienced job seekers. In most cases, employers are in business to make a profit. They want to know what you can do for their bottom line, not what they can do to fulfill your career dreams.   Keep it concise and edit. Your letter should be not only fairly short, but also concise and pithy. Edit your letter mercilessly. Follow the journalist ’ s credo: Write tight! Cut out all unnecessary words and jargon. Then go back and do it again.  

Proofread. If your timeframe will allow it, put your cover letter down, and then pick it up a day or two later as though you were the prospective employer. Does it grab and hold your attention? Is it concise? Is it free of typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors? Is it interesting? Is it looking like an effective cover letter? If you were the employer, would you know what this job seeker wants to do and why he or she is the best person to do it?

If you would not invite a job seeker with your cover letter for an interview, consider rewriting it to give yourself the best possible chance of securing the job.

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Professional Researcher Cover Letter Example for 2023

Read for inspiration or use it as a base to improve your own Researcher cover letter. Just replace personal information, company application data and achievements with your own.

Avatar image

Have a researcher cover letter that tells your story

Would a good cover letter increase your chances of landing an interview? Yes.

Do we have any specific tips for Researcher applications? Yes.

Are cover letters the same as resumes, but longer? Definitely not!

So what are cover letters?

Well, great cover letters give you the opportunity to tell a personal story, while making the right impression and proving you’re the best candidate at the same time.

Need more details? Let’s dive deep.

researcher coverletter.png

So what’s the difference between a cover letter and a resume?

In short – the resume showcases your achievements and skills, while the cover letter focuses more on your personality and motivations.

Of course, you should mention some of your relevant skills in the cover letter as well. But make sure you’re not repeating your resume word by word.

Now let's move on to the things that make every cover letter great!

Address your cover letter to the right person and make your introduction strong

Choosing the right salutation for your cover letter is crucial – after all, it’s the first thing the hiring manager will read.

For this reason, we’ve gathered several classic salutations. Note that some of them could be used even if you don't know the hiring manager's name.

The introduction of your Researcher cover letter is without a doubt crucial for the first impression you’ll make as an applicant. But is there a way to make sure your opening line is good enough?

Yes, there is. You can start by sharing your enthusiasm for the job or the field (or why not both!). You could also share your reasons to find the company exciting.

Try to be original. Don’t go for phrases like “I want to apply for the position that I saw advertised on platform X”. They're outdated and sound like you’ve got nothing better to say

Emphasize your Researcher soft skills and mention your hard skills

So what skills do you need to include? Well, unfortunately, there’s no one answer to this. It all depends on the job description and the skills you’ve currently got.

According to experts, what recruiters look for in cover letters is how you can link your soft skills to particular achievements and goals. So, try to figure out what has helped you on the way to success.

However, don’t forget about hard skills. Even if they’re not the focus of your happy story, you need to include at least the ones that were mentioned as part of the requirements section of the job posting. This will help you pass applicant tracking systems (ATS) that screen applicant documents for certain keywords and phrases.

Show that you know the company and its problems well

Proving that you’re familiar with the company is a great way to win the recruiter’s heart. It shows that you’ve taken some time for research and that you’re attentive to detail.

What’s more, it will also help you find out the issues at hand. This way, you can link your own skills and qualifications to some potential challenges the company might have to deal with in the future.

End on a positive note

While the introduction is the best way to make a good impression, using the right words to end your cover letter can help you get a callback.

Our advice is to make sure that your closing line matches the company culture. However, “Looking forward to hearing from you” and other traditional phrases are always a safe choice.

Researcher cover letter

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Become the center of attention with a matching Researcher resume

Pairing your strong cover letter with a great resume can never be a bad idea. In fact, that’s one of the best ways to show you’re the ideal candidate for the position.

Tell your story with confidence with a job-winning Researcher resume template.

Still not sure what your cover letter should look like? Hire an expert to help you!

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Free Cover Letter for Research Position Sample

The cover letter for research position is an effective way to make your job application. With a well written research cover letter you will easily grab the attention of the hiring manager and compel them to want to read your resume. With the following research associate cover letter sample and tips you can persuade the screener that you deserve an interview.

Research Position Cover Letter Template

research job cover letter

This is a free cover letter template for research job. Free Download and customize it according to the sample text below.

Supported formats

Cover letter for research position sample (text).

Roger Bailey 12 Stock Road, Mitchell,, SD 82030 Cell: (555) 098-09876 [email protected] May 14, 2018 Dr. Reginald Corke Technical Health University Fanning 3 Hakstaton Road Mitchell, SD 82434

Dear Dr. Corke,

I am writing to express interest in the Research Assistant advertised on Technical Health University Fanning's website.

I have recently concluded my PhD at the South Dakota University in “Technical Health and the Impact of Health Classes on Care Outcomes”. My PhD revolved around primary technical care research with health educators and patients culminating on diverse recommendations for county health educators. Prior to that I had completed Masters in Technical Health at Yale University and left with distinction.

The Research Assistant position is a great blend of my technical health evaluating abilities in teaching areas through statistical modeling and care commissioning criteria.

I have held three research assistant positions in county government and academia making me suited for the open position focusing on interface between technical health, educators and care givers. My unique evaluating experience on the impact of technical health in care giving on local groups at the county government has accorded me a unique understanding on practical technical health applications and policy on health educations among people. I was also able to comprehend advanced research and data analysis tools and techniques from ATLAS-Ti to SPSS while investigating the correlation between technical health structures, care and teaching outcomes.

At the county government health department I was a part of a team of collaborating researchers drawn from all nationalities, races and disciplines. This has deepened my confidence in intercultural skills and communicating my recommendations from my research. I also worked as the PhD liaison staff student for the department at South Dakota University where I learnt how to solve problems as they rise, deepen collaboration, build relationships, offer solutions and negotiate technical and practical solutions. It was through these skills that helped me during my three months internship to persuade the South Dakota County Educators Commission to not only get involved in my research project but also implement a number of recommendations and findings.

I am very confident that my experience and expertise in technical health and its impact in care and health teaching, vast experience in government and academic research, strong people and influencing skills and multidisciplinary approach make me ideal for the open role.

I would appreciate a chance to discuss this role further and how my experience meets your requirements. I look forward to meeting you in person shortly.

Sincerely, Roger Bailey (555) 098-09876

Tips for Writing Cover Letter for Research Position

Always send a cover letter for research position with your resume unless the position directly asks not to. Even if you've placed your CV or resume on an agency's database, submitting a cover letter is another chance to market your skills and improve your chances of getting the position.

Whether it's a research associate cover letter or any research job the write-up should be no more than a page. Be succinct to show the reader you can clearly and fluently explain yourself and your ideas. In-depth details can be offered later in an interview if you make it and through your resume/CV.

Ensures the paragraphs remains short and the typeface as easy and clear as possible to draw the brief attention span of the employer.

Salutation and address must be included. You need to address the research cover letter to an individual. Do a little research to establish who the hiring manager or the research group head is.

To effectively write a great cover letter pick the top 3-4 top requirements or criteria from the job posting and focus on them, giving evidence on each. In case the hiring manager or employer discovers you've fulfilled the top most criteria and you've exactly what they need in terms of skills, experience and credentials on sections that really matter, you definitely will be invited for an interview. The resume will explain other qualifications and competences and interview will conclude the rest.

Skills beyond research are also critical. The bulk of the cover letter for research paper will be displaying your expertise and depth in research and rationale for wanting to fill the role. However, don't make the mistake of many and forget to include other softer skills that the opening also requires. These include such skills as staff management, communication with individuals outside and within the company, writing winning funding proposals, project planning, use of certain research software and tools among others.

How to Edit Cover Letter for Research Position Template

Most research positions use PDF documents a lot in the daily work, so if you are applying for this kind of job, just submit your cover letter for research position as PDF. To edit your PDF cover letter, you need a powerful PDF editor, such as Wondershare PDFelement - PDF Editor . It is an all-in-one PDF solution to deal with any problems related to PDF files.

cover letter for research position

Step 1. Open the Cover Letter for Research Position Template

research cover letter

Step 2. Click on "Edit" and Enter Your Text as You Like

research associate cover letter

Step 3. Complete and Save Your Cover Letter for Research Position

cover letter for research job

Posted by Elise Williams to Updated: 2022-09-06 10:05:16


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