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Purple Said,
May 9th, 2011 @2:40 am  

Do you live anywhere near the university you’re applying for? If you do, then your best bet is to just drive over there, go to the department and get as much information as you can. Start by asking the receptionist/administrative assistant as many questions as you want, then ask her for any literature they have on the department and if there are any faculty members around that you can talk to for a few minutes. Go in the morning so that you will have all day to come across a professor. As an applicant to their department, hopefully they’ll give you more respect than a quick, rushed answer. Also, try not to go on a Friday or Monday – Friday people might leave early or not come in at all if they don’t have to, and Monday people tend to be extra busy.

If you don’t live near the university, then try this: go to the departmental website and write down each faculty member’s name. Then plug that name into google to see what comes up. Chances are some of their research is out there. Good luck.

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Professor X Said,
May 9th, 2011 @3:08 am  

First, as you may already know, there are few (if any) PhD programs specifically in African-American studies. Most doctoral programs that have faculty and grad students who focus in Af-Am studies are in History, Sociology, American Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Religious Studies.

Your queries are being rebuffed because you are asking for information that it is YOUR responsibility to research.

Here is the way one begins to research grad programs. Think about the scholarship you’ve read that you have found to be most interesting and appealing, both in terms of area of focus, and in terms of METHODOLOGY. Who wrote those books and articles? Where do they teach? Do they serve on the faculty of a PhD program? If not, where did they earn their PhD? With whom did they study?

If you are not sufficiently familiar with scholarship in your intended area of focus, then you have a big problem. This level of familiarity is expected of prospective grad students.

Here’s one more very important piece of advice. Speak to your current professors who teach in the area of African-American studies. Ask them where they earned their PhDs, and what programs they recommend to you. Their experience, as well as their knowledge of programs and faculty in THEIR field will be invaluable to you.

And in answer to your question about writing an effective statement of purpose:

A successful personal statement is a literate, elegantly written essay in which the student highlights her strong preparation for her intended area of study, articulates her planned area of study and her goals after completing this study, and demonstrates her facility with current theory and practice in this area.

In other words, why do you want to go to grad school? How have you prepared for graduate study thus far? What will you study when you are there? What theories and methods do you find most congenial in terms of your area of study? With whom do you want to study, and why? (Name the scholars you’ve found most inspirational or influential. You’ve chosen the schools to which you’re applying on that basis, anyway, haven’t you? You must state your reasons for wanting to attend THAT particular graduate program.) And finally, what do you plan to do with this degree once you earn it?

Best wishes!

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