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A cover letter is a message of introduction accompanying another important document (such as a resume, curriculum vitae or business proposal), explaining to the recipient why the document that follows is important and motivating to read it.
Major uses of cover letters
Major uses of cover letters include college application, employment and business. The different uses have different requirements for the format and main parts of cover letters:
A cover letter is not always required as a compulsory element of the application package. However, even if an institution doesn’t require a cover letter, it can be an advantage, introducing an applicant to the committee and making him/her stand out from the crowd of competitors.
The following are the goals of a cover letter accompanying other application documents:
- Introducing the applicant to the university.
- Catching attention of the admission officers.
- Arising readers’ interest by listing the qualifications and special achievements of the candidate.
- Addressing the letter to a particular group of people – the admission board.
The cover letter included in the application package should not be confused with a personal essay (or application essay). In contrast to the personal statement, cover letter is shorter and only briefly states the applicant’s achievements and major goals.
Sending a cover letter is a standard for the employment practices. When sending resumes to their potential employers, applicants include clarifying cover letters for the following purposes:
- Explaining why the applicant is sending a resume (stating the target position);
- telling specifically how the applicant learnt about the position (advertisement/ word of mouth etc.);
- convincing the reader to look through the resume or curriculum vitae;
- emphasizing the details of the applicant’s background relevant to the opened position and making the applicant a good candidate;
- including any useful information which can’t be covered in a resume, such as the candidate’s availability date or the links to portfolios (if applicable).
Not sending a cover letter can confuse the recipients and even make them entirely ignore the message.
Cover letters can accompany business proposals, briefly summarizing the content of the project and pointing out at its significance and potential benefits of its results.
Cover letter types
The two main types of cover letters are the letters of application and the letters of inquiry. The letter of application is used to apply for an advertised opening, when an applicant knows for sure that a company has an opened position. The letter of inquiry is used when an applicant isn’t certain that there are certain employment opportunities but wants to show interest in working for a particular employer and asks the company if there is a possibility of opening.
Email and hard copy correspondence share similar requirements as to the form, tone and content of cover letters. The three main differences between emails and hard copies are the following:
- Signature block (address and other contact info) is placed below the applicant’s name in email but at the top of the page in hard copy letters.
- Subject line is applicable only to emails though some hard copy letters may include subject lines, placed after the address info but before the “Dear sir/madam” part.
- Handwritten signature is applicable only to hard copy correspondence, whereas emails include only “Best regards”, “Sincerely yours” etc. signatures.
Regardless of the cover letter type and specific purposes, its logical structure includes the following parts:
1) The Purpose – 1st paragraph
Why the applicant is writing:
- The full address and contact info at the top.
- The name of the position.
- The place where the applicant has found out about it.
- Showing interest and evidence of prior research about the company.
2) The Proof – 2nd paragraph
What makes the applicant a perfect candidate:
- Specific qualifications, achievements and experience relevant to the job description.
- Any projects and collaborations which might be not mentioned on the resume.
3) The Closing – 3rd paragraph
What the applicant wants:
- Listing the enclosed documents.
- A polite request for an interview.
- Inviting the recipient to look through the attached documents.
In more detail, a cover letter includes the following elements:
Heading (left-aligned or centre-aligned)
- Contact info (phone number, email and fax)
- Applicant’s name
- Local address
The direct address to the recipient
- Name and title of a specific person (if possible)
- Company address
- Blank space between the heading and the recipient’s name (Dear Mr. Doe)
- Blank space between the different paragraphs
- Three spaces between the closing (‘best regards’) and the applicant’s name
The main format requirements include proper readability and overall recipient’s convenience. The recommended font is 10 – 12 points, Arial, Calibri, Sans Serif or Times New Roman. The margins of about 1.5 inches look neat and appropriate.
The following is a cover letter sample, which illustrates the main constituting parts and most appropriate formatting:Michael Jordan
463 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02115
March, 13, 2014
Top HR Manager
Dear Mr. Doe, I am interested in the position of a customer care assistant at your store advertised on the college board. I accepted this position because of the emphasis on communication skills and natural drive to engage with new people and make them feel welcome. As I live in the dorm, I have extensive experience of meeting new people and understanding their moods and needs.
In response to your search for a customer care assistant, I believe my intercultural experience of a study abroad program I’ve spent in Japan might help me quickly become engaged into the atmosphere of your department to provide clients with friendly and personal service. To provide more details on the details of my background I am enclosing my resume. I hope you will consider me for this opening. I look forward to discussing my qualifications in more detail at a personal interview.
Literature review is a brief summary and evaluation of several sources discussing one question in detail. A literature review can be a self-contained unit or a preface for further research. As an important part of term papers, courseworks and dissertations, a literature review gives rationale for the choice of topic and it points out at the importance and potential value of findings and their practical application.
Types of sources
As a comprehensive review of a question, literature review contains different sources, including books, articles, web pages and other printed and digital resources. The main principles for selecting resources include:
- Conclusions related to the subject matter (both supporting or disapproving the hypothesis);
- The year of publication;
- Authority of resource and researcher.
Based on reputable sources, literature review includes conflicting views on the problem, which allow analyzing the problem in its complexity.
The following are the main goals of a quality literature review:
- Offer a comprehensive view of the problem, shedding light on it from different perspectives.
- Point out at the gap in the existing literature, which requires further research.
- Give rationale for further research.
Steps of literature analysis
- Formulating a specific research question and narrowing it down.
- Defining the type and main focus of literature review. Literature review can prioritize either issues under analysis or methods used by researchers.
- What types of resources could answer the question most effectively? (year of publication, medium and research method).
- Defining the gaps in the existing literature.
- Analyzing the factors which might potentially create bias in researchers.
- Synthesizing the findings in a comprehensive review.
Structuring and formatting the review
Literature review should not be confused with an annotated bibliography (the latter is a list of sources, referenced according to the rules of a certain citation style and author’s brief comments on them). A literature review has the logical structure similar to that of an essay – an introduction, several paragraphs of the main body and conclusion.
The introduction of the literature review defines the scope of the study. Giving some general information on the background of the study, the introduction includes the main research question. Just like any other academic paper, literature review contains a thesis statement which is usually placed at the end of the introduction.
The main body paragraphs include the author’s major points supported by the quotes from the chosen sources. Importantly, these paragraphs consist mainly of the points made in the previous studies, but united into a whole by means of the author’s own comments. The main body includes contradicting points, which illustrate the different sides of the issue and investigate the problem in-depth to avoid the bias. An important part of the main body discusses the gap in the existing literature and the underestimated areas which require further research. If the literature review is not a self-contained unit, but a part of a bigger research project, it should give rationale for the choice of the research question and methods. Every point in the main body can be supported by one or several sources, separated by semicolons. If several sources have the same information on a certain question, a literature review can put them all in one place.
E.g. A wide range of studies revealed that optimism can have positive effects on individual’s health (Smith, 2009; Brown, 1998; Doe, 2013.)
The conclusion briefly repeats what has already been said in the introduction part, summarizing the main findings and conclusions achieved from the collected materials. The conclusion of a literature review serves as a bridge for the study that follows.
The literature review has a bibliography page, formatted according to the rules of the chosen citation style.
Literature review models
One of the most important steps in writing a literature review is to systematize sources, instead of simply commenting on random sources.
The following are the major types of literature reviews and the most common classification criteria:
Argumentative review is probably the most common type, which is generally used in academic studies. The main purpose of this type of review is to collect arguments, which defend or disapprove a certain point. It is used to defend or refute a deeply embedded assumption or an untraditional point of view.
Historical review places study in a historical context, analyzing the sources, which have been created within a given period of time. This type of research traces the first mentions of the phenomena in literature and then views their evolution in the historical context.
Methodological review shifts the emphasis from research findings to the methods used by researchers. It focuses on the approaches to data collection and analysis at different levels. Instead of discussing “what somebody said”, this type of review focuses on “how somebody said it”.
Theoretical review examines the theory that has been accumulated regarding a certain issue or phenomenon. The researchers establish the relationships between the existing theories and identify to what extent the available studies have investigated the questions under analysis.
According to another classification, the following are the main types of literature reviews:
- Chronological review puts the sources according to the year of their publication. This approach is most effective for tracking the evolution of a certain issue or phenomenon.
- Thematic review groups sources according to the main conclusions made by the scholars. This method focuses on the findings regardless of the date of publication and medium.
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Children’s activity pack? Okay.
Couch potato Olympics. This pentathlon has,
Channel surfing (the most channels in a minute).
Couch diving (find a set of keys that unlock something around the house).
Pizza deliverer mob (how high does the delivery guy jump when the whole family attacks the door)
Movie interruption (who can say “Here is the part where…” the last) and
Advertising sprint (who can get to the bathroom first on the arrival of a commercial).