How to Write a Research Assistant Cover Letter (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Becoming a research assistant can help medical students gain relevant experience. Universities often offer research assistant opportunities to students to help give them this experience. Writing a compelling cover letter is an essential step to getting a research assistant job. In this article, we discuss how to write a cover letter for a research assistant role, describe the elements of a cover letter, offer tips for writing your cover letter and provide some cover letter examples.

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What is a research assistant cover letter?

A research assistant cover letter is a document that summarises your experience, passion and work potential for the role. It describes why you want to specialise in a particular field of medicine and become a research assistant. Attaching a cover letter to your resume can help you attract a hiring manager's attention.

The aim of a cover letter is often to secure a job interview. The number of research assistant positions available is usually limited, and a cover letter can differentiate you from other candidates. Some candidates may already have prior experience as research assistants, so it's helpful to demonstrate why you're suitable for the role if you're applying for your first research assistant job.

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What to include in a research assistant cover letter

Here're some points to include in your cover letter:

  • Expertise in the research assistant job responsibilities: Include grades that you attained in courses related to the research and your achievements while doing that course.

  • A distinct approach to the research goals: Identify the research problem and suggest how you can approach or conduct the research based on your past experiences.

  • Qualifications that showcase your skills: List any certifications or past research projects that you did to demonstrate your skills and knowledge in the field.

  • Passion for the research topic: Mention how and why the research connects with your career goals and what motivated you to apply for the position.

How to write a research assistant cover letter

A one-page cover letter is usually sufficient for a research assistant position. With around four to five paragraphs, it typically highlights your interest in the position, your skills and experience and why you are suitable. Some formatting tips include using a single space, 12-pt font, like Times New Roman or Arial, for clarity. Submit your cover letter as a PDF to avoid unintended changes when the researcher opens the document. Here are the steps you can take to write a research assistant cover letter:

1. Review the job description

Identify the main keywords, qualifications and responsibilities in the job description and include them in your cover letter. You can choose the keywords based on your priorities, interest and strengths. Include evidence of your experience in areas like the research focus and the field of medicine, the main role of the research assistant, and your soft skills. It might also be helpful to consult professors who have conducted research in similar fields.

1. Use the right salutation

Identify and address the researcher directly. Contact the department via phone or email if the researcher's name is unavailable. Finding out the name of the researcher may show your dedication to the role.

2. Write a proper introduction

Introduce yourself and show your interest in the research assistant position. Include details about your knowledge and experience in the area of research. This can come from the courses you've taken in school or external work that you've completed.

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3. Describe your specific skills and experience

In two to three paragraphs, elaborate on your relevant skills and how they can benefit the research. Link the job responsibilities with your qualifications and experience to demonstrate your suitability for the role. Action and descriptive words, as opposed to words like 'very' and 'really', can help you show the impact of your work in this section. In the last paragraph, you may express your views on the research and how you hope to contribute to the project.

4. End with a call to action

End your letter with a call to action, repeating your interest in the position and how you can benefit the research team. Mention that you often exchange ideas and discuss more about the research project if you get an interview opportunity. After that, thank the researcher for his time and consideration, and end the letter with your signature line.

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Tips to write a cover letter for an aspiring research assistant with no experience

If you are a first-year medical student or have yet to get work or research experience, you can use your other work experiences and skills in your cover letter and edit them to suit the job role. Here are some details you can consider:

  • past courses that you have done that are related to the research, with details about the procedures done and results attained

  • extracurricular activities that show your work ethic and qualities

  • noteworthy recognition you've received from professors

  • evaluation of a medical paper or thesis in the same medical field as the research project

  • any related knowledge you have about the research methods or tools

  • experience with tasks similar to the responsibilities of a research assistant

  • soft skills like quick learning capabilities

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Cover letter example for a research assistant

The example below details a professional's familiarity with the research topic and includes details about his research experience. By mentioning hospital attachments and achievements in relevant courses, the cover letter demonstrates the candidate has soft skills that researchers look for in assistants. Here's an example of a research assistant cover letter:

Dear Dr Lim,

Re: Research assistant application for genetic landscaping of primary open angle glaucoma

I'm thrilled to submit my application for the research assistant position on your human genetics research team. As a third-year medical student, I have completed courses in genetics, cell biology and the fundamentals of research. I believe that my academic experience, combined with a strong passion for your research on genetic landscaping of primary open angle glaucoma, make me a suitable candidate for this position.

In my cell biology and molecular genetics class, I successfully conducted basic DNA and RNA extraction from nucleated cell types. I experimented with other molecular techniques like real-time PCR assays using up to 384-well plates. My most notable achievement was performing mutation screening via ion torrent sequencing, compared to the traditional Sanger's sequencing.

Before my undergraduate studies, I assisted a professor from Pioneer Hospital in his genome-wide association studies. I observed and studied the genetic variants of patients at high risk of developing glaucoma and the pathophysiological significance of such genes in this development. He identified a few genes that downregulated in patients who developed glaucoma before 30 years of age. This helped me develop an interest in the role that genes play in the development of glaucoma and the possible treatment plans this study could have helped to uncover.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I appreciate the opportunity to further study how genetics correlate to glaucoma development and be part of a medical breakthrough in future treatments.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Lee

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Skills of a research assistant

To perform well in the role, research assistants typically have the following skills:

Analytical skills

Part of a research assistant's tasks includes collecting and analysing data. They may also manage and update databases. In addition, analytical skills ensure they can conduct field research or use data in writing literature reviews for the project.

Technical skills

Research assistants usually work in labs where they handle specialised equipment and instruments. Having technical skills and knowledge of lab instruments can make them more efficient in conducting research studies. You can develop these skills in school courses or work experiences.

Observational skills

Research assistants often keep records of research findings, and being an expert in checking errors and inaccuracies can reduce the number of mistakes. In addition, observational skills enable research assistants to find and correct errors when collecting data. This typically makes the data collection process efficient and accurate.

Time management skills

When managing project tasks and deadlines, it is important to multi-task and manage your time well. The progress of a project often depends on how quickly data can be collected and analysed. As a research assistant, prioritising tasks and working fast can enable goals to be accomplished faster.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. The cover model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

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