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Written by Charlotte GraingerCharlotte Grainger

Academic cover letter example

You’ve already got the brainpower to land a scholarly role. But can you put pen to paper for your cover letter? Here’s how to write a stellar academic cover letter.
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Academic cover letter example
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If you have an inquisitive mind and want to embark on a lifelong quest for knowledge, the world of academia is calling your name. However, before you can land your academic dream job, you need to master the art of applying. Writing a well-pitched academic cover letter — which you will send alongside your professional CV — is the first step. 

Chances are, you’re well-versed in writing essays and dissertations packed with thousands of words and laden with references. However, a cover letter takes the exact opposite approach. It’s short (no more than 400 words) and gets right to the point. If that sounds too sparse, you might need to whip out your red pen and start editing pronto.

Here at Resume.io, we have everything you need to support your job search. No matter where you are in your career, we have the expert-backed resources you’ve been looking for. In the following writing guide, along with the academic cover letter example, we will look at: 

  • The best format to use when you are writing an academic cover letter
  • Advice and support on what to write for each cover letter section
  • Writing tips to help you perfect your tone and style
  • How to write a cover letter if you have no experience

Writing an academic cover letter that ticks all of the boxes doesn’t have to be hard. Let us take you through the steps in this comprehensive guide. If you’re looking for some more inspiration, don’t forget to check out our library of field-tested cover letter examples too.

Need some more inspiration? We’ve got you covered. Take a look at some of our related cover letter samples and writing guides here: 

Orange shape with publish or perish for academic
Orange shape with publish or perish for academic

Best format for an academic cover letter

As we have already mentioned, your academic cover letter should be no longer than 300-400 words. If you have trouble sticking to a word count, don’t panic. Structuring your cover letter will help you stay on track. Here are the elements you should include: 

  • The cover letter header
  • The greeting/salutation
  • The cover letter intro
  • The middle paragraphs (body of the letter)
  • The ending paragraph of your cover letter (conclusion and call-to-action)

Since you’re used to having thousands of words to play with, the idea of writing this short application letter may be daunting. You simply don’t have the space to go into the entire history of your academic career. For that reason, you need to pick out a few of your most dazzling career highlights to focus on when writing your academic cover letter. 

If you’re completely new to the art of cover letter writing, you might need to go back to basics. You can kick things off by reading our comprehensive writing guide where we go more in-depth on each of the application letter sections. While an academic cover letter takes a slightly more formal tone, the ground rules that you need to follow still apply. 

Adaptable cover letter sample

Dear Dr Fringe,

I hope you are well. My PhD advisor forwarded me an email about your French Literature lecturer vacancy in the department of French. Having recently completed my PhD in 19th century French Literature, I believe my profile and the course content would be an excellent match.

I have a firm background in teaching undergraduate students at Marlborough University during my time carrying out my PhD. Here I accompanied first-year students through modules in basic translation techniques and led seminars about the interpretation of texts of popular 19th century writers such as Baudelaire and Hugo.

I received excellent feedback from my students, whose attendance averaged higher than with other tutors. Their grades also reflected this: 20% of my students received first-class grades in my teaching group. This is higher than the average across the other seminar groups in the department.

I am aware that your department offers a module in the representation of women through 19th century literature. I believe that my PhD research into the portrayal of gender in literature that depicts the French Revolution of 1848 would make me well-suited to continue the teaching of this module. I would also be delighted to continue ensuring the curriculum includes the most recent research in the field, including interpretations of popular 19th century works through a lens of gender theory, which I spent a lot of my time researching during my PhD.

I have heard excellent things about Littlehampton University from various mentors, and I am confident that I could be an asset to the university on a topic that I am passionate about. I sincerely hope to be able to speak further soon.

Sincerely,

Beverley Granger

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Cover letter header 

Also called the letterhead, the academic cover letter header contains your name, email, and phone number. It’s hardly the most riveting part of your letter. However, it is important. If you wow the reader with your application, they are going to need to reach out to you quickly. 

The easier you make this part of the process, the better it is for the recruiter.

An academic cover letter is a formal document. You shouldn’t mess around with creative fonts, loads of colour, or imagery. No, you want this letter to look distinguished. Keep colour to a minimum and make sure that the design is subtle and understated.

Cover letter greeting 

Back in your school days, your teachers may have told you to address cover letters with “To Whom It May Concern.” That approach is now old-fashioned and will get you nowhere fast. When you’re opening your letter, you need to opt for a more personal approach. 

If you’ve done your research, you can use that information to your advantage. Keep things professional and above board. “Dear Dr. Swift” sounds more formal than “Hey Taylor,” for example. Address your cover letter directly to the decision-maker and use their full name.

Expert tip

Do your research 

As an academic, you already know the importance of getting your facts straight. When you’re figuring out who to address your cover letter to, be thorough in your research. If you get the name of the reader wrong, you are likely to do yourself a disservice. 

Cover letter introduction 

The first lines of your academic cover letter are crucial. Use them to introduce yourself, share your enthusiasm for the position, and give the reader a taste of what’s to come. One way to get the reader’s attention is to share your knowledge and passion for the university. 

What is it about this institute that has piqued your interest? Perhaps you’re in awe of their recent research into a particular subject. Maybe you’ve followed the head professor’s career and work and would relish the chance to work with them. The more specific you can be about what has drawn you to the job, the better your chances.

Adaptable cover letter introduction example

Dear Dr Fringe,

I hope you are well. My PhD advisor forwarded me an email about your French Literature lecturer vacancy in the department of French. Having recently completed my PhD in 19th century French Literature, I believe my profile and the course content would be an excellent match.

Copied!

Cover letter middle part (body)

The middle paragraphs of academic cover letters are where things get interesting. With any luck, you will have hooked the reader in your opening lines. Now it’s time to elaborate on what you’re bringing to the table. You might choose to include the following points: 

  • Your previous experience at similar educational institutes
  • The unique knowledge and expertise you can bring to the department
  • Research and studies that you have authored or co-authored
  • Examples of your previous work and how that relates to the role
  • What it is that draws you to this university and specific department

While you may have a load of information you want to include, you need to be selective here. Don’t throw everything on the page and hope for the best. Instead, consider which jewels are most likely to bag you that all-important interview. Let them shine through! 

Adaptable cover letter middle part example

I have a firm background in teaching undergraduate students at Marlborough University during my time carrying out my PhD. Here I accompanied first-year students through modules in basic translation techniques and led seminars about the interpretation of texts of popular 19th century writers such as Baudelaire and Hugo.

I received excellent feedback from my students, whose attendance averaged higher than with other tutors. Their grades also reflected this: 20% of my students received first-class grades in my teaching group. This is higher than the average across the other seminar groups in the department.

I am aware that your department offers a module in the representation of women through 19th century literature. I believe that my PhD research into the portrayal of gender in literature that depicts the French Revolution of 1848 would make me well-suited to continue the teaching of this module. I would also be delighted to continue ensuring the curriculum includes the most recent research in the field, including interpretations of popular 19th century works through a lens of gender theory, which I spent a lot of my time researching during my PhD.

Copied!

How to close an academic cover letter (conclusion and sign-off)

The last few lines of your academic cover letter need to make a big statement. Now is your chance to reinforce your interest in the position, reiterate your outstanding qualifications and show that you are serious about the role for which you are applying. 

Weave in a sense of anticipation into these lines. Be honest too. For example, you might choose to express that you are excited to learn about the next steps in the hiring process. Before you close the letter, you can also add a call to action (CTA) in there. That may be a line encouraging the reader to contact you for more information regarding the application. 

Adaptable cover letter conclusion and sign-off example

I have heard excellent things about Littlehampton University from various mentors, and I am confident that I could be an asset to the university on a topic that I am passionate about. I sincerely hope to be able to speak further soon.

Sincerely,

Beverley Granger

Copied!

Academic cover letter with no experience

Are you new to the realms of academia? If this is your first official post after your degree or even PhD, you may be struggling to get started. It’s important to recognise that everyone has to start somewhere — even you! Here are some things to include in your cover letter: 

  • Details of your PhD thesis or master’s dissertation
  • The academic skills that you have picked up along the way
  • Your knowledge regarding the subject or department
  • Any career aspirations that you have for the coming years

The more enthusiastic your academic cover letter, the more likely a reader is to overlook your lack of experience. Take the opportunity to show them why you want this role. 

Key takeaways 

  1. Academic roles are formal and your cover letter should reflect that. Use professional language and avoid being too “chatty” in the document.
  2. Always check your cover letter before you send it. Spelling and grammar errors are a quick way to ruin your chances.
  3. Avoid writing too much. Sure, you might have a load of things that you want to share but keep things short and sweet. Look at our cover letter example here.
  4. Be specific when writing your cover letter. Pinpoint why you would be ideal for the position at hand and what has drawn you to the university.
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