How to write a psychology research assistant cover letter

Updated 13 April 2023

Psychologists investigate the workings of the human brain and the way people act and react to their surroundings. Working as a psychology research assistant can be an excellent way of gaining experience and developing your knowledge in the field of psychology. If you want to work as a psychology research assistant, you might be wondering how to create an effective cover letter for this role. In this article, we discuss what a cover letter for a psychology research assistant role is, outline how to write a psychology research assistant cover letter and provide a template and example.

What is a psychology research assistant cover letter?

A psychology research assistant cover letter is a professional document that supports an application for a psychology research assistant role. This document typically introduces the candidate and outlines their interest in the role, alongside their relevant skills and experience. Many employers ask candidates to provide a cover letter that states why they'd be an ideal fit for the role. In your letter, you'd typically include information regarding your psychology education, alongside any roles you've worked in that allowed you to gain relevant experience.

Research assistants in the psychology field usually complete daily tasks that help to progress psychology research projects. Many doctorate programmes in psychology require students to first gain experience in this role before they can start their studies. A psychology research assistant's duties frequently include:

  • conducting interviews with subjects or participants

  • observing behaviour in public locations or a laboratory environment

  • handling the data associated with the project

  • assisting in quantitative and qualitative sociology, growth and social norms research in urban populations

  • attending weekly meetings with laboratory supervisors, PhD researchers and student research assistants

  • proofreading and editing work for publication

  • making presentations to tabulate and showcase data and discussing related research with peers

Related: How to become a cognitive psychologist: a step-by-step guide

How to write a psychology research assistant cover letter

Here's how to write a psychology research assistant cover letter:

1. Look at examples and templates

To better understand what hiring managers look for in a psychology research assistant cover letter, it's a good idea to look at some example cover letters and templates before you begin writing your own. One way of doing this is by contacting research assistants at several universities to obtain institution-specific information about the application process and the materials they submitted. To contact these individuals, you can either try and find their contact information on the institution's website or reach out to them on professional social networking platforms.

2. Think about the skill requirements

Next, identify your skills and how they relate to a career as a psychology research assistant. If you've previously worked in a research role, consider the skills you developed and include these in your cover letter. In contrast, if you haven't gained any experience yet, consider mentioning the transferable skills you've gained from your education or other experiences. A few of the most common skills and abilities in the field of psychology include the following:

  • attention to detail

  • data gathering and analysis

  • literature review

  • verbal and written communication

  • critical thinking

  • understanding of safety and ethical standards

  • interpersonal skills

When you include relevant skills in your cover letter, you're likely to impress employers as it indicates that you're a good match for the job. If you're having trouble determining which abilities and skills to mention, take a look at the job description. This helps you discover what hiring managers search for and mentioning these abilities can also help your application pass any automated checks that look for keywords or phrases in your CV and cover letter.

Related: Hard and soft research assistant skills employers look for

3. Give an overview of your educational and work background

Once you've thought about the skills you're going to mention in your cover letter, include key information about your educational history and work experience, even if this information is already included on your CV.

When a large number of people apply for a job, a hiring manager first checks the cover letters to determine any noteworthy candidates. Some organisations also send their applications to human resources experts or departmental staff members for a preliminary examination. When you provide relevant material that demonstrates why you're a good match for the position, you encourage these individuals to consider you and progress your application.

Related: How to write a psychology research assistant CV, with sample

4. Demonstrate your personality traits

A cover letter can allow you to create a positive and impactful first impression on a hiring manager or employer. While writing this document, consider how you can demonstrate your personality traits. For instance, you can consider including personal details to express your interest and enthusiasm for the role, so long as this is professionally communicated. If you're applying for a post in another city, consider mentioning why you wish to move there and your interest in working for the hiring institution.

Related: 11 entry-level degree in psychology jobs (plus salary)

5. Write a unique cover letter for each application

When applying for a psychology research assistant role, ensure you write cover letters that are specifically tailored to each application. This is due to each position usually having its own set of distinct responsibilities and desirable skills. Rather than using the same cover letter for every application, create a template cover letter that includes the standard details about yourself and your career, then adapt the content to match each new job depending on the requirements and responsibilities listed in the job posting.

Template for a psychology research assistant cover letter

Here's a template for a psychology research assistant cover letter:

[First name][Last name], [Relevant degree]
[City], [Country]
[Email address]
[Telephone number]


[Name of hiring organisation and relevant department]

Dear [Name of the person examining your application],
[Express your interest in the role and specifically mention the job title and the name of the hiring organisation.] [Introduce yourself and outline your reasons for applying for the position and how the role aligns with your professional goals.]

[Provide an explanation of your key abilities and skills, alongside your relevant education and work experience. To do this, include examples of recent achievements that are preferably backed up with data. If possible, avoid mentioning details that you've already outlined in your CV.] [Outline why you'd be an ideal fit for the hiring organisation.]

[Thank the reader for their time.] [Include a call to action, mention your interview availability and your preferred method of contact.]

[Your full name]

Related: Psychology vs. psychiatry vs. psychotherapy: comparing careers

Example of a psychology research assistant cover letter

Here's a sample cover letter for psychology research assistant roles that you can use to help you create your own:

Lucy Smith, MSc Psychology

16th May 2022

Northernshire University, Department of Psychology

Dear Danielle Flores,

My name is Lucy Smith and I recently completed my master's degree in psychology at Northernshire University. I now aspire to seek a PhD in this topic and I'd like to obtain more experience as a research assistant to help me in my studies. As a result of my scholarly and professional experiences, I've participated in several psychological research projects that have yielded intriguing results about the human brain and human behaviour in a range of settings and life circumstances.

Considering that my professional goals are in line with the psychology department, I'd appreciate it if you'd consider me for the psychology research assistant vacancy that's currently available at Northernshire University. Based on my research, I've discovered that the role involves supporting Dr Margaret Threadneedle, whose work I've been studying in great depth. Dr Threadneedle's research on human connections and the extrinsic elements that influence their success has piqued my curiosity and I've been following her work ever since. I want to pursue a PhD that focuses on interpersonal connections, with a particular emphasis on marriage and family relationships.

I feel I'd be an outstanding candidate for the psychological research assistant post since my experience and talents are in line with the requirements of the position. In addition to having great oral and written communication abilities, I have experience in working with a diverse range of subjects from a variety of ages and lifestyles. I'm also bilingual in both Spanish and English, which makes me a valuable addition to your department since it allows me to connect with subjects who speak any of these two languages well.

In addition to working with psychology fellows and practising psychologists in clinical settings, such as hospitals and outpatient mental health treatment centres, I have expertise in assisting trainee psychologists. I also collaborated closely with the chair of the psychology department, where I received my bachelor's degree in psychology before starting my postgraduate studies.
Please don't hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any queries or would like more clarification. I can also supply references that can attest to my professional experience and abilities in the area of psychology. I'm available to interview at your convenience and you can contact me by email or telephone. I appreciate you taking the time to consider my application and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, Lucy Smith

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