How to properly include books, lectures etc. in your topic paragraphs

The middle three paragraphs are your topic paragraphs:

Each of these three topic paragraphs will discuss a different topic, and make reference to all the wonderful books, online courses, work experience, academic papers or lectures you’ve been through.

But it’s not good enough to just list these resources – you need to reflect on them.

Simply stating a list of 7 biology books you’ve read isn’t fooling anyone. I could do that right now by searching “biology” on Amazon and copying in the most popular titles. Universities want to see you’ve actually read the books…and that you’ve critically engaged with them, that you’ve actually thought and reflected on what you’ve read!

So after you mention a book, online course, lecture, etc. you immediately need to reflect on it.

And each topic paragraph will be made up of 2 to 3 of these reflections

You’ll first mention something you’ve done or read or watched, then give your personal reflection on it – where you explain what you learnt!

For instance, here’s an economics reflection:

Reading Poor Economics by Banerjee and Duflo, I learnt about the underlying causes of the Indian poverty I have seen so often visiting my family back home. I realised that because low-income citizens in India are unable to reliably save, they cannot invest in capital to build businesses and escape poverty. This led me to investigate microfinance as a potential solution to India’s poverty crisis. Watching Viola Llewellyn’s TED talk on microfinance in Africa, I was impressed by her company’s use of AI and risk models to decide which entrepreneurs to lend to and I believe this model could be used in India, too. For example, Llewellyn’s risk models include cultural factors which are usually not included when evaluating risk in Western countries. Further researching microfinance solutions, I stumbled upon Eric Mibauri’s lecture on using cellphones as a means for African entrepreneurs to receive and send money. This highlighted the importance of technology in solving the poverty epidemic.

This student has first mention a book they’ve read – in this case, Poor Economics by Banerjee and Duflo.

Next, the student gives his personal reflection…he tells us what he learnt from the book: the causes of Indian poverty, followed up by an example about issues investing in business to support his reflection!  

Then he’s stuck on a second reflection about a lecture by Viola Llewellyn. 

Just like before, the student mentions a lecture he watched, provides a personal reflection on it.

Almost done…to finish off this paragraph, there’s one last reflection – this time on Eric Mibauri’s technology lecture.

Let’s see a few more examples of these reflections! Here’s an engineering reflection:

During my summer internship at the Mercedez Benz workshop, I transformed my understanding of how a car engine functions. I got to operate with a compressed ignited diesel and spark ignited petrol engine and saw the differences in structure and size between the two. 

This student again first mentions something they’ve done – a Mercedez Benz workshop.

Then the student gives his personal reflection, what he learnt…he explains how he’s transformed his understanding of how a car engine functions…followed by an elaboration and a specific example of the difference between a diesel and petrol engine. 

Here’s one more reflection – this time from medicine: 

During my work experience shadowing a junior doctor and senior consultant, I recognised how differently the junior spoke to patients in the Gastoenterology clinic compared to his senior who was much more paternal. He made the patient feel as if they were involved in the decisions for their own treatment and diagnosis, for example by asking what the patient thought their diagnosis was before making his own verdict.

Once again, same structure…first mentions something he’s done…shadowing a junior at a hospital…then gives his personal reflection, what he learnt.  From the experience, he recognised how differently a junior and senior doctor deal with patients…and once again, his reflection includes a concrete example, describing exactly how the senior doctor got his patients to feel involved in their own diagnosis. 

So, in each of these reflections you’ll mention something you’ve done, then provide a personal reflection where explain what you learnt. Simple.

To produce a full topic paragraph, just take two or three of these reflection sentences and stick ’em together.

When universities read your personal statement, they’ll immediately see that you’ve been interested enough in your subject to research extra books, lectures etc. and that you’re able to think deeply and reflect on what you’ve studied…a key skill for university success. 

Don’t worry if these topic paragraphs seem complicated or daunting. Perfect Statement’s interactive statement builder offers a super straightforward method to build your own topic paragraphs with ease.