What writing sample should I give for grad-school?
November 17, 2005 4:08 AM   Subscribe

I've been asked to provide a writing sample as part of an application to a PhD program. What should I provide?

The program asks for a 15-20 page writing sample, and I have two pieces which I'd consider submitting. One is my undergraduate thesis, written two years ago and is highly relevant but would need editing down and rewriting as its 80 pages long. The other is a 5 page article which I wrote for work more recently. I was thinking about editing down the thesis and submitting both, is this a good idea? Suggestions gratefully recieved...
posted by MrC to Education (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What kind of PhD program? Where? They don't provide any other information about what they're looking for?
posted by grouse at 4:33 AM on November 17, 2005

Response by poster: Public health at Columbia, all they ask for is a 15-20 page writing sample- no mention of subject.
posted by MrC at 4:54 AM on November 17, 2005

In your boat, I would send a chapter of my thesis.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:09 AM on November 17, 2005

Best answer: You need to be critical of the writing. Sit down, reread both, and choose the one that truly shows the best scholarship and writing ability and is most representative of your quality of work. A chapter of the thesis is fine, but so is the article; I don't think that we here can help beyond that. You need to choose on content, not form.
posted by The Michael The at 5:23 AM on November 17, 2005

Send a chapter of your thesis, with perhaps a short cover letter (cover letter for the writing sample itself) putting the chapter in context. I wouldn't bother with the article unless it's related to your field.
posted by duck at 6:04 AM on November 17, 2005

Do what duck says--this is the standard procedure for sending a writing sample that is part of a larger project.
posted by Pattie at 6:45 AM on November 17, 2005

Chapter of your thesis, edited if necessary to make more sense given the shorter context.
posted by barnone at 6:58 AM on November 17, 2005

Best answer: Send the most well written chapter from your thesis. It doesn't have to be the conclusion or contain some amazing argument (though that would help). Generally they just want to see that you are a competent writer and that you can organize your ideas in an effective way.

TMT gives good advice, even if you send a single chapter make sure you read through it and update it (e.g. replace references to other chapters with a gloss on the information in the other chapter). I would be a bit concerned about the result of stretching out a five page article into a longer piece in such short time. (Of course, if you already have a bunch of research and had to leave things out of the short paper this is less of a concern.)
posted by oddman at 7:00 AM on November 17, 2005

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