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Writing Sample

Posted by Medievalmaniac, 07 October 2010 · 260 views

(This is reposted from my thread on the main forum, but I thought it also belonged here for posterity, since it is part of my application process and this blog is supposed to document that.)

So....the writing sample for this go-round. I've been trying to come up with a writing sample that really underscores my work as a scholar and shows what I am capable of producing. I am wondering about the wisdom of using a "writing process, fully realized" as my writing sample. I have a signed article that is being released in Brill's Encyclopedia of Medieval Chronicle next week. The work I did researching this article led to a conference paper on the Cronicon Elegiacum (the piece this article is on), which argued for the importance of further study on minor chronicles. The conference presentation includes my transliteration and translation of the text and the facsimile from which it was produced, as well as the presenation. I am now revising this paper as a more academic article.

Would it be a good idea to submit, together as a demonstration of how my work evolves from one form to the next, a writing sample consisting of the encyclopedia article (I have the PDF from the publisher and permission to use it for this sort of purpose), the conference presentation paper and accompanying translation and facsimile of the original manuscript pages, and the academic paper based on the conference presentation? The whole would amount to about 25 pages, which is the cut off for the programs to which I am applying, but it would also showcase in one fell swoop my published, polished writing, my work as a researcher-scholar, my transliteration and translation ability, and how my work is conceived as a natural progression from form to form.

I am wavering between this and a more traditional, here's a sample chapter of my thesis approach. This work is more recent than my thesis at this point, I submitted a thesis chapter as last year's sample, and I just wonder - what do you think? Would the above as proposed be a good writing sample, or should I stick to the safer/more traditional route?

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I think they want one fluid piece not one piece written different ways
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I think the best thing to do is submit the most advanced version of this work - which of course is based on previous iterations, transliterations, translations, etc. You want your writing sample to represent your best work; what you suggest here is to show the committee your best work along with previous drafts or earlier versions which now do not contain your most eloquent or convincing arguments anymore (or otherwise you wouldn't be showing progress, no?). One of my favorite professors once told me with regard to writing papers that I should present my arguments in the most convincing way possible, I shouldn't "tell the story of how I got there" - so basically that I shouldn't do what you see happen in a lot of papers, which is a plot which goes like "we thought that maybe A, but here is why not ... then we thought that B but that also turned out to be wrong .. then we came upon XYZ evidence and decided that C". Better say: C!! let me tell you why -- and introduce the most convincing evidence first, even if that means that a lot of your previous thoughts don't get to be included in the paper because now there is no reason to think that they are correct anymore.

You could reference the previous versions of this paper in your bibliography and you could include a URL link to a website where you can put all of these versions. Your readers can choose to visit the website and look at these papers and any others you choose to upload there, if they like. But don't have them re-read versions of the same paper over and over again.
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These are excellent suggestions. In the end, I'm going traditional...read on for the pain and the gory details! :o)
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