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Submitting a writing sample not in your field

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Posted

I'm a History major mostly focusing on 1989 European Social history. That being said, my most recent paper I will have written to apply to grad school with is about discourse between Martin Luther and King Henry VIII. Will it hurt me if I'm applying to a MA in History with a paper that is not my field of interest?

As a second note, if I'm applying to Public History, can my writing sample really be anything History related?

My capstone won't even have been started by the time I'm applying for grad schools (Aber does them second semester) so that will be the most recent paper I have written. The second most recent is a paper about the same length but on that 1989 European Social History.

Advice?

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Posted

I think you should change your focus a bit from most recent to most in-depth and best researched (sorry if I misconstrued your meaning and you are using them interchangeably.) So which one of these papers has the most use of primary sources and uses secondary sources extensively as well? As for your overall question, you're probably better off using a paper for a field that you want to concentrate on so that you show you understand the various historiographical debates in your topic.

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Posted

i think it depends. i've emailed programs about this---what's more important to you guys? appropriateness of topic or writing mechanics and ability? I've gotten different responses from diff programs and have tailored my writing samples accordingly. You should do the same.

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Posted

i think it depends. i've emailed programs about this---what's more important to you guys? appropriateness of topic or writing mechanics and ability? I've gotten different responses from diff programs and have tailored my writing samples accordingly. You should do the same.

I don't disagree with you, but I think you would want to submit something with suburb writing mechanics and ability regardless, so topic could the be adjusted after that depending on what you choose.

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Posted

yeah, mechanics wasn't the right term. i just mean quality of argument and structure and all that. I've written excellent papers that I don't really care about because I constructed great arguments and offered excellent evidence. Certain programs told me to send that paper rather than the more "relevant" one that is shorter and less subtle. then again, I was applying to interdisciplinary programs.

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Posted

yeah, mechanics wasn't the right term. i just mean quality of argument and structure and all that. I've written excellent papers that I don't really care about because I constructed great arguments and offered excellent evidence. Certain programs told me to send that paper rather than the more "relevant" one that is shorter and less subtle. then again, I was applying to interdisciplinary programs.

Yea completely legitimate points. I guess the question for the person asking the question is what length it needs to be as well...

Also, I just realized I wrote "suburb" writing mechanics. I'll blame that on the stress of the last few weeks. Though I suppose you could have writing mechanics that are tailored toward the suburbs. Now there's something to ponder.

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Posted

Not sure if different disciplines have different requirements, but I was accepted to a handful of sociology phds and neither writing sample I used was strictly sociological. I had one paper in religion and one in rhetorical studies; both had been published in undergraduate humanities journals. Sooo not even social science. BUT I consider them my best writing (esp one but it was too long for some page limits) and they certainly show my ability to make an argument, support it, and fit it into the existing base of knowledge. And they both were related to my interests within sociology - namely race and social movements.

I'd run this question by a few faculty if you can, but in general I think the point of the writing sample is to prove you can write, and not to prove your knowledge in a certain area. That being said, you better be sure your SOP shows you understand the language of your field and explicates what kind of research you want to do, and why you want to do it at XYZ University.

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Posted

Well, relevancy is always required. However, depending upon the quality of work you may get an edge. Do try to write and submit relevant papers because you can never be too sure of what is being required here and irrelevant work maybe a negative point.

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