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Indecisive Poet

Varying WS length requirements

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The programs I'm planning to apply to ask for writing samples that vary between 10 pages and 25 pages, and several of these ask for no more than the lower end, while others ask for no less than the upper end. This means I'll need to prepare different writing samples for most programs, with some coming in around 10 pages and others at 25. How have other people dealt with this in the past? The longest seminar paper I have from my MA is 12 pages and each chapter of my dissertation comes in between 12–15 pages. I can shorten a chapter if needed, but I am not sure how to handle the programs that ask for 20–30 pages. I don't have any single, standalone piece of work that is that long at my disposal, so I think I would need to submit a chapter of my dissertation plus the introduction, or a chapter of my dissertation plus half of another chapter. Neither seems ideal, especially because some of these programs ask for a "single, sustained piece of work." I don't think I have the time to write an additional 10 pages of new material that won't read as if I'm tacking it on to something that was already polished.

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7 hours ago, Indecisive Poet said:

The programs I'm planning to apply to ask for writing samples that vary between 10 pages and 25 pages, and several of these ask for no more than the lower end, while others ask for no less than the upper end. This means I'll need to prepare different writing samples for most programs, with some coming in around 10 pages and others at 25. How have other people dealt with this in the past? The longest seminar paper I have from my MA is 12 pages and each chapter of my dissertation comes in between 12–15 pages. I can shorten a chapter if needed, but I am not sure how to handle the programs that ask for 20–30 pages. I don't have any single, standalone piece of work that is that long at my disposal, so I think I would need to submit a chapter of my dissertation plus the introduction, or a chapter of my dissertation plus half of another chapter. Neither seems ideal, especially because some of these programs ask for a "single, sustained piece of work." I don't think I have the time to write an additional 10 pages of new material that won't read as if I'm tacking it on to something that was already polished.

I'm having a WS problem too. Except my problem is that while most of my programs ask for up to 25 pages, a few ask for no more than 20, and I'm actually struggling to cut mine down by 6 pages in a way that still retains the spirit and strength of my paper (I'm at 26 pages currently. Down from the original 35-- I just omitted a section and that worked). 

For the WS that are supposed to be 20-30 pages, can't you just use 2 chapters from your thesis instead of one? I haven't seen your thesis, but I suppose it would be considered a sustained piece of work if it's under one large argument, even if it has subheadings. If your chapters are 12-15 pages, then maybe use your intro, 2 chaps of your thesis and a conclusion. I've read somewhere that you should or can indicate at the top of your writing sample that this is an excerpt from your larger work. 

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I had the same problem as @Cryss during my app cycle (apologies OP; this will be a little less helpful to you). All of my programs wanted 20-25 except for one (Yale, ironically) which wanted no more than 15. The thesis chapter I wanted to use for the WS came in at 29. I tried various cutting/condensing strategies, but ultimately what worked best was completely rewriting the chapter. I created a new document and just started writing again, occasionally copying and pasting passages but for the most part trying to express every idea with fewer words, fewer sentences, better and more efficient moves. It was hard as shit, but also sort of fun and I ended up getting it down to exactly 20.

At this point I did not have the energy to do another rewrite and get it down to 15 for Yale, so I said "Fuck it" and cut it at a section break 14 pages into the paper. I ended up writing a bolded, bracketed summary of what I did with the rest of the chapter. It felt reeeeally slippery at the time and I was positive that I would not get in, but here we are. :) hopefully this will come as some relief to all who aren't sure what approach to take just yet.

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On 9/6/2019 at 4:11 AM, dilby said:

At this point I did not have the energy to do another rewrite and get it down to 15 for Yale, so I said "Fuck it" and cut it at a section break 14 pages into the paper. I ended up writing a bolded, bracketed summary of what I did with the rest of the chapter. It felt reeeeally slippery at the time and I was positive that I would not get in, but here we are. :) hopefully this will come as some relief to all who aren't sure what approach to take just yet.

This is helpful because it suggests that it won't be a huge deal if I have to combine a chapter and a half, offering a summary of what the rest of the other chapter does – although I'm hesitant to do this because the other two chapters of my dissertation are not very good, IMO.

Did you also write a summary of what your dissertation as a whole does? i.e. where your sample fits into your larger argument?

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On 9/5/2019 at 11:11 PM, dilby said:

I had the same problem as @Cryss during my app cycle (apologies OP; this will be a little less helpful to you). All of my programs wanted 20-25 except for one (Yale, ironically) which wanted no more than 15. The thesis chapter I wanted to use for the WS came in at 29. I tried various cutting/condensing strategies, but ultimately what worked best was completely rewriting the chapter. I created a new document and just started writing again, occasionally copying and pasting passages but for the most part trying to express every idea with fewer words, fewer sentences, better and more efficient moves. It was hard as shit, but also sort of fun and I ended up getting it down to exactly 20.

At this point I did not have the energy to do another rewrite and get it down to 15 for Yale, so I said "Fuck it" and cut it at a section break 14 pages into the paper. I ended up writing a bolded, bracketed summary of what I did with the rest of the chapter. It felt reeeeally slippery at the time and I was positive that I would not get in, but here we are. :) hopefully this will come as some relief to all who aren't sure what approach to take just yet.

I rewrote my thesis like twice before it was due. Back then, I at least had my advisor to review it. The thought of doing this again, but on my own, terrifies me. I have imposter syndrome, and I doubt everything I do, writing-wise.

I am a big rewriting advocate though, since it usually just gives you even better drafts and clearly see what is not necessary to make your point. 

Thank you for outlining how you shortened yours AND how you did your explanation of what was missing. This is useful! 

Edited by Cryss

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On 9/8/2019 at 5:41 AM, Indecisive Poet said:

Did you also write a summary of what your dissertation as a whole does? i.e. where your sample fits into your larger argument?

So, I didn't do any contextualizing in the WS itself other than giving a summary of how the last six pages of the paper went, but I did go into some detail about the shape and drift of my thesis in my statement of purpose, so I assumed they had the context they needed.

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I had a similar problem when applying. I intentionally made my writing sample 20-pages because it seemed like the happy-medium between all of the length requirements. Then, last minute, I decided to apply to another program that had a WS length of 12-15 pages. I had a week before the deadline; I wasn't about to cut down or rewrite (well, actually, I was going to use another sample that I didn't like as well). I emailed the department and asked if I could submit my 20-page doc. They said it was perfectly fine, and I got accepted to the program. So: don't be afraid to ask! They might take a longer/shorter sample than they explicitly ask for on the webpage.

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17 hours ago, signandsignifiers said:

I had a similar problem when applying. I intentionally made my writing sample 20-pages because it seemed like the happy-medium between all of the length requirements. Then, last minute, I decided to apply to another program that had a WS length of 12-15 pages. I had a week before the deadline; I wasn't about to cut down or rewrite (well, actually, I was going to use another sample that I didn't like as well). I emailed the department and asked if I could submit my 20-page doc. They said it was perfectly fine, and I got accepted to the program. So: don't be afraid to ask! They might take a longer/shorter sample than they explicitly ask for on the webpage.

Would I email the DGS about something like this? The program in question lists an email address for the DGS and for a "graduate program administrator."

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