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Examples of/Guidelines for Successful Writing Samples


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I'm in the early stages of writing my Writing Sample for admission to top MA programs, and am looking for successful examples of quality writing samples, or philosophy papers that would succeed as writing samples. My AOI is ethics (metaethics and applied ethics) and political philosophy, but because I am also seeking general guidelines with respect to format, language use, organization, etc., an example from any area of philosophy would be extremely helpful. I'm also wondering if it would be wise to model my writing sample after published papers in my AOI. 

Meta question: I've seen little to no posts seeking examples of writing samples. Is it poor etiquette or otherwise unreasonable to seek examples of writing samples or papers that would succeed as writing samples? 

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My own approach was to read published articles about my topic (I was doing that for a survey of secondary literature, anyway) and use those papers as guides for my writing sample. The one difference I can think of is that I believe, especially for MA applications, that writing samples can be considerably shorter than published articles. But this may not always be the case - there are probably exceptions on both sides. In any case, I think that modeling your writing sample after published papers in your AOI is the best course of action.

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Meta answer: I've seen a couple of posts asking for people to look over a writing sample, but in general I think most peer-to-peer writing sample feedback comes from private swaps. If you see someone in your AOI in the forums here who's been active recently, I doubt most of us would be offended to receive a polite DM asking if we'd be interested in swapping. I probably wouldn't publicly post mine or distribute it widely to anons during an app cycle when I was applying, not because I think GradCafe is teeming with plagiarists or anything, but...well, I'd be totally screwed if it got plagiarized and I had no paper trail to prove it was mine, y'ken? But I reckon currently enrolled grad students would be very generous with sharing their writing samples if you asked!

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  • 2 weeks later...
17 hours ago, you'll_never_get_to_heaven said:

Don't decide that your writing sample should be an edited version of your seventy page honors thesis like I did.

Haha. Wow. That's funny. And intense.

How far did it you edit it down? 30 pages? 20?

Edited by Duns Eith
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2 hours ago, Duns Eith said:

Haha. Wow. That's funny. And intense.

How far did it you edit it down? 30 pages? 20?

I got it down to 30 pages. I included an abstract of the whole project. Originally, I wanted to use my conclusion, but my friend pointed out that it didn't make any sense as a standalone piece. So, I included the first two sections, but couldn't effectively narrow it down further. In hindsight, I can think of how I might have extracted portions of it into a defense of a much more narrowed down thesis, but I thought at the time that it would be really impressive to have this whole big independent work I had done. By the time it dawned on me, it was too late to really take on a serious editing project.

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