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How to edit down writing sample to be the appropriate length (I don't have chapters!)


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I'm in a bit of a conundrum with the writing sample part of the application (English doctoral program). The page limit is 15-20 pages. I'm using my undergraduate thesis, which is about 40 pages, so I'm going to need to send in an excerpt instead of the whole thing.

That said, I'm stuck on what the protocol is for selecting and formatting the excerpt. Unfortunately, my thesis doesn't have chapters. It's just a long essay. So, instead of selecting chapters, would it look unprofessional or lazy of me to just send in the first 20 pages, with a summary/explanation on the cover? The first 20 pages are probably the strongest part of the thesis, anyway, but I feel worried that I'll look slapdash, or that the committee will see my sample and think, "Why doesn't this moron have chapters?"

Yikes. Thanks in advance.

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I don't suppose it'll be an issue if you simply extract your strongest analyses from your thesis for your writing sample, though you might have to include an additional paragraph (or a few lines) at the start of the document to contextualise your excerpt. (This is just for readers to situate/follow your argument.) 

However, seeing as you still have months till your first application deadlines, why not rework your thesis into a 15-20 page writing sample? Can you condense your arguments? And are there analyses that could be extraneous? If you're still in a BA/MA program at the moment, then you could perhaps even work with your supervisor or your mentors to turn your thesis into something publishable? (Journal articles are usually the same length as writing sample length requirements anyway, and they also tend to be the "standard" for which grad applicants strive.) 

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  • 1 year later...

Hello, I’m currently in the writing sample editing stage of my application and would benefit from reading some samples for reference. Since I’m also applying to literature PhD programs thought it might help reading yours if you don’t mind sharing?


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