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Where to find examples of successful philosophy writing samples?


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I'm considering applying to a MA program and from there to a PhD. Will probably focus on applied ethics in the areas of bioethics or AI.

The writing sample is one of the most important parts of an application. I wanted to get some pointers on where I could find examples of successful writing samples for grad programs, so I can get a better sense of what my sample will need to be. I've looked at some journals for undergrad publications, which may go on to get repurposed as writing samples, but haven't found many writing samples specifically.

Alternatively, you could just send me yours! If you are or were an MA philosophy student, and you wouldn't mind sending your writing sample, I'd certainly appreciate it if you could DM me a link or file. You can of course anonymize the paper if you prefer. A few things I'd request to be included are:

  1.     Which program(s) you were accepted to with this writing sample (school name and whether it was MA or PhD). MA preferred as I'm leaning towards an MA first.
  2.     When you applied
  3.     Any comments you can provide on how you got feedback on your writing sample before submitting it
  4.     Not to get greedy, but if you'd like to throw in your statement of purpose too, that would greatly help! At this stage, I'm just trying to get a good sense of what the whole end package of an application tends to look like.

Many thanks for any pointers you can give!

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Here's a link to a few successful philosophy SoP's on Eric Schwitzgebel's blog (He's faculty at UCR): http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2012/05/applying-to-phd-programs-in-philosophy.html

I'll let someone else help with getting you a successful writing sample; I don't know of any resources (and mine was godawful, at least the one that got me into an MA program but rejected from all my Phil PhD apps). You might be able to dig on this forum and find a link from someone in the beforefore. 

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Unlike SOPs, which are short and very formulaic, I am skeptical about the value of looking at a writing sample example. Theoretically, you should model your sample after a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal.

If I were to send you a paper on Kant that got me into UCSD, but your AOI is philosophy of mind, there would be no value in you looking at my sample. You should try to model your writing after scholars that your like and who are in your field. 

With SOPs, you don't see that kind of writing outside of grad apps, so it is good to read a few examples.

You should give your sample to anyone and everyone who is willing to read it. I used a term paper, and got feedback from my professor. I presented the paper at a conference, I gave it to multiple friends, I organized a graduate application workshop with my MA cohort and had some of them read it, etc. I probably had 6 different sets of eyes on it from inception to submission. 

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2 hours ago, Outer Heaven said:

Most programs do not fully read your writing, they simply have keywords at mind when weeding through hundreds of samples. 

"Keywords" might be a bit too reductive. Certainly they don't read all 15-30 pages of everyone's writing sample. It is more likely that they will read the first and last paragraphs of each sample to ascertain 1) your area of interest, 2) your superficial writing ability, 3) your capacity to frame a philosophical problem in a small space, and other similar things.

In any case, once they narrow down the number of applicants to, say, the top 50, someone on the committee definitely will read your whole sample. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence on this site where people say that so and so person at program x told them that they loved their sample. (I am sure that the person couldn't care less about an good undergraduate philosophy essay, let alone love one, but I digress). I also have talked to the current DGS at my MA program, and it is guaranteed that your sample will be read by someone more or less in its entirety.

So no, they don't simply have keywords in mind to weed out applicants. You need to have a really good sample from start to finish.

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