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Writing sample in subject outside of field


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This might be a dumb question, but I'll ask it anyway.

I've got 2 options for my writing sample:

Option 1 - 12 page undergraduate term paper related to specific area of interest. I wrote it roughly four years ago, early in my undergraduate career, but I've been editing and rewriting a bit here and there. Nonetheless, I think the paper still reads very much like undergraduate work. The scope is very limited, and it's clear to me that I've grown a lot in my thought and writing since then.

Option 2 - 20 page paper submitted for coursework in MA program. I attended a MA program in Liberal Arts that is fairly well-known and has a good reputation within the academy. The program emphasizes interdisciplinary work, and all subjects sort of bleed into one another. This specific paper was nominated for the school's top paper prize, but while I treat "politics" in the paper, the subject is out of my field. Still, it's well-written and well-argued, and I'm proud of it.

What should I do? Will adcomms fail to take me seriously if I submit something only tangentially related to my field? Is it better to submit the better paper regardless of the subject matter? I have been working to fix up my undergraduate paper, but now that we're down the wire I really don't know that it's good enough to submit.

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I would go with the better paper, even if it's not directly related to your field. The main purpose of the writing sample is to demonstrate your ability to (1) do original research, and (2) report your findings coherently and convincingly. It sounds like the second paper does a better job of achieving both of those goals; as long as your schools don't have an explicit requirement about the field of the writing sample, I think that's the way to go.

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