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First Authored Paper Viable for Sample?


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Can primary authored articles be submitted as writing samples? I'm the primary author of an archaeological GIS paper that is currently being reviewed by a reputable journal. The other two authors are up-and-coming professors in the fields of GIS application and anthropological archaeology. I'm applying to grad schools in archaeology this Fall (for next year) and most of them ask for writing samples pertaining to archaeology. Would submitting this paper be ok? Any help is greatly appreciated.

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This is a question for your co-authors or other professors, preferably ones who sit on the adcom in your department.

In some fields co-authored papers are the norm and you're hardly likely to find any single-authored papers. In others, co-authored papers are rare and people have a harder time understanding the nature of the collaboration. First-authorship means different things in different fields too (as do contributions that merit second-authorship, etc) --are these conventions clear within your field? Do you expect the adcom members to understand these conventions? Do you expect people who are unfamiliar with these conventions to also read your writing sample? Even if you only put your advisor's name on the paper because it's customary in your field, people in other fields may interpret it to mean that they did part of the work on the paper. If the assumption is that the work was shared, your readers won't be able to judge your contribution. They can't assume that any specific part of it was yours, so there is nothing unique in the paper that can be attributed to your research abilities. Since the purpose of the writing sample is to demonstrate your research skills, that is an unfavorable eventuality. Does the paper specify each author's contribution? Will your co-authors write you LORs and explain your contribution? Even with clarifications, I would guess it's probably better to submit a single-authored paper, if you have a good one ready; you should make sure it's acceptable before submitting a joint paper as your writing sample, even if it is your best paper. Ask someone who has admissions experience in your field for the most reliable answer.

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