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Using a 20-pg paper that is not my Honors Thesis as a Writing Sample


bodywithoutorgans
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Dear All-

I plan to use a paper that is approx. 20 pages long for my writing sample. I think this will be easier to tighten up than my 85 page senior Honors Thesis. In the end, the short paper will be a better piece of writing.

I am worried about doing this, though, for a few reasons.

1) My Honors Thesis is more in line with my proposed research interests.

2) 20 pages may not be enough to prove to an ad com that I am able to engage in sustained research.

3) The shorter paper engages with the work of one theorist primarily. Even though I use a number of this theorist's essays and books, I am concerned that the narrow focus will not represent my ability to do research. The Honors Thesis engages with a number of theorists, and a number of works from each theorist.

4) At least one school asks for my "longest piece of writing".

To strengthen the shorter paper, I may add another section that draws on work from one or two other, more contemporary theorists.

What are your thoughts on using the shorter seminar paper vs. the Honors Thesis? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much, gradcafe!

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Hmm. Your shorter paper would probably have the benefits of better displaying your reasoning/critical thinking/analysis skills, since you'd be able to include the entire argument and not just a short excerpt. And in my field at least, 20 pages isn't short for a sample, it's somewhere around the mid to max page length. Last, you'd still be able to mention your honors thesis in your SoP and/or your CV.

But it's always nice to show the adcom you can write in your proposed area of interest.

But in the end: which do you feel is the better/stronger piece of writing? That's, without a doubt, what's most important in the end.

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Thanks for the reply, runonsentence. The stronger piece of writing, I think, is the shorter paper, if not only because it has the advantage that you state-it is a comprehensive argument in and of itself. Also, it isn't that the shorter paper investigates something totally outside of my research interests. If I do add to the shorter paper, the addition will attempt to connect explicitly the paper's topic to my stated research interests.

Maybe I'll write to the school that asks for my longest piece of work to determine the suitability of this shorter piece.

Thanks again!

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I'm also applying for PT and I'm inclined to think that if 20 pages is long enough to demonstrate an ability to do sustained research, then something is seriously wrong with the sample. This isn't to say that there's something wrong with the sample, but rather that I'm sure you're fine. Relax.

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