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To Cut or Not to Cut?...


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Yes, another sample length question!

I submitted this to the Classics forum as well, since I had a few Classic-centered inquiries, but I didn’t get a response, so I thought I’d try here! I'm applying to Cornell, UCLA, University of Georgia, and UNC Chapel Hill to the Linguistics or Indo-European departments, hoping to concentrate in historical linguistics. For my writing sample, I'm planning to use my undergraduate thesis, which I think is my best scholarly work. I was a Latin and Greek major in college, and I focused on the development of writing styles and insults for six ancient Latin authors. Without the title page and bibliography, my thesis is 36 pages long (including footnotes and such). I thought I had read on at least one of my school's sites that the writing sample length should be between 10 and 20 pages, but looking through them again, I see no page guidelines, except on UNC's, which suggests a "short term paper" as an optional submission (I think I got those page limit guidelines from when I was looking into applying to Classics for graduate school instead of Linguistics).

I've had some friends and my high school Latin teacher read through my piece to give me suggestions on what to take out. They suggested taking out two of the authors, Catullus and Martial, to better fit the my theme of satirical writing; I had to do quite a bit of explaining in the introduction as to why I was including these two authors in my study, since they didn’t perfectly fit in with the others (although I think that choice turned out well in the end!). However, my former Latin teacher did say it would be too bad to take those two authors out, since they’re interesting; and my thesis advisor did tell me while I was writing my paper that including those two authors in my study was unique and that he hadn’t seen that very often. And personally, those two authors are the two I like best and have the most knowledge on, but I agreed with my friends and teachers that to fit a page limit, I should take them out to keep with the theme and reduce the amount of explaining I had to do in the intro.

However, now that I don’t seem to have page limits, I’m wondering if I can go ahead and submit all 36 pages. Is this a good idea? I’ve been reading around this forum, and I’ve seen some people are submitting their 80-100 page master theses, while other folks are suggesting that a paper on the shorter side is the best move. Taking out two authors, my thesis is down to 24 pages, and I would include a footnote in the intro that I had to take out a few authors. I’m already going to have to do this revision since UNC asks for a shorter term paper (though admittedly, 24 pages isn’t very short :(), but I hate not knowing what I’m going to submit! I’d love to submit my entire thesis, but I won’t if it will make my application weaker.

Thanks for any and all advice! I know it’s pretty complicated and long winded, but hopefully some people can identify. XP

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't have a concrete answer, but I can tell you what I am doing and hopefully that will help. For any application that doesn't specify length, I am using my entire MA thesis. Without page limits, it's not the pages that matter but the file size when you're uploading it. If you don't have a ton of images, I would think you'd be able to upload your entire thesis without a problem. I would think if you have a new and unique approach to your topic, taking out that portion might be shooting yourself in the foot. For the program with a shorter limit, I would contact the graduate secretary (or whatever that person's title is) or even your POI about it. I've had two POIs tell me that they want my entire thesis, regardless of the fact that the application instructions call for a shorter paper. I hope that helps a little! Good luck!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hello...I have a similar query regarding length.....the programs I am mostly applying for ask for the ength of the writing sample to be between 15 and 25 pages. Are the pages on Endnotes and Works Cited also a part of this or will they be counted as separate?

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I emailed three programs the same questions (do images and bibliography count) and they all said yes. One of my recommenders said to change the footnotes to complete citations and dump the bibliography altogether. Or you could dump what you can, and call it "Select Works Cited" so the readers know it's been cut. You could also email the DGS's where you're applying and hope they have a different policy; it would make sense that that wouldn't count, since the page limit is (I assume) to limit the amount of reading necessary and no one has to read your works cited.

So this didn't really answer anything. I would ask and hope that they don't count.

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