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Writing Sample Viability


dani8023

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Hello all,

 

I thought about posting this in the applications section, but this seemed more appropiate as it is more a matter of history than writing. I am preparing to apply to Master's programs in history (Fall 2015 entrance). Traditional wisdom states that you should submit an already written piece of writing for your writing sample. However, I'm not sure what I have is appropriate for submission.

 

Here's the situation:

 

The paper that I consider to be the best example of my writing and research skills is not a research paper, but a bibliographic review. Although it does have a thesis and I make an argument, its primary purpose is historiographical inquiry into a specific subject. I am worried that this would not be a good paper to submit because it deals ONLY with secondary sources. I feel that it shows that I have good writing and argumentation skills, but that the lack of primary sources makes it less optimal for submission.

 

While I do have other papers that do include primary source research, they were written some time ago and my writing and analysis have matured a lot since then.

 

My two options at this point are to submit the bibliographic review, or to write an entirely new research paper.

 

Does anyone have any insight into whether or not my concerns are valid?

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Does your current program not require a senior thesis or seminar paper? I submitted my in-progress thesis to programs, and they had no problem with it.

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I did a senior thesis. However, since I graduated from my undergraduate program in 2012 I have been taking grad-level courses at my University in my spare time. My writing and methodology have vastly improved since my senior thesis was written.

 

I have considered re-writing either that paper or another, but I don't think I would be happy with the result. Looking at them now, I see enough structural issues I'm not happy with that if I started revising, I would rewrite the whole thing anyway. I feel like a fresh start with a new topic would be more productive and result in a better product. So... I guess a revision might be faster, but it would probably be poorer quality.

 

This may just be me being a perfectionist, but hey, that's what grad school is for, right?

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For MA programs, I think you will be fine with your completed bibliographic review. I would worry more about polishing and updating it (if necessary). The fact that you've been taking grad classes in your spare time will look good on your apps and show you're ready for grad school. For reference, I used a comparative historiography paper for my MA apps.

If you are also applying to PhDs this cycle, I think the paper would be fine in theory, but I personally wouldn't be comfortable submitting a writing sample that wasn't based on original research and mostly primary sources.

Edited by ashiepoo72
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The paper that I consider to be the best example of my writing and research skills is not a research paper, but a bibliographic review. Although it does have a thesis and I make an argument, its primary purpose is historiographical inquiry into a specific subject. I am worried that this would not be a good paper to submit because it deals ONLY with secondary sources. I feel that it shows that I have good writing and argumentation skills, but that the lack of primary sources makes it less optimal for submission.

 

While I do have other papers that do include primary source research, they were written some time ago and my writing and analysis have matured a lot since then.

 

My two options at this point are to submit the bibliographic review, or to write an entirely new research paper.

 

Does anyone have any insight into whether or not my concerns are valid?

 

I think you're much in better shape than you realize. No matter how good one's ability to work with primary source materials, that skill is greatly diminished without the ability to place one's work within the context of ongoing debates. Moreover, engaging in a research project without first having a very good sense of how that project fits into a larger historiographical debate can lead to a work that, while impressive in its own right, might see established historians ask "So what?" (And I've seen this happen. :huh:  But not to me.  :wacko: )

 

I recommend that you take the historiographic piece, find an aspect (or more) of the debate you address in that essay that either interests you or has been misunderstood or remains unexplored, Then, use primary source materials to flesh out your POV. Attempt to keep the revised essay the same length. As the project progresses, you'll trim / sharpen some of the historiographical points as you flesh out your own arguments.

 

A small point: it is primary sources and secondary works, not secondary sources.

Edited by Sigaba
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