I am applying for an Economics PhD and I need to submit a writing sample of 2,000 words. I am planning to take an extract from an article I published, but I am unsure about whether I should take the literature review or the empirical results + conclusion.

The upside of the literature review is that the language has more coherence. The empirical results section consists mostly of descriptive sentences, graphs and tables. On the other hand, I can imagine it would be good to demonstrate my capacity for statistical analysis and reasoning. Any advice on this? I'd really appreciate it.

  • Honestly, I would pull either the intro or conclusion. It would give a sense of the overall paper in terms of question, method applied, and results. Personally I would lean towards the intro. – Dawn Jan 16 '19 at 12:53

When I look at an applicant's writing sample, I want to see that they can write professionally and convey research in a compelling and clear manner. I expect coursework and letters of recommendation to speak to a candidate's capacity for statistical analysis, I am looking to the writing sample to understand your capacity for communication.

To this end, my preference would be to see 1) Intro 2) Conclusion 3) Theory/methods section. Perhaps you could get both intro and conclusion in 2000 words?

Of course it would be preferable to submit the whole paper, so I would recommend sending a PDF with a link to the full paper embedded and including the full paper citation at the beginning.

  • @David Helpful answers are typically upvoted Or accepted (using the check mark). Welcome! – Dawn Jan 18 '19 at 13:32

Since this is published research, I would certainly expect to see the whole paper submitted with your application in any case. It follows that using part of the paper also as a "writing sample" is useless.

I would contact the committee and ask whether, since you have published research, it can stand in for the "writing sample" they ask for. If they nevertheless want both the whole paper and a "writing sample", or if you don't get an answer on time, you should prepare a "writing sample", which should then be in the spirit of a "Introduction and motivation" of a research paper, down to describing the subsequent sections of this yet-to-be-written paper. This section will show command of language and of concepts, ability to defend the value of a research topic, and also how comprehensively you plan to explore the topic.

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