I am currently applying to graduate schools for a Ph.D in math. One of the schools to which I am applying has a section in which I can upload a writing sample. The description says "Please upload a sample of written work that is relevant to your application (e.g. seminar paper, report, magazine/newspaper article, book excerpt)." Unfortunately, I am not published, but I have written several expository papers on relatively advanced topics for different classes. For example, I wrote a ten page paper on the Riemann-Roch theorem for an algebraic geometry class. Is that the sort of thing I should submit in lieu of a published paper, or should I leave the section empty in my application?

In a similar vein, there is a section titled Publications and Presentations where I can submit material. The description for this says "Provide a list of publications and/or presentations related to your academic or professional background (include the PubMed ID if applicable)." I gave a presentation on my research (the triple bubble problem) at an undergraduate research conference a few years ago. Should I submit the slides for the presentation under this section, or should I leave it empty as well?

I know that math is sort of an interesting case for undergraduates in terms of original research, seeing that it takes quite a while to really start doing meaningful research. I didn't know if I should consider this when thinking about whether or not to submit presentations/papers that are by no means completely original ideas, but are more of the expository nature. Thanks for the help!

  • 3
    My understanding is that "writing sample" sections are a way to judge how well the applicant communicates in writing, especially if they don't have published papers (or official "publications") to refer to in their CVs or otherwise. I believe the paper you are talking about is exactly the kind of thing they expect to be submitted in such a section.
    – mantra
    Nov 18, 2021 at 6:24
  • Excellent, thank you very much for the help!
    – Rough L
    Nov 18, 2021 at 7:54

1 Answer 1


It just asks for a sample, and your ten-page paper fits the bill. So yes, go with it!

As for the second section: Sure, put your slides there too. It may not be exactly what they're looking for, but it's also not totally out of the picture, so there is no harm -- but possibly something positive if someone ends up liking your slides.

  • Great, thank you for the advice!
    – Rough L
    Nov 18, 2021 at 19:11
  • The instructions are to provide "a list of publications and/or presentations" and so I think uploading the slides is inappropriate for the second section. I would make a list with just talk titles and where presented. Even a list of one can look good. Nov 20, 2021 at 20:32

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