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I am applying for a PhD program and want to demonstrate my research abilities and enthusiasm for scientific writing. While I currently have no plans to publish this work, I completed an independent research project and wrote a paper summarizing the findings in a formal research paper format.

The application asks for "Example of an academic work, e.g., master's thesis, seminar paper." Would it be appropriate to include this independent project under this category, showcasing my ability to conduct research and present it effectively?

I understand that published work may be preferred, but I would appreciate any insights on whether including this unpublished, self-initiated project would be considered acceptable or detrimental to my application.

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  • From my perspective, I can speak only for the Czech Republic (CR). In the CR, academics tend to be rough. So, since your work was not supervised by a professional or the results were not reviewed by professionals, most academics would not accept it and may see it as boasting. But maybe in other parts of the world, academics would love to see that you work on your own and that you are interested.
    – Juandev
    Mar 1 at 9:38
  • That's a very helpful point, thank you. While it wasn't formally supervised or peer-reviewed, I'm currently formatting the results into a comprehensive scientific report to ensure clarity and structure. Do you think including this report in my PhD application would be beneficial?
    – Mamad
    Mar 1 at 19:56

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If it is the best you have, include it. However, if it hasn't been reviewed, as in a published work, or otherwise vetted, it will likely count for less than otherwise.

If you intend, at some future point, to publish it then you could tag it as "Work in Progress", which would explain the lack of review.

The problem is that a committee or PI would have to vet the work themselves, which they are probably unlikely to do because of the time and effort required. Depending on the judgements of others, when valid, is much easier.

But, use what you have.

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  • Thank you for your insightful response. I understand your point that unpublished work may carry less weight due to the lack of external review. I appreciate the suggestion to label the work as "Work in Progress" if I eventually intend to publish it, providing context for the absence of external vetting.
    – Mamad
    Feb 29 at 15:24
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Including your independent research project and the accompanying paper in your PhD application can be seen as a strong testament to your commitment to your field of study, your initiative in conducting research independently, and your ability to effectively communicate complex ideas through scientific writing.

In academia, everything counts. However, you don't want overwhelm your reader with additional information. Do you intend to submit this as part of your writing sample package?

While published work might carry a certain prestige, the key qualities PhD programs often look for in candidates include research competency, intellectual curiosity, and self-motivation. Your project demonstrates all these traits. Universities understand that not all candidates will have the opportunity to publish their work, especially at an early career stage.

Ensure that your submission clearly articulates the research question, methodology, findings, and conclusions, and discusses the implications of your work within your field. This will showcase not only your ability to conduct thorough research but also your understanding of its relevance and potential impact. Therefore, submitting your independent research project could indeed be beneficial for your application, rather than detrimental.

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  • Thank you very much for your detailed and encouraging response. I do intend to submit this project as part of my writing sample package. This project is supposed to be a GitHub project. However, I was wondering if you have any insights on whether formatting the research findings specifically as a conference paper, even though it may not be published, is a valuable approach for showcasing my work within the context of a PhD application.
    – Mamad
    Feb 29 at 15:24
  • No, I don't think this is necessary. As long as the formatting is consistant throughout, this should work.
    – Dr. B
    Mar 1 at 14:23
  • This is exactly what I was looking for, much appreciated.
    – Mamad
    Mar 1 at 20:08

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