I am applying to US doctoral programs.

I have decided to mention especially four papers in my statement of purpose, so I have to present them in my writing samples. As a consequence, my writing samples take almost a hundred pages. Nevertheless, I make them into one pdf file.

Then my concern is if lengthy writing samples would instead hurt my application?

  • 6
    Have mercy on the review committee...
    – Drecate
    Nov 5, 2014 at 18:03
  • 2
    Writing sample. If the four papers are qualitatively equivalent in terms of writing skill, then sending one would have shown them as much as four.
    – Compass
    Nov 5, 2014 at 21:57
  • @Compass: Yep, then how can I mention the papers that I consider representative without presenting them somewhere in my application?
    – Yes
    Nov 6, 2014 at 1:04
  • 1
    Your writing sample isn't supposed to be all the writing that you consider representative of your work - it's supposed to be just enough writing to demonstrate what you're capable of. If you need 100 pages to demonstrate your writing ability, you're doing it wrong.
    – ff524
    Nov 6, 2014 at 1:09
  • 2
    You list your research papers (including the URL where they may be found) in your CV, so the committee can look them up if they're interested. You don't abuse the writing sample for this. A student who can't follow instructions in filling out an application is not an attractive candidate.
    – ff524
    Nov 6, 2014 at 1:12

3 Answers 3


To point to a specific program at a top ranked school (whose requirement I happened to know off the top of my head), Stanford's Political Science admission requirements specifically state that the writing sample should be 20-35 pages (double spaced). Additionally, you can submit more than one sample if you don't have a longer essay to submit. For example, two 10-15 page papers instead of one 20-35 pager.


I don't know how strict they are about the 35 page upper limit, but I think 100 pages is going to be far more than any department will want. Of course, this will depend on the program, but Stanford is a good example of a top-tier school with top-tier expectations.

Also, Stanford is the only program I've seen that even suggests submitting more than one writing sample. Most application forms will likely only accept one document, so unless you condense multiple documents into one, you're not going to be able to submit multiple samples anyway. I would suggest just picking your favorite and submitting that.


The writing sample is to show a sample of your research. Just because you mention multiple papers or projects in your statement of purpose does not mean you need to include them all in your writing sample. Pick what you think is the single best paper and include that. (As jonescb suggests, if the application guidelines give a page limit, and you have several short samples, you could consider including more than one, but only if their total length is less than the stated page limit.)

Do not (as you suggest in your comment) "exploit" the writing sample to stuff in as much of your research as possible. If you have published, that will show up in your CV. If your samples are not published but were, for instance, written as class papers, that will show on your transcript in the list of classes you've taken and how well you did in them. The writing sample is not supposed to be "proof" that you've done everything you talked about your SOP; it's just a sample of one thing you've done.

Even if the ocmmittee does look at your overlong writing sample, it will probably be perceived negatively. A person who tries to stuff the sample may be perceived as unable to focus on a single topic, or as trying to show off how much they've done. At the least, you will probably be perceived as someone who did not pay attention to the application directions (which, in my experience, usually use the world "sample" in the singular and give a rough page range), which never helps.

  • Yep, it is a showcase man. Moreover, schools who holds such point of view do not suit me. Fear intelligence? Of course not.
    – Yes
    Nov 6, 2014 at 4:48
  • @Kurt: Fear intelligence? Not every opportunity to showcase some of your intellectual accomplishments is an opportunity to showcase all of them. A conference presentation, for instance, is absolutely a showcase --- for one particular set of research findings. You wouldn't get up in front of a conference audience and start cataloguing every project you've ever done. A graduate school application is much less a showcase of what you have done and much more a preview of what you will do while in the program.
    – BrenBarn
    Nov 6, 2014 at 5:17
  • Thanks. Yep, I know. But my choices are NOT all of my serious works. I just choose four of them to represent that I have both theoretical and applied works in my field and I also have works in another field. What I want to convey is my academic literacy. Moreover, is not it a rational prediction that someone having some accredited records is more likely to have more in the future? Plus, always people tell you "too much of this" or "too little of that".
    – Yes
    Nov 6, 2014 at 5:39

I would not put more than one in a writing sample, and I would even attempt to avoid that at all costs. If they are published or are working papers available online, then you should include citations and/or links in your statement of purpose and resume/CV. Otherwise, I would not include them in your application at all.

Though this is with the usual disclaimer that the answer probably varies by field. This is mostly from an economics perspective.

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