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Besides physics as my major, my other interest is linguistics, and as you can see, there is no overlap. When I was in high school, I wrote my first article in linguistics. It hasn't been read by any professor or published in any specialize journal, not because it was rejected, but because I haven't tried to do so. I had a graduate student in linguistics review it for me, and it seems that she finds it interesting. As far as I know, there is currently no material on the topic I researched available on the internet, which indicates that the topic is new.

Because (1) it is the first article I have ever wrote, (2) I did it when I was 16 or 17 (although I have updated so much it lately) and (3) the topic is new so far, I consider it my proudest scientific activity. I think putting it in the SOP will make a steady point that "I was born for scientific research." Will it be useful if I do that, or just mention the latest article in physics I wrote?

  • Are you applying to graduate programs in physics or linguistics? If physics, it might be too irrelevant as its not published or peer reviewed. – Chris C Jan 2 '15 at 18:31
  • I'm about to apply to... biology, but the branch is relevant to physics (theoretical biology). Many physicists collaborate in it. – Ooker Jan 2 '15 at 19:42
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    Not directly an answer, but one of my personal passions is disproving the claim "these interests are unrelated." The acoustics of vocalization and related physiology is an active, fascinating area of research which obviously requires both linguistics and physics. The study of information transmission can apply the concepts of thermodynamics to linguistic domains. I'm certain there are dozens more examples. – Tim Jan 2 '15 at 21:33
  • @Tim Maybe. However my linguistics article certainly does not affiliate with physics. – Ooker Jan 3 '15 at 10:11
  • xkcd.com/793 :-) – The Almighty Bob Aug 3 '15 at 18:13
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I wouldn't mention it. As Chris C states in the comments, it is not peer-reviewed and is not directly relevant to your area of future research.

My answer would change if the article were peer-reviewed and/or published in a journal, however. I think demonstrating that you have the ability and motivation to submit an article for publication is a positive attribute for a potential graduate student, regardless of whether the paper is in your field of research or not. For example, my first publication was not in my current research area, but several reviewers of my application later told me that just having a published paper set me apart from other applicants.

Since you claim that at least one person in the field finds it interesting and that the topic is new, why don't you want to publish it? Is there a way to at least submit it for publication before your applications are due?

In my opinion, it is a little dangerous to put unpublished articles on a SOP or CV. A reviewer might arrive at the (potentially false) conclusion that you're trying to pad your CV or SOP with articles that may never actually be published, which can hurt you. Others might wonder why you feel that the article is important enough to include on a graduate application, but not be important enough for publication.

Overall, I think the safer thing to do is omit it for now. If you end up moving forward with disseminating it further, then I would consider mentioning it.

  • Thank you so much. The reason I haven't tried to do so is because of procrastination. I always find that I have something more urgent to do. However, I do want to publish it. If you say so, I will consider to find a person to review it. But it will take times, and maybe it end up after my application are due. – Ooker Jan 3 '15 at 21:50
  • Also, do you think should I spend a paragraph for it? How much should it be? – Ooker Jan 4 '15 at 23:43
  • That is a hard question. I would probably address all other aspects (like your preparation for your chosen field, etc.) before addressing this. If you do address it, I would keep it short because it isn't very developed right now (largely unreviewed and unpublished). Again, it's a tough call. – Florian D'Souza Jan 4 '15 at 23:52
  • Let's assume that it is reviewed by some qualified reviewers and on the process to publish it (I'm not say that it will eventually be accepted). What is your suggestions? – Ooker Jan 5 '15 at 0:01
  • With the caveat that I don't have all the particular details of your application, I would say just mention it as an example of your research ability. – Florian D'Souza Jan 5 '15 at 2:24
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Before continue to read this answer, I think you should read Florian D'Souza's answer first.

Well, after consider many aspect, I decided to take the risk and included it into my SOP. My motto is "Do whatever that doesn't harm". The hardest part is to know the distinction between the good things and the looking good things.

Note: this answer is my own experience

Turn out that's a good idea. In the interview room, at first of course the interviewers wanted to focus on my "on-topic" research. After they satisfied with my answer, they couldn't hide the curiosity about my "off-topic" one. I think it's reasonable since I come from the natural side of science, applying to the STEM scholarship but have my first research in social science. They still kept their critical thinking, asking me about the assumptions, the model of collecting data, the explanation, the result, etc. But I think that they also got entertained with my presentation.

Unlike what I was cautioned before, they didn't care if the work was published in any journal or not. In fact, all they care was the research itself. I think this is because they were not linguists, so they couldn't evaluate the value of the work.

But to be fair, they also didn't ask whether my "on-topic" research was published elsewhere or not. I think at the level of mine, a published paper is not expected. But making a research outside my field is also unexpected.

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