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I am a psychology undergrad student. I am currently working on a project that will be submitted for publication later this year. However, the project I am working on is in the sub-field of psychology that is not of my interest (environmental psychology). I am planning to apply for PhD programs in social/personality psych. (Sadly I didn't get a chance to conduct a research project in that field.)

Although my publication could be a strong evidence for my research potential, my concern is that this publication is irrelevant to my research of interest. Thus, how can I convince the grad school that I am a good candidate for the social/personality field?

  • The obvious answer, that it will help you be demonstrating research potential, seems to be ruled out by your p.s. Can you please clarify what you are trying to ask? – jakebeal Apr 28 '15 at 17:08
  • @jakebeal i just edited my post! "Although my publication could be a strong evidence for my research potential, my concern is that this publication is irrelevant to my research of interest. Thus, how can I convince the grad school that I am a good candidate for the social/personality field?" thanks :) – Ariana K. Apr 28 '15 at 17:14
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    Thanks for the edit---and I agree with @Corvus: the distinction between fields here is pretty minimal for purposes of judging this as evidence of research potential. Environmental psych vs. social/personality psych---really not going to matter at an undergrad level. – jakebeal Apr 28 '15 at 17:57
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Even if your publication were in physics or economics or any other field, it would still be a positive component of your application. When I look at graduate applications, a publication record--while not essential--is valuable because it signals the following:

  • Interest in doing research
  • Initiative to get into a lab and work on a project
  • Familiarity with what primary research is actually like
  • A close enough relationship to a faculty mentor for me to pay particular attention to that mentor's letter of recommendation

All of these hold in your case.

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Publications in completely different fields have certainly helped me throughout my career, starting with a totally irrelevant one I did as an undergrad. All decent research utilizes the scientific method. All data analysis utilizes standard approaches. And people judging you always are concerned about you willingness and ability to complete the task; i.e. to publish your results. If you box yourself into one small area, you will not progress as much. Everything changes, and you need to be able to change with it and expand your interests and abilities.

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