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In many, if not most, advertisements for academic positions, specifically for postdoctoral and junior faculty positions, I see a requirement of including a writing sample as part of application documents package. My problem is that, at the present time, I don't have a separate research paper (neither working, nor accepted or published). I certainly plan to convert my dissertation into several papers and/or, perhaps, a book chapter, but it will take quite some time to do that. Being in this situation, I'm thinking about extracting a chapter from my dissertation (most likely, introduction or review of literature) and including it in application documents package as a required writing sample.

Questions: 1) is it appropriate; 2) are there any reasons to prefer literature review to introduction or vice versa; 3) is there a benefit of doing so, even when a writing sample is not required?

Note: My field is Information Systems, a discipline, which can be considered as a sub-domain of Management Science, which, in turn, is a social sciences discipline (my focus is socio-technical).

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    Is this for the humanities or sciences and engineering? The answers probably differ based on the broad division of fields—although I have to admit I can't think of a STEM application I can recall that asked for a writing sample. – aeismail Jun 10 '15 at 11:00
  • @aeismail: Sorry, forgot to include the info - please see my update (BTW, IS is neither pure humanities, nor pure engineering - it is a multidisciplinary field of study, under the social sciences umbrella term). – Aleksandr Blekh Jun 10 '15 at 11:12
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1) is it appropriate;

I'd consider this the second best. Postdoctoral and faculty are mostly valued by how well and efficiently they can write and publish academic papers so having some published work to show is the best, and if there isn't any, then having an excerpt from the dissertation would also help.

However, do not just "extract" without making any change. Introduction in thesis may not be the nicest thing to keep readers' attention. Instead, use this chance to draft a paper, and write it out like a synopsis or executive summary. This way, you can showcase what you did in your previous study and also give the committee a writing example.

2) are there any reasons to prefer literature review to introduction or vice versa;

The ultimate goals are to show your mastery of English and expressions of concepts and arguments. I personally do not think an introduction without any review is convincing enough, nor a literature review without any big picture is descriptive enough. Thinking as a committee member, I want to see a self-contained story rather than parts that are abruptly chopped off from bigger chunk of works.

3) is there a benefit of doing so, even when a writing sample is not required?

There are two approaches, both I'd consider acceptable.

  1. Acknowledge that you currently are working on publishing your works (so no publication yet,) then proceed to present a writing example for their reference.

  2. Include it in the appendix, or in the letter explain that writing examples are available upon request.

The way I evaluate it is: does the whole application look tailored to what the committee asks for? You need to show that you have put together a package according to their ad, and not merely changing the school, department, and the chair's name in a mass production.

I certainly plan to convert my dissertation into several papers and/or, perhaps, a book chapter, but it will take quite some time to do that.

Do it now. Really. Everything about writing will "take some time" and it's the famous last word for many researchers. Make the time and get them done. Once you're in the new position all those thoughts and details will be forgotten very quickly; the interest to publish them will fade and guilt will grow. Use this application time as a motivation. Postdocs or new faculty members with publication history does distinct themselves from the rest of the pool; please use this chance to make a start.

  • Excellent advice (+1) - much appreciated. However, several notes: 1) while my dissertation's literature review is certainly not perfect (if there is such thing at all), it is relatively "big picture"; 2) I wish I could work now on converting my dissertation into papers; unfortunately, my circumstances don't allow me that luxury at this time; 3) I'm curious about your opinion on my three previous questions (all related to job search) - would appreciate, if you could take a look. – Aleksandr Blekh Jun 10 '15 at 11:49
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    @AleksandrBlekh, thanks for the kind words and glad you find some of the answers helpful. I'd see if I can contribute to your other questions. Remember even you don't have the luxury to work on it, keep this ideas going: look for a suitable journal, draft a line here and there, edit the thesis down... etc. Keep the actions going, even just 30 min a day, so that you're always moving towards the goal. – Penguin_Knight Jun 10 '15 at 11:53
  • Thank you. Good points - will certainly do my best to follow your advice (just need to submit all my applications, which is quite a enormous task - as they say, "job search is a full-time job" - plus, cut down a bit on time, spent on browsing this site and interacting here :-) - just kidding, it's very useful. – Aleksandr Blekh Jun 10 '15 at 11:57

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