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I'm planning to send out some applications to a few moderately prestigious Masters programs this fall. I have a lot of research experience, a good GPA, and strong recommendations, but the field I am interested in is somewhat niche. None of my coursework or research relates to it directly, and nobody at my university has this subject as their primary focus. After talking to some professors, I got myself enrolled in a directed study course and have been steadily working through a large chunk of material under the supervision of a prof from a tangentially related field; he's happy to help as much as he can and I'm making good progress.

I've started thinking about what the end result of this effort will be. It seems unrealistic to try to write anything publish-able without having an advisor that is directly familiar with the subject, but the applications I'm going to be filling out tend to ask for some "hard" evidence of research or previous work in the field. I feel that this work could improve my chances of entry, but I am not sure how to best present it in an application. Could I point to a substantial final project of this directed study class as research, or is this too informal of an arrangement for that (since I'm essentially creating my own class on the fly)? Would it be more prudent just to let the name of the class show on my transcript and have mentions of the work in my SOP and recommendation letters?

Thanks.

(If it's important: My undergraduate work and research is in the realm of math and comp sci and I'm wanting to enter the field of acoustic modelling.)

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    The very fact that you conceived of the project yourself shows initiative, which is (alarmingly) unusual. If your faculty sponsor can simply testify to your own conception of the project, and your serious pursuit of it, that'd be worth quite a lot, even if the faculty person cannot give expert testimony about your "performance". – paul garrett Jun 16 '15 at 22:41
  • Most master's programs don't expect you to have done research in that area beforehand. Can you give some links to see how exactly they ask for "hard" evidence? – Kimball Jun 17 '15 at 14:06
  • Talk to an admissions counselor or undergraduate advisor on the phone. Explain your situation and your questions. They will help you figure out how to package yourself for their purposes. Also, I support what @paulgarret said. – aparente001 Jun 18 '15 at 0:06
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I think you should ask your mentors to discuss your research in detail in recommendation letters. Provide them with the language to discuss your research. I would also include it in personal statements and course work.

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  • To this I would add: Include a paragraph in your application essay describing the directed study, why you did it, and what you got out of it. – MrMeritology Jun 24 '15 at 2:25

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