I am applying to a master program in cognitive sciences and they ask for two writing samples. I have read that published articles and even manuscripts can be good writing samples, however I have the following questions regarding the ethical and/or legal issues of doing so:

  • Should I include all the authors as well as their institutions and e-mails in the manuscript I send?
  • Should a writing sample include a brief introduction?
  • What happens if you are not the ONLY author of the paper you want to submit? Should you specify your contribution? Does it help that you are the first author?
  • Can I send just some paragraphs of the manuscript in order to keep my sample short? If I do this, should I modify all the references so that they are kept in order according to Vancouver style?
  • Probably a little paranoid but, could the university use/ distribute any results I report in this unpublished manuscript?
  • Why do you want to keep the sample short? Do they give you a recommended or required minimum or maximum length?
    – ff524
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 22:30
  • Yes, the minimum and maximum length are 5-35 pages.
    – LenaMi
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 22:45

1 Answer 1


Presumably they want a sample of your writing, not the result of you drafting something, somebody else writing it up, some referee suggesting corrections and your advisor giving it final polish and blessing.

  • 2
    While I believe you that single-authored papers are much preferred for writing samples, this doesn't really address what to do if you come from a field where most work is collaborative and single-authored papers are very unusual.
    – ff524
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 23:19
  • Yes, I agree with you in that a single-authored paper would be much better, however, as a medical student I was not required to write a thesis and it is not likely that I would be able to publish a scientific paper without the (at least) supervision of a researcher from my university. So, currently my options are: an unpublished manuscript in which I am de first author ( drafted and wrote it), a published paper in which I am the second author or... hurry up and write a small essay on a topic of my choice.
    – LenaMi
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 23:35

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