Graduate Writing Sample

Since the writing sample is a very important part of the graduate English application, you need to choose it with certain considerations in mind. Ideally, you should select a 1500 to 3000-word essay that demonstrates your facility with academic research and argumentation, including the use of secondary sources. For MA concentrations in Literature, Cultural Studies, or the Teaching of Writing and Literature, you should submit an essay about literature or a closely related field (e.g. film); for the concentration in Professional Writing and Rhetoric, you should submit a research paper in the humanities or social sciences rather than a literary analysis. Applicants to the Linguistics MA should send a linguistics paper, if available. When the Admissions Committee evaluates your writing sample, we are looking for more than mere competence in the conventions of writing. We also want to see

  • a clear and contestable thesis statement;
  • a close engagement with the text you're interpreting or the research you are undertaking;
  • an ability to incorporate scholarly sources into your argument;
  • and a clear sense of audience and purpose.

The goal is not only to convince us that you write well, but that you are well-situated to take on the challenges of research-based writing and interpretation at the graduate level. If you have written a senior thesis, feel free to select a portion of it for submission, taking care that you provide as continuous an argument as possible and that you frame the selection so that we can see how it fits into a longer argument.

Applicants to all concentrations must supply an instance of the type of analysis described above. In addition, applicants to the PWR concentration may include an optional portfolio of professional writing samples. The samples in the portfolio should be chosen to demonstrate your ability to write to a specific audience for a specific purpose. However, the instances you select should reflect your expertise and experience as a non-literary writer, as well as give us a sense of the genres of professional writing you have worked with prior to entering our program. Past applicants have submitted a range of materials, such as brochures, websites, newsletters, reports, and newspaper articles. Samples that demonstrate your research and argumentation skills are especially encouraged. Please note, however, that narratives and creative-nonfiction should not be included in the portfolio, since such writing is not a principal focus for the PWR concentration.