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Mature student returning for PhD - writing sample 
12th-Dec-2012 12:52 am
sad leia
Hello,

I'm hoping someone might have a little advice to share about what to use as my writing sample. Most things I read say to use a report or paper that got a good grade as part of an advanced level course and to maybe polish it up a bit. The problem is, my last period of research in an advanced course was 12 years ago when I did my Master's in Library and Information Science and though I'm going for an Info sci PhD, I'm having trouble trying to determine if it would actually be better to turn in a writing sample from a graduate course I did 12 years ago, or should I try to come up with something new. The new thing would'nt be research though and as well written as they are, the strategic planning, governemnt reporting and policy writing I've been doing for the last 12 years doesn't really meet the level of academic writing.

So, should I a) Posh up the 12 year old paper (whose topic was how the book/ebook future looked) or  b)come up with something new that won't be as serious an academic treatment as I'd think they'd want.

Thoughts?? Help?? Askance looks wondering how old do I really think is too old to try to start a PhD?

Help Please!
Comments 
12th-Dec-2012 07:59 am (UTC)
Is a new piece of academic writing a possibility? You'd need someone to look it over for you, but Google Scholar offers a lot of resources you could use.

On the age front, I'll be 37 when I start my PhD next year, and there are people in the program I'll hopefully be going into that are way older than that. So I wouldn't worry so much about age. It's not at all uncommon for people to do their PhD after some time in the workplace instead of right away.
13th-Dec-2012 01:44 am (UTC)
also, some programs prefer you to be a bit older/have some experience.
13th-Dec-2012 05:38 am (UTC)
Some demand it, even - there's plenty of MBA and MPH programs, for example, that won't take students without at least a couple years experience under their belts.
12th-Dec-2012 02:49 pm (UTC)
I agree with tisiphone (as usual) that you should try writing a new academic paper. The more related to the ressearch interests you want to explore in grad school, the better. I did this when I applied to grad school. I went into a different field (history-related) than my undergrad training (English), so I felt that my application would be a lot stronger if I showed that I could write a strong history paper. I chose a topic that was related to my interests based on a paper assignment I saw on MIT Open Courseware. I was extremely fortunate to be working at a university at the time, so I had some faculty and grad students read my paper. I highly suggest that if you do decide to write your own paper to have someone in the field read it.

Like tisiphone, I don't think your age will matter. If anything, your application will look a lot stronger that you took the time to decide that you want to pursue this doctorate. I also gather from your post that you have professional experience in info sci, which is a huge plus. It shows the adcom that you know what the field is about. Make sure to emphasize why the doctorate will be important for your professional development.
12th-Dec-2012 11:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks tisiphone and cosmicwonder! I just turned 42 today, but I don't feel too old to do this, or to be able to make a meaningful contribution after - I just worry about the school wondering about that...

Unfortunately, I don't have access to university resources and the only articles I could use as research even would be those available through my public library's online databases (which while decent, don't match academic resources) I will check out the MIT open courseware though and see if anything there can help.

The reason I was thinking of using the old paper, is that it's not exactly on what I want to study, but it's loosely connected (it was on virtual libraries and the future of the book vs ebook) and what I'm interested in now is related to information sharing via computerised social media. Also, I actually have the professor's notes from the time so even though I got an A on it, I thought I could use his recommendations from then to make it a little better.

That being said, I was worried about submitting something so old, not just because it's dated (though it's interesting to see how close I was in predicting the ongoing difficulty with ebooks), but also because of them wondering if I'm too rusty in academic writing to be able to pick it up again!

Thanks for the suggestions though!
12th-Dec-2012 11:32 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I would be worried about it being dated, especially if you get someone inattentive who doesn't notice you write it over a decade ago. What about using it as a base to build on the topic you're interested in and update it? Also, check out Google Scholar. You won't be able to get everything, but a lot of researchers do upload working papers, journal articles, and book chapters to accessible sites these days, and a lot more are publishing in open-access journals. I'd also suggest checking out the Directory of Open Access Journals (here's a good place to start - http://www.doaj.org/doaj?func=subject&cpid=130 ). I suggest it not just to update your writing, but to make sure that you're conversant with the state of the field you're looking to go into, which is something that committees will be looking for you to have.
13th-Dec-2012 12:16 am (UTC)
Thank you! I was leaning toward being more worried about it being outdated, but it's helpful to hear the same opinion from others. I'm just being chicken about writing something new - and I only have a few weeks to do it. Time to bite the bullet and just do it!

Thank you very much for the thoughts and resources! Good luck with your PhD!
20th-Dec-2012 06:52 am (UTC)
I just want to add that google scholar will format your citations for you (in MLA, APA, or Chicago) -- total gamechanger.
13th-Dec-2012 03:26 pm (UTC)
In terms of the university resources, you might also see if you can get access to a university library nearby. Sometimes they'll give you access for a small fee.
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