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Applying for MA in English - Writing Samples? Watch

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    Hello,

    I am planning to apply for MA in English. One of my choices is Queen Mary College, University of London. They've asked for writing samples (because I finished by Bachelors 10 years ago, and in Finance and Economics).

    Besides the obvious that these should be academic essays, is there anything else I should be careful of? How long should they be?

    I'm assuming other universities would want writing samples too. I can select topics based on my areas of interest (mainly 20th century literature) + what the particular programmes offer, but beyond that I have no more awareness of what they look for.

    Thanks for your help,
    Dolly.
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    (Original post by DollyG)
    Hello,

    I am planning to apply for MA in English. One of my choices is Queen Mary College, University of London. They've asked for writing samples (because I finished by Bachelors 10 years ago, and in Finance and Economics).

    Besides the obvious that these should be academic essays, is there anything else I should be careful of? How long should they be?
    Not massively long. Usually when universities ask for writing samples with MA applications it tends to be in the region of 3,000-5,000 words, but the best thing to do would be to check with Queen Mary.
    I'm assuming other universities would want writing samples too.
    Some of them will, but not all. Obviously for you it's a bit trickier than for the average applicant because you actually have to write those samples from scratch without any form of guidance (whereas most people will just be submitting undergraduate essays that they got particularly good marks for), so it'll probably be a good idea to draw universities' attention to this in advance.
    I can select topics based on my areas of interest (mainly 20th century literature) + what the particular programmes offer, but beyond that I have no more awareness of what they look for.

    Thanks for your help,
    Dolly.
    Well, I'd say the best strategy would be to make sure your essays actually argue something and that the structure of the essays makes it very clear just what that argument is. So even if the essay question you're writing on is something quite general like 'Discuss the role of fish in the works of Virginia Woolf', try to have an underlying argument in your answer so you don't end up simply listing and explaining every single fish-reference from The Voyage Out to Between the Acts.
    Does that make sense?
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    (Original post by hobnob)
    Well, I'd say the best strategy would be to make sure your essays actually argue something and that the structure of the essays makes it very clear just what that argument is. So even if the essay question you're writing on is something quite general like 'Discuss the role of fish in the works of Virginia Woolf', try to have an underlying argument in your answer so you don't end up simply listing and explaining every single fish-reference from The Voyage Out to Between the Acts.
    Does that make sense?
    It does, thank you. Do you have any suggestions as to how I could narrow down topics for these essays?

    Also, do these sample essays need to have quotations? In my undergraduate essays, we were required to have supporting quotes for pretty much every claim you made.
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    (Original post by DollyG)
    It does, thank you. Do you have any suggestions as to how I could narrow down topics for these essays?
    Hmm, unless you have topics that you're dying to work on and that would be suitable for a short research essay of that length, it would probably help if you could get somebody else to set you questions or maybe get hold of an undergraduate exam paper or something along those lines. Failing that, you could try picking a (short) quote from a poem or a book you've read that you found struck a particular chord or was memorable for other reasons, and either use it as your starting-point for exploring the works of that particular author or for writing about certain aspects or themes of a particular group of writers (possibly, but not necessarily, including the one whose works the quote is taken from). Maybe you could try jotting down a list of interesting quotes from various sources as you're reading and then come back to it later to see which ones might be suitable as essay questions? Prefaces to textbooks, critical studies, scholarly editions and the like - plus the odd author's preface - should also be good sources of quotes that might form starting-points for an essay.
    Unfortunately it's been ages since I studied any 20th-century literature and I don't remember very much about it, so I can't really point you towards anything more specific - sorry. I've still got some of my old tutorial essays, though, so if you think that might help you to come up with ideas, these are the topics I wrote on for my first-year Modernism paper.:dontknow:
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    1. Consider the ways in which literary modernism distinguished itself from the writing of the 19th century
    2. What makes Conrad's narrative method modernist?
    3. 'All you must do in writing is to float off the contents of your mind. And yet I don't want that to be all, nor is it. There's a good deal of shaping in my novels.' - Did Woolf succeed in shaping her novels?
    4. 'In poetry, some very small event, a dropping of a book, a turning toward the door, a silence, may give the emotion for the literary purpose' - T.S. Eliot, 'Modern Tendencies in Poetry'. Discuss.
    5. Compare Howards End and A Passage to India.

    Also, do these sample essays need to have quotations? In my undergraduate essays, we were required to have supporting quotes for pretty much every claim you made.
    Yes, definitely. You won't need to speak entirely in quotes, obviously, but if you're trying to argue that a text does x or is y, it'll help to support your argument if you can point out one or two examples. Otherwise you'll be in danger of making sweeping generalisations, and that won't go down well, because one of the things you're trying to demonstrate through your work samples is your critical ability.
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    Hobnob,

    Thank you so much. This gives me a solid starting point. And I do have an interest in Woolf, so your topic about her is an interesting thing to ponder about.

    3. 'All you must do in writing is to float off the contents of your mind. And yet I don't want that to be all, nor is it. There's a good deal of shaping in my novels.' - Did Woolf succeed in shaping her novels?

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    (Original post by DollyG)
    Hobnob,

    Thank you so much. This gives me a solid starting point. And I do have an interest in Woolf, so your topic about her is an interesting thing to ponder about.

    3. 'All you must do in writing is to float off the contents of your mind. And yet I don't want that to be all, nor is it. There's a good deal of shaping in my novels.' - Did Woolf succeed in shaping her novels?

    Good luck!
 
 
 
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