My overall question is: Should I prepare new writing sample for a field I'm trying to enter, or submit a published writing sample in my old field (which is very technical)?


I'm trying to transition out of a purely technical position (an academic, postdoctoral position in a field of computational science) into a public policy position.

The specific role I'm now preparing an application for combines some quantitative analytic work (some statistics and data visualization, etc) with a large writing component.

I'm very qualified for the quantitative aspects of the role, and I think I can illustrate from my body of technical/academic work (and my cover letter) that I am also a strong writer.

However, I feel the weak point of my application is the writing sample. I have many examples of technical writing, but much of it is so embedded in mathematical jargon that it would be inaccessible to anyone outside my narrow field. It also does not support my (genuine) interest in focusing on public policy.

I've considered writing a short article (perhaps a book review? essay?) based on a relevant public policy topic. I think this may be a good idea in general, but I'm also anxious to get in an application to this current position. I'm also not confident in my ability to write a pertinent piece here (this is part of the expertise I hope to develop).

Alternately, I'd considered submitting a former grant application (tightly written and somewhat less technical than a paper) or a high-level research overview.

Thank you for any advice.

  • 1
    The more relevant your writing sample is to the position, the more it will help your chances of being hired. Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 19:47
  • Can you include multiple samples? If so why not include both?
    – Anketam
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 22:17

2 Answers 2


If you are interested in writing for a different field than you are in, look at various trade/industry magazines, journals, web/blogs, and any other media outlet which doesn't need peer reviewed articles. Volunteer to write for them. Write a few articles, then include the best (one or more) with your application.


Likely the biggest point of the writing sample is showing that you are able to clearly communicate in the required language at the required audience level using generally accepted domain practices. Giving them a technical paper that the hiring manager isn't equipped to understand is shooting yourself in the foot.

Look for any publications (policy, report, recommendations, etc) from the department that you are applying for. What they are producing now is likely a great example of the kind of content they will want you to produce.

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