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Following Up With Sample of Relevant Academic Work


I have drafted an e-mail to send my psychology professor but I am nervous to send it.

The professor researches a topic that is significant to me, and what I hope to research in my career. I have good rapport with this professor, and we speak with each other on a first name basis as per their request. They have also encouraged me to submit my CV, transcript, and a sample of my academic writing so I can apply to volunteer in their lab next semester.

I wanted to send them a video campaign I created for another class that demonstrates my passion for the subject they research and my personal interest in it, along with a summary of the video as a sample of my academic writing. I am nervous, however, because neither are perfect but I thought they may appreciate them and it would show my personal interest in what they research. I did receive a 97% on the project in the class it was submitted for.

I am curious if this would be something a professor would appreciate.

university professor research email psychology

+25 Karma if successful
From: You
To: Friend
Subject: Career question for you


3 answers

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Desiree’s Answer

Since you are on such friendly terms, if you are in doubt, I'd go back to the professor in who's lab you are seeking to volunteer and point blank ask: would my video and written summary suffice as my academic writing sample?

If you're not willing to ask for clarification, then I recommend you stay as close to the professor's request as possible - e.g., CV, transcript, and a sample of academic writing. In hiring decisions, candidates have to be judged fairly and equitably under employer policies and labor law, so missing a component specifically requested could get you disqualified from the start or make it more difficult for the professor to hire you. Follow the rules, make it as easy on the professor.

I think you can add the video as an "extra", and explain why you think it might be helpful to the professor's decision making (just paraphrasing what you've written above, "I've also included video campaign I created for Prof X's class that demonstrates my passion for this subject.") If the summary wasn't already submitted for a grade, I'd be reluctant to use that as your "academic writing". Moreover, the summary alone may not be the best example of your ability to present a theory, analyze the materials and draw conclusions. You know best what your professor is looking for, so it's hard to judge from afar.

Unless you can get clarification from the lab professor, for you "academic writing" sample, I recommending using something you've been graded on, and take into account the professor's comments to improve it. You can say, "I originally prepared this for Prof Y's class, and revised it for this submission." That way you are being clear and transparent about the fact that you've updated it. If time allows, I strongly suggest you take into account all the comments and feedback - maybe even make an appt with the professor to whom you submitted to review it orally -- to buff it up and make it better. No college professor is expecting "perfection", so don't stress over that. But do use your best efforts within whatever time frame you have to polish it up as much as you can.

Good luck!

Desiree recommends the following next steps:

Ask the lab professor whether a video and written summary suffice for the academic writing sample
Provide the documents as required by the professor (subject to any clarification you can get) - you can add more, but at least cover the initial request
Use feedback you've gotten on the writing sample to improve it. Make clear that you've updated the writing sample.
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Chuck’s Answer

I would say that if you know the professor on a first name basis, and they are requesting a sample of your academic writing, you should provide that sample at a minimum. Adding the video is a nice touch, but the reason that many professors are requesting a sample of writing is to better understand your skill set. Most labs must be able to submit academic articles from labs for journals and publications. Lab assistants will often be tasked with writing information in informative detail for academic publication.

Since the submission is via email, adding a video is not likely to be successful unless it is a link to content hosted elsewhere. Videos (unless extremely compressed) will likely not be able to be sent via email due to size. As an additional thing to show for consideration, it is fine. As a part of the request it is not sufficient. Lab assistants should also be able to follow directions when given a task (my psychology professors would always want to see us follow directions in college), so my best advice is to give the requested information first, anything else is simply a 'nice-to-have' add-on for the recipient if they want to push to have you as their assistant and meet any resistance in the decision process.

Chuck recommends the following next steps:

I'd ensure that I have the requested information delivered before considering any other additional information.
If you are going to use the video, it should be available somewhere other than email.
Do tell the professor how you feel about the offer and how you want to do this (but only if you truly want to do that!).
Be sure to remember to thank the professor for the offer and let them know you look forward to learning under their tutelage.
Ask about the decision process, and timing. This is to ensure that you can plan your academic year ahead.
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Patricia’s Answer

Since you are on friendly terms and they have already encouraged you about the possibility of volunteering with them that is a very positive sign.
The only other suggestions, other than the ones already posted, would be to have someone proofread your correspondence prior to sending it to them.
Also maybe add any subjects you studied or experience you have that will be helpful to their team. In particular any experience laboratory skills or equipment used.
Explain your specific interest in their research by reading and referring to their recent publications.
It seems you are passionate about their research which I believe they will really appreciate. Best of luck.