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I need some constructive advice about my dissertation topic. I am literally just starting out my research. Though I won't be starting for another year or so, it's an extensive topic and I could use some advice to make sure the basic idea and outline is sound. Thing is, the few professors in my department who work in this area don't want to be bothered, so I'm stuck. I'd like to email about, but I'm not sure if that's allowed on this site?

Thing is, the few professors in my department who work in this area don't want to be bothered, so I'm stuck. I find it hard to believe that professors in your department who work in your area of research "don't want to be bothered" with questions about a research topic from someone within a year of starting his/her dissertation. If any of those professors are your advisors, it's their job to field such questions. If, after gently persisting, you can't get constructive advice about your dissertation topic from faculty in your own department, you should seriously consider transferring to a program where you can get such advice.

Alright, I have a small problem. I am applying to graduate schools for my ph.d. My application is OK, decent grades, great writing sample, but there's this one credential that I definitely want to include but can't put on the online application. These days, the applications are all online, and for a lot of schools what you can't upload to the application, you can't mail in either, because they simply won't accept it. I wrote a book on skepticism and philosophical naturalism, and I am getting it published by an academic publisher, and I desperately want to include what I think is an important credential with my application. I don't just want to mention the book on my resume and in my personal statement, I actually want to send it. I can send it to a couple of places, but other places (that I want to get into) don't accept supplemental materials. I'm definitely not bragging or anything, because my book has a lot of flaws, but I think that if the admissions committee sees the actual book that will definitely...

I think I replied to an earlier question of yours on the topic of graduate school (14 September 2013). I strongly recommend against sending an unsolicited book to any graduate admissions committee, particularly if they've said they don't accept supplemental materials. At best you'll waste postage. At worst you'll annoy them by ignoring their rules and saddling them with extra materials to store and dispose of. No one on any admissions committee is likely to have time to read your book before admissions decisions are made; if they read any of your writing carefully, it's going to be your writing sample. By all means make prominent references to your book in your cover letter and curriculum vitae. If your publisher doesn't object, you might include in your cover letter a URL where members of the admissions committee can read an online draft of your book. If the publisher is already advertising your book, include a URL for the advertisement. I strongly doubt that seeing the physical...

Alright, so I'm a Master's student in a top-15 graduate program, and I am sending in my Ph.d. applications this fall. I definitely want to get into a good program, and I plan to devote at least 2 months to polishing my writing sample. I got recommendation letters from professors that gave me 'As' in their courses. I have two B+s, but other than that, seven As and one A-. Also, I have written a book on philosophy and skepticism that is being published. Unusual perhaps given my age and (lack of) education, but I was determined to contribute something to a debate that was important to me. Plus I'm hoping that that little extra credential will help my application stand out. All in all I'd say the strongest part of my application is going to be my writing sample. It is going to be outstanding. Only weakness, GREs, 6.0 on the Analytical Writing section, 780 on Verbal, but only 630 on Math. Talked to one admissions committee person, he said they don't look so much at transcripts, but that letters of...

Prof. Smith gave a detailed and honest answer to which I don't really have anything to add. But two things about your question struck me. First, your GRE scores seem to combine two different scales: the current scale on which Analytical Writing is scored out of 6 and the old scale on which Verbal and Math (Quantitative) were scored out of 800. Nowadays, Verbal and Quantitative are scored out of 170. Did you take the GRE on different occasions separated by some years? In any case, an Analytical Writing score of 6 is 99th percentile, as is a Verbal score of 780. Those scores should impress anyone who sees them. Second, I'm struck by your having published a book on philosophy and skepticism before even entering a doctoral program. I'd be surprised if any of your competitors have done that. If the book is good and the publisher is reputable, you'll certainly stand out from the crowd. My only concern in that case would be whether you think you still have much to learn about (say) skepticism...