1 Historical review: Some topics are better understood if a brief historical review of the topic is presented to lead into the discussion of the moment. Such topics might include "a biographical sketch of a war hero," "an upcoming execution of a convicted criminal," or "drugs and the younger generation." Obviously there are many, many more topics that could be introduced by reviewing the history of the topic before the writer gets down to the nitty gritty of his paper. It is important that the historical review be brief so that it does not take over the paper.
I enjoy all the clever comments, but the problem of selecting appropriate students is real. My experience, after having taught in a post doctoral program for over 25 years, is that the challenge is not selecting candidates that are talented, brilliant, inquisitive, it is selecting candidates that are suited to the path they have chosen.. If they get far enough to be individually examined or interviewed all the above has been more then adequately proven. I have seen too many people struggle to be happy and productive in life, however, because they were not suited for they aspired. Programs shouldn’t concentrate on one more clever way of letting candidates show their brilliance, they should concentrate on getting brilliant candidates in the programs for which they are suited.