How Not To Write A Letter Of Reference

Provide endless detailed accounts of the scientific content of the applicant’s published papers and how prestigious the journals are that they have been published in, while providing no insights whatsoever into the applicant’s professional and scientific character.


  1. Nicoleandmaggie3 says

    Disagree. When economists try to talk about character they are often wrong and they are invariably sexist.

  2. drdale says

    Perhaps the person who wrote the reference letter did exactly what you are requesting, “providing no insights whatsoever into the applicant’s professional and scientific character.” By excluding that valuable information, the person may be stating that the applicant has horrible professional and scientific character. For an N of one, hard to tell.

  3. Respisci says

    After reviewing countless applications for grants I have to agree with you. Too many profs supply letters of recommendation stating the candidates publication history while forgetting that the review committee has access to the candidates cv AND academic record. We want to know about the person–do they work well in teams? How independent are they? Provide examples where they demonstrated leadership in the lab, support for colleagues or were very insightful or original. Don’t tell me things that I can get on my own via pubmed.

  4. Phillip IV says

    Bam294 @ #5:

    Wait… How much shrimp do I need for this?

    Add about 500 gr of fresh shrimp to your letter of reference, and you’ve got good chances that it’ll be received much more favorably. Unless you have a major problem to gloss over, in which case I’d suggest adding a whole lobster or two.

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