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Letter of Recommendation (LOR) for PhD Students (with Sample) - Need, Parts, Qualities

Letter of Recommendation for PhD Students: For PhD students, a letter of recommendation is a crucial component of the application documents. While other admissions materials, like transcripts and test results, are factual, a letter of recommendation for PhD students integrates the plans and facts of a CV and statement of purpose. A résumé is a summary of your accomplishments, transcripts are evidence of your achievements, and an SOP describes the significance of the course and your readiness for it. A reference letter for a PhD is an unbiased opinion on everything mentioned above. TOP EXAMS : IELTS | TOEFL | GRE | GMAT Country Guide : UK | Ireland | Australia | Canada

What is the need for a letter of recommendation for PhD students

Select the right person to write recommendation letter for phd, letter of recommendation for phd students: qualities to focus on, parts of a lor for phd students, elements of letter of recommendation for ph.d. students.

Letter of Recommendation (LOR) for PhD Students (with Sample) - Need, Parts, Qualities

A PhD application usually requires at least two letters of recommendation for students from their professors. This allows the admission committee to know the applicants as people with skills that would otherwise be difficult to know from their resumes, transcripts and SOP. A letter of recommendation for PhD students should mention at least three qualities of the applicant – a social quality and at least two technical or subject-related qualities.

Moreover, as a PhD is an advanced specialised programme, the subject-related quality should be focused on projects carried out and specialised courses that will aid his/her PhD research. Read the complete article to know all the details about PhD letter of recommendation, PhD reference letter samples, and more.

A recommendation letter for PhD student from professors holds much more importance than those applying for undergraduate or master's courses. Grades and GRE scores play a big role in receiving admission from a university. The recommendation letter for PhD admission is usually the deciding factor when choosing between candidates with similar credentials. Go through the key points to be included in the reference letter for PhD students from the professor to gain an understanding of what it is before you ask your professor to write a PhD reference letter for you.

Before asking someone for a recommendation letter for PhD application, you should know whom to ask. PhD is purely an academic degree and therefore you need to have a recommendation letter for PhD from those who can vouch for your academic inclination and strengths. PhD recommendation letter should be written by academicians with whom you have worked or someone who has supervised or taught you. If you are aspiring for a PhD programme or want a lor for PhD post-doctoral research, you should ideally ask your master's project guide or PhD guide to be one of the referees for your letter of recommendation for PhD students.

Your faculty must go through a sample recommendation letter for a PhD from a professor before sitting down to write one recommendation letter PhD for you. Other letters of recommendation for PhD students from teachers and professionals can be taken from persons who are from the same field or specialization in which you intend to do your PhD. You can also take your recommendation letter for doctoral programs from your supervisor who has an understanding of your academic capabilities.

Friends and relatives are not supposed to write your LOR for PhD students for a number of reasons; first, they do not have first-hand information about your academic capabilities. Second, as they have not professionally or academically worked with you, they would not be able to present relevant information in the PhD letter of recommendation about you. Also, the recommender might not have in-depth knowledge of the discipline you intend to do a PhD. Last but not least, relatives cannot be objective about your qualities. That's why it is not a great idea to take your student recommendation letter from them. So a letter of recommendation for PhD students from teachers, professors, supervisors, coaches, etc., is only applicable.

The person who is writing a letter of recommendation for PhD students would be a professional who has known the applicant academically for no less than one year. The recommender should not only know you as one of the students in the department, but they should also know you as a person, your capabilities as a student, as well as your control over the subject they have been teaching. They should also be aware of your plans.

Recommendation letters for Ph.D. students from supervisors, and professors are very subject-specific. Referees should speak of strong subject knowledge as well as analysis traits. Reference letter for PhD student should show the student as possessing positive qualities like intelligence, self-motivation, responsibility, and amiableness. Emphasis should be given to passion and dedication as well.

Advanced study like a Ph.D. is often a challenging and demanding program. Therefore, the PhD recommendation letter should also display perseverance, competitiveness and the ability to work independently. Courses and knowledge related to PhD programme-related packages, extra courses, and statistical analysis techniques should be exemplified in the letter of recommendation for the PhD program.

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A student recommendation letter for a PhD will typically be between one to two pages. The document of recommendation letter for PhD student should be well differentiated into 5–6 paragraphs. The LOR for PhD should begin with an introductory paragraph about the recommender and his/her association with the applicant. You must read a PDF of the PhD recommendation letter sample before you ask your recommenders to give you one.

The next 3 to 4 paragraphs in the letter of recommendation for PhD program should outline the different academic and social qualities of the applicant with suitable substantiation. No quality should be mentioned without a suitable example. Finally, the concluding paragraph will sum up the above with a line recommending the applicant for the programme.

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Below is a sample recommendation letter for PhD from a professor. Candidates can refer to it while writing the LOR for PhD students.

Reference letter sample for PhD student

Like there is a letter of recommendation for PhD students from professors, you can also read about PhD reference letter sample pdf, sample LOR for graduate school from coworker pdf, letter of recommendation for PhD in computer science, sample recommendation letter for employee, etc which will give you a fair idea what a recommendation letter is all about.

A recommendation letter for PhD students from a professor or supervisor gives a human touch to the applicant’s profile. A reference letter for PhD student from a professor is the only document that can present the applicant’s social side to the admission committee. Therefore, choose a referee who can not only substantiate your academic strengths but also cite appropriate examples of your social qualities in your recommendation letter for PhD students.

Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)

It is crucial that the person writing your recommendation letter is someone who is familiar with your academic abilities. The most frequent writers of letters of recommendation are academics; professors or supervisors, but, other experts who are familiar with you and have overseen your academic or research work may also be suitable candidates.

The reference letter should be 1-2 pages long with 5-6 paragraphs.

PhD suggestions are highly specialised. Referees should emphasise both analytical skills and in-depth topic understanding. Letters of recommendation for students should highlight their intelligence, initiative, responsibility, and interpersonal skills.

Yes, PhD, postdoc, and scholarship applications typically require two to three letters of recommendation. These letters should come from professors who know your work and can detail your possibilities.

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Explore Career Options (By Industry)

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Bio Medical Engineer

The field of biomedical engineering opens up a universe of expert chances. An Individual in the biomedical engineering career path work in the field of engineering as well as medicine, in order to find out solutions to common problems of the two fields. The biomedical engineering job opportunities are to collaborate with doctors and researchers to develop medical systems, equipment, or devices that can solve clinical problems. Here we will be discussing jobs after biomedical engineering, how to get a job in biomedical engineering, biomedical engineering scope, and salary. 

Data Administrator

Database professionals use software to store and organise data such as financial information, and customer shipping records. Individuals who opt for a career as data administrators ensure that data is available for users and secured from unauthorised sales. DB administrators may work in various types of industries. It may involve computer systems design, service firms, insurance companies, banks and hospitals.

Ethical Hacker

A career as ethical hacker involves various challenges and provides lucrative opportunities in the digital era where every giant business and startup owns its cyberspace on the world wide web. Individuals in the ethical hacker career path try to find the vulnerabilities in the cyber system to get its authority. If he or she succeeds in it then he or she gets its illegal authority. Individuals in the ethical hacker career path then steal information or delete the file that could affect the business, functioning, or services of the organization.

Data Analyst

The invention of the database has given fresh breath to the people involved in the data analytics career path. Analysis refers to splitting up a whole into its individual components for individual analysis. Data analysis is a method through which raw data are processed and transformed into information that would be beneficial for user strategic thinking.

Data are collected and examined to respond to questions, evaluate hypotheses or contradict theories. It is a tool for analyzing, transforming, modeling, and arranging data with useful knowledge, to assist in decision-making and methods, encompassing various strategies, and is used in different fields of business, research, and social science.

Geothermal Engineer

Individuals who opt for a career as geothermal engineers are the professionals involved in the processing of geothermal energy. The responsibilities of geothermal engineers may vary depending on the workplace location. Those who work in fields design facilities to process and distribute geothermal energy. They oversee the functioning of machinery used in the field.

Remote Sensing Technician

Individuals who opt for a career as a remote sensing technician possess unique personalities. Remote sensing analysts seem to be rational human beings, they are strong, independent, persistent, sincere, realistic and resourceful. Some of them are analytical as well, which means they are intelligent, introspective and inquisitive. 

Remote sensing scientists use remote sensing technology to support scientists in fields such as community planning, flight planning or the management of natural resources. Analysing data collected from aircraft, satellites or ground-based platforms using statistical analysis software, image analysis software or Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a significant part of their work. Do you want to learn how to become remote sensing technician? There's no need to be concerned; we've devised a simple remote sensing technician career path for you. Scroll through the pages and read.

Geotechnical engineer

The role of geotechnical engineer starts with reviewing the projects needed to define the required material properties. The work responsibilities are followed by a site investigation of rock, soil, fault distribution and bedrock properties on and below an area of interest. The investigation is aimed to improve the ground engineering design and determine their engineering properties that include how they will interact with, on or in a proposed construction. 

The role of geotechnical engineer in mining includes designing and determining the type of foundations, earthworks, and or pavement subgrades required for the intended man-made structures to be made. Geotechnical engineering jobs are involved in earthen and concrete dam construction projects, working under a range of normal and extreme loading conditions. 


How fascinating it is to represent the whole world on just a piece of paper or a sphere. With the help of maps, we are able to represent the real world on a much smaller scale. Individuals who opt for a career as a cartographer are those who make maps. But, cartography is not just limited to maps, it is about a mixture of art , science , and technology. As a cartographer, not only you will create maps but use various geodetic surveys and remote sensing systems to measure, analyse, and create different maps for political, cultural or educational purposes.

Budget Analyst

Budget analysis, in a nutshell, entails thoroughly analyzing the details of a financial budget. The budget analysis aims to better understand and manage revenue. Budget analysts assist in the achievement of financial targets, the preservation of profitability, and the pursuit of long-term growth for a business. Budget analysts generally have a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, economics, or a closely related field. Knowledge of Financial Management is of prime importance in this career.

Product Manager

A Product Manager is a professional responsible for product planning and marketing. He or she manages the product throughout the Product Life Cycle, gathering and prioritising the product. A product manager job description includes defining the product vision and working closely with team members of other departments to deliver winning products.  


An underwriter is a person who assesses and evaluates the risk of insurance in his or her field like mortgage, loan, health policy, investment, and so on and so forth. The underwriter career path does involve risks as analysing the risks means finding out if there is a way for the insurance underwriter jobs to recover the money from its clients. If the risk turns out to be too much for the company then in the future it is an underwriter who will be held accountable for it. Therefore, one must carry out his or her job with a lot of attention and diligence.

Finance Executive

Operations manager.

Individuals in the operations manager jobs are responsible for ensuring the efficiency of each department to acquire its optimal goal. They plan the use of resources and distribution of materials. The operations manager's job description includes managing budgets, negotiating contracts, and performing administrative tasks.

Bank Probationary Officer (PO)

Investment director.

An investment director is a person who helps corporations and individuals manage their finances. They can help them develop a strategy to achieve their goals, including paying off debts and investing in the future. In addition, he or she can help individuals make informed decisions.

Welding Engineer

Welding Engineer Job Description: A Welding Engineer work involves managing welding projects and supervising welding teams. He or she is responsible for reviewing welding procedures, processes and documentation. A career as Welding Engineer involves conducting failure analyses and causes on welding issues. 

Transportation Planner

A career as Transportation Planner requires technical application of science and technology in engineering, particularly the concepts, equipment and technologies involved in the production of products and services. In fields like land use, infrastructure review, ecological standards and street design, he or she considers issues of health, environment and performance. A Transportation Planner assigns resources for implementing and designing programmes. He or she is responsible for assessing needs, preparing plans and forecasts and compliance with regulations.

An expert in plumbing is aware of building regulations and safety standards and works to make sure these standards are upheld. Testing pipes for leakage using air pressure and other gauges, and also the ability to construct new pipe systems by cutting, fitting, measuring and threading pipes are some of the other more involved aspects of plumbing. Individuals in the plumber career path are self-employed or work for a small business employing less than ten people, though some might find working for larger entities or the government more desirable.

Construction Manager

Individuals who opt for a career as construction managers have a senior-level management role offered in construction firms. Responsibilities in the construction management career path are assigning tasks to workers, inspecting their work, and coordinating with other professionals including architects, subcontractors, and building services engineers.

Urban Planner

Urban Planning careers revolve around the idea of developing a plan to use the land optimally, without affecting the environment. Urban planning jobs are offered to those candidates who are skilled in making the right use of land to distribute the growing population, to create various communities. 

Urban planning careers come with the opportunity to make changes to the existing cities and towns. They identify various community needs and make short and long-term plans accordingly.

Highway Engineer

Highway Engineer Job Description:  A Highway Engineer is a civil engineer who specialises in planning and building thousands of miles of roads that support connectivity and allow transportation across the country. He or she ensures that traffic management schemes are effectively planned concerning economic sustainability and successful implementation.

Environmental Engineer

Individuals who opt for a career as an environmental engineer are construction professionals who utilise the skills and knowledge of biology, soil science, chemistry and the concept of engineering to design and develop projects that serve as solutions to various environmental problems. 

Naval Architect

A Naval Architect is a professional who designs, produces and repairs safe and sea-worthy surfaces or underwater structures. A Naval Architect stays involved in creating and designing ships, ferries, submarines and yachts with implementation of various principles such as gravity, ideal hull form, buoyancy and stability. 

Orthotist and Prosthetist

Orthotists and Prosthetists are professionals who provide aid to patients with disabilities. They fix them to artificial limbs (prosthetics) and help them to regain stability. There are times when people lose their limbs in an accident. In some other occasions, they are born without a limb or orthopaedic impairment. Orthotists and prosthetists play a crucial role in their lives with fixing them to assistive devices and provide mobility.

Veterinary Doctor


A career in pathology in India is filled with several responsibilities as it is a medical branch and affects human lives. The demand for pathologists has been increasing over the past few years as people are getting more aware of different diseases. Not only that, but an increase in population and lifestyle changes have also contributed to the increase in a pathologist’s demand. The pathology careers provide an extremely huge number of opportunities and if you want to be a part of the medical field you can consider being a pathologist. If you want to know more about a career in pathology in India then continue reading this article.

Speech Therapist


Gynaecology can be defined as the study of the female body. The job outlook for gynaecology is excellent since there is evergreen demand for one because of their responsibility of dealing with not only women’s health but also fertility and pregnancy issues. Although most women prefer to have a women obstetrician gynaecologist as their doctor, men also explore a career as a gynaecologist and there are ample amounts of male doctors in the field who are gynaecologists and aid women during delivery and childbirth. 

An oncologist is a specialised doctor responsible for providing medical care to patients diagnosed with cancer. He or she uses several therapies to control the cancer and its effect on the human body such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy and biopsy. An oncologist designs a treatment plan based on a pathology report after diagnosing the type of cancer and where it is spreading inside the body.


The audiologist career involves audiology professionals who are responsible to treat hearing loss and proactively preventing the relevant damage. Individuals who opt for a career as an audiologist use various testing strategies with the aim to determine if someone has a normal sensitivity to sounds or not. After the identification of hearing loss, a hearing doctor is required to determine which sections of the hearing are affected, to what extent they are affected, and where the wound causing the hearing loss is found. As soon as the hearing loss is identified, the patients are provided with recommendations for interventions and rehabilitation such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, and appropriate medical referrals. While audiology is a branch of science that studies and researches hearing, balance, and related disorders.

Hospital Administrator

The hospital Administrator is in charge of organising and supervising the daily operations of medical services and facilities. This organising includes managing of organisation’s staff and its members in service, budgets, service reports, departmental reporting and taking reminders of patient care and services.

For an individual who opts for a career as an actor, the primary responsibility is to completely speak to the character he or she is playing and to persuade the crowd that the character is genuine by connecting with them and bringing them into the story. This applies to significant roles and littler parts, as all roles join to make an effective creation. Here in this article, we will discuss how to become an actor in India, actor exams, actor salary in India, and actor jobs. 

Individuals who opt for a career as acrobats create and direct original routines for themselves, in addition to developing interpretations of existing routines. The work of circus acrobats can be seen in a variety of performance settings, including circus, reality shows, sports events like the Olympics, movies and commercials. Individuals who opt for a career as acrobats must be prepared to face rejections and intermittent periods of work. The creativity of acrobats may extend to other aspects of the performance. For example, acrobats in the circus may work with gym trainers, celebrities or collaborate with other professionals to enhance such performance elements as costume and or maybe at the teaching end of the career.

Video Game Designer

Career as a video game designer is filled with excitement as well as responsibilities. A video game designer is someone who is involved in the process of creating a game from day one. He or she is responsible for fulfilling duties like designing the character of the game, the several levels involved, plot, art and similar other elements. Individuals who opt for a career as a video game designer may also write the codes for the game using different programming languages.

Depending on the video game designer job description and experience they may also have to lead a team and do the early testing of the game in order to suggest changes and find loopholes.

Radio Jockey

Radio Jockey is an exciting, promising career and a great challenge for music lovers. If you are really interested in a career as radio jockey, then it is very important for an RJ to have an automatic, fun, and friendly personality. If you want to get a job done in this field, a strong command of the language and a good voice are always good things. Apart from this, in order to be a good radio jockey, you will also listen to good radio jockeys so that you can understand their style and later make your own by practicing.

A career as radio jockey has a lot to offer to deserving candidates. If you want to know more about a career as radio jockey, and how to become a radio jockey then continue reading the article.


The word “choreography" actually comes from Greek words that mean “dance writing." Individuals who opt for a career as a choreographer create and direct original dances, in addition to developing interpretations of existing dances. A Choreographer dances and utilises his or her creativity in other aspects of dance performance. For example, he or she may work with the music director to select music or collaborate with other famous choreographers to enhance such performance elements as lighting, costume and set design.


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Careers in journalism are filled with excitement as well as responsibilities. One cannot afford to miss out on the details. As it is the small details that provide insights into a story. Depending on those insights a journalist goes about writing a news article. A journalism career can be stressful at times but if you are someone who is passionate about it then it is the right choice for you. If you want to know more about the media field and journalist career then continue reading this article.

For publishing books, newspapers, magazines and digital material, editorial and commercial strategies are set by publishers. Individuals in publishing career paths make choices about the markets their businesses will reach and the type of content that their audience will be served. Individuals in book publisher careers collaborate with editorial staff, designers, authors, and freelance contributors who develop and manage the creation of content.

In a career as a vlogger, one generally works for himself or herself. However, once an individual has gained viewership there are several brands and companies that approach them for paid collaboration. It is one of those fields where an individual can earn well while following his or her passion. 

Ever since internet costs got reduced the viewership for these types of content has increased on a large scale. Therefore, a career as a vlogger has a lot to offer. If you want to know more about the Vlogger eligibility, roles and responsibilities then continue reading the article. 

Individuals in the editor career path is an unsung hero of the news industry who polishes the language of the news stories provided by stringers, reporters, copywriters and content writers and also news agencies. Individuals who opt for a career as an editor make it more persuasive, concise and clear for readers. In this article, we will discuss the details of the editor's career path such as how to become an editor in India, editor salary in India and editor skills and qualities.

Linguistic meaning is related to language or Linguistics which is the study of languages. A career as a linguistic meaning, a profession that is based on the scientific study of language, and it's a very broad field with many specialities. Famous linguists work in academia, researching and teaching different areas of language, such as phonetics (sounds), syntax (word order) and semantics (meaning). 

Other researchers focus on specialities like computational linguistics, which seeks to better match human and computer language capacities, or applied linguistics, which is concerned with improving language education. Still, others work as language experts for the government, advertising companies, dictionary publishers and various other private enterprises. Some might work from home as freelance linguists. Philologist, phonologist, and dialectician are some of Linguist synonym. Linguists can study French , German , Italian . 

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Production Manager


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AWS Solution Architect

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Business Intelligence Developer

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5 Best Letter of Recommendation Templates for PhD Students

Letter of Recommendation Templates for PhD Students 01

Are you a PhD student looking for a high-quality letter of recommendation template? Look no further! In this article, we will provide you with examples of tried and true letter of recommendation templates that you can use or edit as needed.

One of the most important parts of any PhD program is the recommendation letter. It can make or break your chance of getting into a program, securing funding, or landing a job. However, writing a solid letter of recommendation can be an arduous task that requires a considerable amount of time and effort. That’s where our letter of recommendation templates come in – they have been carefully crafted to help make the process a lot easier for you.

Whether you need a template for a professor, employer, or advisor, we have got you covered. With our templates, you can be sure that your recommendation letters will be professional, accurate, and persuasive. So why wait? Check out our letter of recommendation templates for PhD students today and take the first step towards success!

The Best Structure for Letter of Recommendation Template for PhD Students

Writing a letter of recommendation for a PhD student can be a daunting task, but don’t worry–with the right structure and language, you can create a glowing recommendation that will showcase the student’s talents and qualifications.

First things first, make sure to address the letter to the appropriate person or group, whether it be a university, scholarship committee, or potential employer. It’s also important to state your relationship to the student, whether you’re their professor, mentor, or colleague.

Next, start off by providing a brief overview of the student’s accomplishments and qualifications, including their field of study and any notable research or publications. From there, delve into specific examples of the student’s intellectual abilities and work ethic. This could include analytical skills, problem-solving abilities, and perseverance in the face of challenges.

It’s also important to address the student’s personal characteristics, such as their leadership qualities, teamwork skills, and communication abilities. Providing anecdotes of times when the student went above and beyond in their academic or professional pursuits can be particularly impactful.

Finally, wrap up the letter with a strong endorsement of the student’s potential for future success, including any specific recommendations for opportunities or programs they would excel in. Reiterate your confidence in the student’s abilities and emphasize how their strengths and qualities make them an asset to any academic or professional community.

Remember, the best recommendation letters are specific, detailed, and personal. Use concrete examples to illustrate the student’s strengths and don’t be afraid to inject some personality and enthusiasm into your writing. With these tips and a solid structure, you’ll be well on your way to crafting an outstanding letter of recommendation for your favorite PhD student.

[Your name]

Letter of Recommendation Templates for PhD Students

Letter of Recommendation Templates for PhD Students

Letter of recommendation for phd program admission.

Dear Admissions Committee,

I am writing to enthusiastically recommend [Student Name] for the PhD program in [Field]. I had the privilege of working with [him/her] as [his/her] research advisor for [duration]. During that time, I observed [his/her] passion for [field of study]. [He/She] possesses the intellectual curiosity, work ethic, and analytical skills necessary for success in the program.

Moreover, [Student Name] demonstrates excellent communication skills and consistently engages in constructive discussions with [his/her] peers and advisors. [He/She] is a quick learner and adapts well to new challenges, which will serve [him/her] well in the highly competitive and rigorous PhD program. I believe [Student Name] has the potential to make significant contributions to the field and I strongly recommend [him/her] for admission to the program.

[Your Name]

Letter of Recommendation for PhD Scholarship

Dear Scholarship Committee,

I am writing to endorse [Student Name] for the [Name of Scholarship] for [Field] PhD studies. In my capacity as [his/her] mentor and research advisor, I have been impressed with [his/her] dedication to [field of study] and [his/her] ability to excel academically despite facing various challenges.

[Student Name] has demonstrated exceptional potential in [areas of interest]. [His/Her] research work has already resulted in several publications in leading journals, which speaks to [his/her] intellectual rigor and analytical skills. [He/She] is also actively involved in various extracurricular activities related to [field of study], such as [Name of Club], where [he/she] has demonstrated leadership and teamwork.

I strongly believe that [Student Name] is an ideal fit for the [Name of Scholarship] based on [his/her] achievements and potential. [He/She] will not only benefit from the financial support but will also make significant contributions to the scholarship and [field of study].

Yours sincerely,

Letter of Recommendation for PhD Job Application

Dear Hiring Manager,

I am writing this letter to recommend [Student Name] for the position of [Job Title] at your organization. I had the pleasure of working with [him/her] as [his/her] supervisor during [duration] at [Company/Organization]. [He/She] was a valuable asset to our team, demonstrating impressive intellectual and analytical skills.

[Student Name] has an outstanding academic record and has already published several research papers in leading journals. Moreover, [he/she] has honed exceptional communication skills and has presented [his/her] work at various conferences. [He/She] has also demonstrated leadership skills, both in academic and extracurricular settings. [His/Her] experience in [specific skills related to job] and [related experience] also make [him/her] a perfect candidate for the position.

Based on [his/her] achievements and potential, I strongly recommend [Student Name] for the position. [He/She] will undoubtedly exceed your expectations and make significant contributions to your organization.

Letter of Recommendation for PhD Internship

Dear Internship Coordinator,

I am writing this letter to recommend [Student Name] for the PhD Internship Program at your organization. I had the pleasure of working with [him/her] as [his/her] research advisor for [duration]. During that time, [he/she] demonstrated exceptional research skills and a keen interest in [specific field of study related to internship].

[Student Name] has already published several research papers in leading journals and has presented [his/her] work at various conferences. [He/She] has also demonstrated strong leadership and teamwork skills, as evidenced by [specific example]. [His/Her] exceptional communication skills also make [him/her] a great fit for the internship, where [he/she] will likely collaborate with a diverse group of people.

Based on [his/her] research achievements and potential, I strongly recommend [Student Name] for the internship program. [He/She] is an excellent candidate who will no doubt make significant contributions to your organization. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.

Letter of Recommendation for PhD Fellowship

Dear Fellowship Committee,

I am writing to enthusiastically recommend [Student Name] for the [Name of Fellowship] for [Field] PhD studies. I worked with [him/her] as [his/her] research advisor for [duration], during which I observed [his/her] exceptional research skills and intellectual curiosity.

[Student Name] has already published several research papers in leading journals and has presented [his/her] work at various conferences. [He/She] has also actively engaged in various extracurricular activities related to [field of study], such as [Name of Club/Community], where [he/she] has demonstrated leadership and teamwork. Overall, [he/she] is a dedicated and passionate researcher with a unique perspective and approach to [field of study].

I strongly believe that [Student Name] is an exemplary fit for the [Name of Fellowship] based on [his/her] achievements and potential. [He/She] will not only benefit from the financial support but will also make significant contributions to the fellowship and [field of study].

Letter of Recommendation for PhD Research Proposal

Dear Research Committee,

I am writing to endorse [Student Name]’s proposed research project for [duration] in [field of study]. [He/She] has approached me with [his/her] ideas and I have been thoroughly impressed with [his/her] creativity, vision, and rigor in designing the proposal.

[Student Name] is an outstanding researcher with significant experience in [related skills/expertise]. [He/She] is highly motivated and passionate about [field of study], demonstrated by [relevant examples]. Moreover, [he/she] has excellent communication and leadership skills, which will undoubtedly be useful in working with other researchers and stakeholders.

Based on [his/her] research achievements and proposed project, I strongly recommend [Student Name] for the research program. [He/She] is an excellent candidate who will no doubt make significant contributions to the project and advance knowledge in [field of study]. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.

Best regards,

Tips for Writing a Letter of Recommendation Template for PhD Students

Writing a letter of recommendation for a PhD student can be a challenging task. As a recommender, it’s essential to ensure that your letter truly represents the student’s abilities, potential, and achievements. To help you create an effective letter of recommendation, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Get to know the student: Before you start writing the letter, take some time to learn more about the student. Understand their research, their academic achievements, and their aspirations. This will help you write a more personalized and impactful letter.
  • Focus on achievements: When writing your letter, highlight the student’s achievements and the impact of their research. This will demonstrate their value and potential to the admissions committee or potential employer.
  • Provide examples: Use specific examples to illustrate your points. This will help the reader understand the student’s strengths and accomplishments. It’s also a good idea to include examples of challenges the student faced and how they overcame them.
  • Be honest: Don’t exaggerate the student’s accomplishments or abilities. Be honest and provide a balanced view of their strengths and weaknesses. Admissions committees and employers value letters that are transparent and authentic.
  • Be concise: Keep your letter brief and to the point. You don’t want to overwhelm the reader with unnecessary details. Focus on the most significant accomplishments and areas of strength.
  • Use a professional format: Use a professional format for your letter, starting with a formal greeting and closing. Address the letter to the appropriate person, and include the student’s name and program details.
  • Proofread: Before submitting your letter, make sure to proofread it carefully. Correct any errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation, and ensure that the letter is structured well and easy to read.
  • End with a strong recommendation: End your letter with a strong recommendation for the student. Be confident in your endorsement, and close by offering to provide further information or support if needed.

Writing a letter of recommendation for a PhD student requires careful attention to detail and a clear understanding of the student’s strengths and potential. By following these tips, you can create a compelling letter that highlights the student’s achievements and positions them as a strong candidate for their desired program or career path. Remember, honesty, specificity, and professionalism are key elements of an effective letter of recommendation.

Well, there you have it, folks! A letter of recommendation template for PhD students! I hope this has been helpful in alleviating some of the stress associated with asking for letters of recommendation. Remember to personalize the template with your own unique accomplishments and achievements. Be creative, and don’t be afraid to show your personality through your writing. And always, always, always show gratitude to those who have taken the time to write a letter for you. Thank you for reading and be sure to visit us again for more useful tips and tricks. Wishing you all the best on your academic journey!

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Sample Reference Letter

Reference letter for a phd candidate.

A successful application to a PhD program almost always requires letters of recommendation from former university lecturers and professors. They are the main point of reference when it comes to assessing an applicant's qualification for a PhD program. The letter below is a good example for a former MSc student, who now wants to pursue a PhD in the same field. It is already somewhat specifically addressed, as it directly refers to a doctorare degree in Linguistics.

Dear Sir or Madam,

it is my pleasure to acquaint you with one of my most outstanding students, Ravi Egilsson, who is keen to pursue the Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics at your esteemed institution.

I have known Ravi since 2010, when he enrolled into the Master of Science in Speech Analytics here at Oxbridge University. As part of this programme, Ravi took my course on Automated Speech Processing and joined my practical seminar on Pattern Processing. I also supervised him for his thesis project, a smartphone app that can translate a range of simple infant phonetisms into spoken language.

Ravi presented outstanding commitment to his studies, and finished his degree within the top 10% of his class. He was a quite remarkable student with a strong research interest. Among his peers, he stood out by always being up-to-date with currently topical discussions even within niches of linguistical research. The quality of his research work on his thesis project was compelling, and he managed to find beautifully simple solutions to very challenging problems.

With his multicultural background and fluent proficiency of English, Swedish and Hindi he was able to approach many scientific questions from different angles. During the courses, he always made many valuable contributions to group discussions. Finally, it should not be left unmentioned that Ravi is a very pleasant person to work with.

I respect Ravi's decision to further pursue his specific research interests at your university, and I am confident that he will be a highly valuable addition to your PhD program, where he could develop and apply his extraordinary talents. Furthermore, I am certain that he would qualify for any means of financial aid that you could offer him, and I also strongly recommend him for a position as a teaching or research assistant. Should you have any questions with regards to Ravi Egilsson, I will be pleased to answer them.

Klemens Rapper

Professor Oxbridge University

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Deciding Who Should Write Your Letters of Recommendation – PhD

writing a reference for a phd candidate

Letters of recommendation (LORs) are a key part of your application. Strong ones provide meaningful support, while a lukewarm one can really hurt your chances for admission. In this post, we’ll answer two questions: Who should write in support of your PhD application? How can you make sure your LORs are as good as they can be?

How to choose the best LOR writers

It is important to select LOR writers who know you well and, ideally, for a reasonably long period of time. Select individuals who can comment specifically and knowledgeably about your abilities. It is helpful if you have stayed in touch with your recommenders since you studied or worked with them.

Select writers who can address your research experience and potential. The more closely the writer’s background aligns with your field of study, the better. You should select faculty members to write the majority of your LORs for PhD programs.

If you have relevant work experience, you can also ask a current or previous employer. The employer should focus on your research potential. You can ask internship supervisors if the type of work you did as an intern is related to your intended field of study.

When you ask your recommenders if they would be willing to write  in support of your application, ask whether they feel they can write a strong, positive letter. This provides a gentle way for a hesitant recommender to decline – they can admit that they don’t think they know you well enough to do so (or you might sense their hesitation), and you can move on to someone else who can and will.

How to help your recommenders write strong LORs

It is important to provide information to your recommenders that will help them write the strongest letter possible. This can include your resume, copies of work you produced for their class (for faculty members), and a list of job accomplishments (for supervisors). Also provide a list of the schools you are applying to and the specific degree programs. Include a link with instructions as to what to include in the letter. Provide all these materials at one time in an organized manner.

Offer to meet with your recommender to discuss your plans and goals. You can also send them a link to Accepted’s  10 Tips for Writers of Letters of Recommendation .

Agree on a timeline of at least several weeks for them to complete their letter. Be aware of the academic calendar if you are asking a faculty member; the final weeks of the semester are often very busy. Remember that professors go on sabbatical and might not be available at all times.

A few days before the agreed-upon deadline, send a reminder to your letter writer.

Say thank you!

Always remember to follow up with a thank you note. (Ideally, you can write another thank you note after you get in, sharing the good news!)

You need to choose your PhD letter of recommendation writers wisely and then present them with the right materials to assist them in constructing strong letters that will represent your greatest strengths. We can help you with this and with any other element of your PhD application. Check out our catalog of  Graduate School Admissions Services , and let us know how we can help you achieve PhD admissions success!

Plotting Your Way to a Phd - download your guide today!

By Alice Diamond , former associate dean for career and community service at Lesley University. Alice has a BA from Colgate University, an MA from Bryn Mawr College, and an MS from Cornell University. She has more than 35 years of experience in career and admissions advising for undergraduate and graduate candidates. Alice’s clients have been accepted to top programs in a wide range of fields. Want an admissions expert to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!

Related Resources:

• Choosing the Best PhD Programs , a free guide • An Admitted Johns Hopkins MD/PhD Candidate Reflects on His Journey • Lining Up Letters of Recommendation and Searching for Fellowships

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Writing the perfect recommendation letter

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Undergraduates need them for graduate-school applications; PhD students and postdocs use them to apply for fellowships and jobs; senior scientists often have to have them to apply for awards and promotions. But writing an effective and personal recommendation letter can be time-consuming, especially for academics who must juggle grant applications, manuscripts, teaching and student supervision. And some might struggle to say the right things to support a former employee or student in their career move, while sounding original and unique.

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The Art of Graduate Studies Recommendation Letters: A Comprehensive Guide for Success for Graduate School

One of the most important aspects of getting into grad school is submitting well-crafted letters of recommendation.

These letters, written by professors or other professionals who have worked with you closely, serve as a testament to your:

  • academic abilities,
  • personal qualities,
  • and potential for success in advanced studies.

The graduate admissions committee puts significant value on recommendation letters, as they can provide insight into your work ethic, communication skills, and overall fit for the program.

A lot of the time in academia it is who you know rather than what you know!

Crafting an exceptional graduate school letter of recommendation can be a challenging task, both for applicants seeking recommendations and for the recommenders themselves.

Some courses ask for up to three letters of recommendation so you’ll have to approach your favourite professors and ask for letters of recommendation a long time before the submission deadline. 

However, with attention to detail and some tips and tricks, it’s possible to create compelling and effective letters that will help you stand out in the competitive world of graduate school admissions.

Who should write a recommendation letter for graduate school?

A recommendation letter for graduate school is a document that outlines a student’s academic and personal accomplishments and is written by someone who knows the student well.

Think of a professor who you have a good relationship with or a lecturer that has noticed your extra effort and capability. 

The recommender could be:

  • a former or current teacher,
  •  or supervisor.

It’s essential to choose a person who can write a recommendation that highlights your abilities and accomplishments.

Therefore, when choosing which professors to ask, try to select someone who has had a significant impact on your academic development or involved in research, clubs, or other activities in which you participated.

The quality of your graduate school recommendation letter will play a critical role in your acceptance, so it’s essential to carefully choose who writes it.

Take some time thinking about the best person. Here are some tips that may help you decide.

Who should write your letters of recommendation for graduate school?

When applying for graduate school, it is important to carefully consider who should write your letters of recommendation.

Ideally, your recommendation letter writers should be faculty members, research supervisors, or professional colleagues in your field who can provide specific examples of your achievements and skills.

It is important to choose individuals who can provide a comprehensive picture of your strengths and potential, rather than simply listing your accomplishments.

Here is what I would consider when choosing who should write your letter of recommendation:

The quality of your letters of recommendation can greatly impact your admission to graduate school , so choose your letter writers carefully and provide them with ample time and information to compose strong recommendations that will enhance your graduate school application.

How to ask for a Letter of Recommendation for Graduate School

The best way to ask for a letter of recommendation is by sending an email politely requesting the recommenders’ assistance after you have spoken to them in person requesting the letter of recommendation.

Here are some templates that you can use to

Email 1 Template:

Subject: Request for Recommendation for [Your Name] – [Program Name]

Dear Professor [Last Name],

I hope this email finds you well. My name is [Your Name], and I am currently a [Your Status, e.g., final-year undergraduate/graduate student] majoring in [Your Major] at [Your University]. I am writing to kindly request your support in providing a recommendation letter for my application to the [Program Name] at [University Name]. Your expertise and guidance during my time in your [Course Name/Research Project] have been invaluable, and I believe that your recommendation would greatly strengthen my application.

The [Program Name] at [University Name] is an excellent fit for my academic and career goals, as it offers the opportunity to specialize in [Specific Area of Study/Research Interest], which aligns with my interests and ambitions. I am particularly excited about [a specific aspect of the program or a professor’s work that you admire].

If you agree to write a recommendation letter on my behalf, please let me know if you require any additional information, such as my CV, transcript, or a draft of my statement of purpose. The deadline for the submission of the recommendation letter is [Submission Deadline]. I understand that you have a busy schedule, and I greatly appreciate your time and consideration in supporting my application.

Thank you once again for your guidance and mentorship during my time in your [Course Name/Research Project]. I look forward to the possibility of your recommendation and to hearing your thoughts on my application.

[Your Full Name]

[Your Email Address]

 [Your Phone Number]

Email 2 follow-up template:

Subject: Reminder: Recommendation Letter for [Your Name] – [Program Name]

I wanted to follow up on my earlier request for a recommendation letter for my application to the [Program Name] at [University Name]. I understand that you have a busy schedule, and I appreciate your time and effort in considering my request.

As a gentle reminder, the submission deadline for the recommendation letter is [Submission Deadline]. If you have any questions or require further information, such as my CV, transcript, or a draft of my statement of purpose, please do not hesitate to let me know. If for any reason you are unable to provide a recommendation, please let me know at your earliest convenience so that I can make alternative arrangements.

Thank you once again for your support and guidance during my time in your [Course Name/Research Project]. Your recommendation would significantly strengthen my application, and I am grateful for your consideration.

Best regards,

[Your Phone Number]

Make sure to give them enough time to write the letter, preferably several weeks in advance.

When asking for a letter, provide the recommender with as much information as possible about the graduate school and the program you wish to attend.

This can make it easier for them to write a recommendation that’s relevant and highlights your potential.

Here is what you can ask of the person that is writing your letter of recommendation:

What to Ask From Someone Before Writing a Letter of Recommendation

When asking someone to write a letter of recommendation it’s essential to provide them with a few pointers and highlights to ensure that they can write an effective letter.

First, provide the person with your resume or CV, so they can gain a better understanding of your academic and professional achievements. Next, share your career goals and explain how the program you are applying for will help you achieve those goals.

Here are some things that you can provide them to help them craft the strongest letter of recommendation for you.

  • Your resume or CV : This will give the writer an overview of your academic and professional achievements, as well as any relevant extracurricular activities or awards.
  • A description of the program: Provide information about the graduate program or job you are applying for, including its focus, goals, and any specific requirements.
  • Y our statement of purpose or personal statement: Sharing your statement will help the writer understand your motivations for pursuing the program and your long-term goals.
  • A list of your key strengths and accomplishments: Highlight the specific skills, experiences, and qualities that you believe make you an excellent candidate for the program.
  • Any specific examples or anecdotes: Share any relevant experiences or achievements that you would like the writer to include in their letter to illustrate your qualifications.
  • Y our relationship with the writer : Remind the writer of your relationship, how long you have known each other, and any significant interactions or projects you have worked on together.
  • Submission details: Provide the writer with the submission deadline, any specific formatting requirements, and instructions on how to submit the letter (e.g., online portal, email, or physical mail).
  • Any additional materials: If required or relevant, provide supplementary materials such as transcripts, writing samples, or portfolios that can support the writer’s assessment of your skills and qualifications.

By providing all of this information, you will help them gain a better grasp of your qualifications and motivations, enabling them to write a compelling letter of recommendation on your behalf.

Letter of Recommendation Template and Useful Phrases

A letter of recommendation is an essential document for any admission process, especially for a graduate program.

It requires a good understanding of the applicant’s character and skills, which makes the task challenging for many recommenders.

This is where a template and useful phrases come into play. Using a template can help the recommender to organize their thoughts and include all the necessary information.

Here is a creative template that you can use to ensure that your letter of recommendation follows the most impactful and sensible structure. Include the following:

Useful phrases and sentence starters to use in someone’s letter of recommendation include:

  • It is my pleasure to strongly recommend [Student Name] for [program/position] at [university/company].
  • In my [X years] of experience as a [your position], I have rarely encountered a student as [adjective describing the student, e.g., dedicated or talented] as [Student Name].
  • [Student Name] consistently demonstrated exceptional [skill or quality, e.g., problem-solving abilities] during their time in my [course/department].
  • [Student Name]’s commitment to [subject or skill, e.g., research or teamwork] has been evident through their [specific accomplishment or project].
  • I was particularly impressed by [Student Name]’s ability to [specific skill or achievement, e.g., grasp complex concepts quickly or lead group discussions].
  • One of [Student Name]’s most remarkable qualities is their [personal trait, e.g., determination or creativity], which has contributed to their success in [specific context or project].
  • [Student Name] has proven to be an asset to our [course/department/team] due to their [qualities or skills, e.g., strong work ethic or excellent communication skills].
  • I have no doubt that [Student Name] will excel in [program/position] and make a significant contribution to [university/company/field].
  • [Student Name] possesses the intellectual curiosity, motivation, and dedication necessary to thrive in a challenging [academic/professional] environment.
  • I wholeheartedly endorse [Student Name] for [program/position] and believe they will be a valuable addition to the [university/company/community].
  • [Student Name] has consistently demonstrated a high level of [skill or quality, e.g., academic performance or leadership] throughout their time in my [course/department].
  • Based on my experience working with [Student Name], I am confident that they have the potential to [specific outcome, e.g., make a meaningful impact in their field or succeed in their chosen career path].

These recommendation letter template and useful phrases are excellent resources for recommenders to achieve a well-crafted and effective letter of recommendation.

Feel free to send them to the person writing your letter of recommendation .

What style of writing should be used in a recommendation letter?

When writing a recommendation letter, it is important to use a formal and professional writing style.

This means using proper grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.

It is also important to clearly state the qualifications and strengths of the person you are recommending.

Use specific examples and anecdotes to illustrate these qualifications and emphasize the individual’s skills, achievements, and character.

When writing a recommendation letter for admission to college or graduate school, it is important to highlight the applicant’s academic achievements and potential, as well as their personal traits, such as their reliability, work ethic, and communication skills.

Overall, the tone of the letter should be positive and enthusiastic to give the reader an honest and convincing picture of the applicant’s strengths and suitability for the opportunity at hand.

Wrapping up

Obtaining strong letters of recommendation is a crucial aspect of the graduate school application process.

The quality of these letters can significantly impact the chances of acceptance, making it essential for applicants to choose their recommenders wisely and equip them with the necessary information to craft compelling endorsements.

By carefully selecting letter writers, providing them with ample resources and guidance, and using templates and useful phrases to ensure effectiveness, applicants can create a powerful impression on the graduate admissions committee.

Well-written recommendation letters serve as a testament to the candidate’s potential for success, showcasing their academic abilities, personal qualities, and suitability for advanced studies.

writing a reference for a phd candidate

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.

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Requesting Letters of Recommendation

What admissions committees look for in a recommendation letter.

After the writing sample, one of the most important parts of an application to a doctoral program is your recommendation letters. Together, these letters help to paint a picture of the kind of student you have been and the kind of student and colleague you are likely to be in the future. The purpose of this page is to offer more detail about letters of reference.

The general guidelines: you should prepare for at least three letters of recommendation, and

  • Ask for your letters well in advance of your deadlines
  • Send your recommenders any additional application materials that might help them write a strong letter for you.
  • Make sure you let your recommenders know specific things that you’d like them to speak about in their letters (e.g., your research or your teaching abilities)

Because these letters are so important, you’ll need to consider carefully whom to ask to write a letter for you. In most cases, these will be from professors in whose classes you’ve done well, or with whom you have a particular connection (e.g., you did an independent study with them, or they’ve mentored you). But it’s not necessarily the case that any professor will do. As you think about whom to ask to write a reference letter, consider the points below.

  • Rank and connection to the university: It’s impossible to know what a particular admissions committee looks for in terms of seniority, tenure status, etc. However, a general guideline is that you’d ideally like at least one person with a long and deep familiarity with higher education, admissions processes, and the general profile of graduate students applying to PhDs. This experience can often give a recommender a particularly broad perspective that committees appreciate.
  • Area of specialization: This is one of the most important aspects of selecting recommenders. A committee will want to know whether someone with extensive research and publications in the student’s interest area judges their potential to be excellent. So, a less-senior faculty member in your area of interest may be a far better recommender than someone who works in a different area but has been around longer.
  • Setting aside the important issues of interest areas and personal characteristics, talents, or skill sets outside of the discipline, what admissions committees are usually looking for in a candidate is someone who already has a significant understanding of the literature in which they intend to specialize; has a general understanding of professional norms in the field; has been very successful in coursework (where “successful” means A-level work); has original, important ideas and perspectives; and is ready or close to being ready to write articles suitable for publication. So, the strongest reference letter would give evidence for each of those claims, and you should choose references who can write strongly in these areas.
  • Finally, in particular cases you may want to ask an unusual recommender candidate to write you a letter addressing a particular skill. For example, if you are expert in an instrument, a language, a form of community engagement, etc., that person can make the case for you that this is a serious area of commitment in which you are already prepared to do work – not just something you’re using to puff up your application.

Stanford University

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Requesting Recommendation Letters

As you progressed through the decision-making process in the earlier parts above, you should have had several significant conversations with faculty. These conversations will help you immensely as you seek several faculty to write recommendation letters on your behalf. That conversation will also help the faculty write meaningfully about your strengths. It’s best to avoid situations where faculty will only be able to write superficial letters where they will simply report your letter grade from a course.


As you ask for a reference letter, specifically ask if the recommender will write a strong letter on your behalf. Although it will likely be an awkward question to ask directly, it’s much better to find out in advance if they would submit a lukewarm letter. It is not uncommon for admissions committees to receive negative or lukewarm reference letters, which will significantly hurt your chances for getting admitted. Moreover, if the potential letter writer indicates some hesitation to write a strong letter and mentions any concerns, this will help prepare you to either thank them and move on to another potential recommender, OR address the concerns in your personal statements and/or interviews.

The letters of recommendation should support your claim that you have considered graduate school seriously. The letters must identify your strengths that will exemplify how you will become a successful graduate student. Letters that simply confirm grades received in courses are of little value to an admissions committee, since they will have your transcripts. Your letters of support should add new dimensions rather than be redundant.


Ideally, you should select research mentors and faculty who can speak to your abilities to be a successful graduate student. Some ideal options are:

  • Faculty research mentors (most important reference)
  • Employer or supervisor during an internship or job in a field related to your discipline (it’s much better if the employer has a graduate degree)
  • Postdoctoral research mentor (if they worked closely with you in your research)
  • Faculty instructor (who can comment on more than simply your grade)
  • Academic advisor

Letters from these individuals are not recommended for your graduate application:

  • Family or friends
  • Religious advisors
  • Graduate students who have not completed their graduate degree
  • Employer or supervisor in an unrelated field or discipline
  • Faculty member in an unrelated academic discipline who can only report your final grade

Hannah Kim's portrait

Imposter syndrome and frequent rejections in academia (from conferences, publications, etc.) pose a challenge, but learning that these are very common and coming up with strategies helped me navigate my journey. One change that made a difference was shifting my mindset from ‘I don’t have what it takes; I’m a fraud; I’m only here as a diversity candidate’ to ‘I don’t know everything yet, but that’s okay because I can learn; faculty see promise in me and I can continue to grow; my diverse experiences and perspectives gives me a whole new creative angle.’ 

Graduate school is full of challenges, but the amount of intellectual and mental freedom we are given—nobody tells us what to think about!—is incredible and something not to be taken for granted.

— Hannah Kim, PhD candidate in Philosophy

Identify 5 or more faculty members whom you might ask to write a recommendation letter for you. Many programs require 3 references, but you’ll probably need to identify more references and use them for different programs and universities depending on the faculty members’ experiences and backgrounds. Admissions committees also value receiving reference letters from faculty who are very familiar with their university or graduate program, from having attended that university’s graduate program or from having been a faculty member at that institution.

For each request for a recommendation letter, make it as easy as possible for the faculty to complete your request. If you make it difficult or leave out essential details, you may annoy them and cause them to be less than excited to write a strong letter on your behalf. Remember that you may be asking them to submit multiple letters for different programs, so this will consume significant time and energy from them. For each request:

  • Provide the name of the university and type of program to which you’re applying, along with clear instructions on how to submit the letter, deadline (remember to give them extra time if this is your first request to them), and if you’ll be asking for additional letters in the near future. You may want to check their calendar if they’ll be unavailable for a significant time period before the deadlines, which often occur around the end of the fall term, which is a busy time for most faculty.
  • Provide a short summary of strengths and research experiences, along with your CV and personal statement, to refresh their memory of your background, strengths, and motivations for that particular program.
  • Provide an email reminder about 10 days before it’s due. If you haven’t heard from them, consider one more gentle reminder a few days before the deadline.
  • Provide an update to your letter writers after you receive invitations to interview or admissions offers, and when you make your final decision.

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Letter Of Recommendation for PhD: Sample, Format & How to Write

Updated on 29 january, 2024.

Anupriya Mukherjee

Anupriya Mukherjee

Sr. content writer.

Anupriya Mukherjee

A letter of recommendation or LOR for a PhD is an important document required for admission into PhD programs at foreign institutions if you are planning to study abroad . While scores, transcripts, and other vital documents are mostly factual, the LOR is an independent objective analysis of applicants. PhD courses usually require two to three recommendations. These provide committees with an overview of the applicant’s core strengths, skills, and accomplishments.

Table of Contents

Lor for phd : guidelines:.

  • Academic LOR:
  • Professional LOR:


Conclusion:, popular guides to simplify your study abroad journey, sample lor for phd:, important tips to write lor for phd, download country guides (free pdfs).

The vital part of writing a LOR is choosing the right recommender. For a PhD SOP, the recommender should be someone who can endorse your candidature and provide an unbiased application essay. Since all the other documents are self-prepared, they are likely to be biased. LOR provides an external perspective, which entirely depends on your recommender. It is unique because it is your assessment from an external viewpoint. Your recommender for PhD should be someone who can be described as follows:

  • One who has a good rapport.
  • Who understands your personality, achievements, and capabilities.
  • With whom you have shared your academic and professional experiences and journey 
  • Who is aware of your current research ideas
  • Who supports your research ideas.

Types of LOR for PhD

International universities offering PhD require two to three LORs depending on your academic and professional experience. Two academic LORs are needed, and one professional LOR is required if you have work experience. Basically, the LOR for PhD is classified into two categories:

Academic LOR: 

Academic letter of recommendation is provided by the professor of your educational institution. Most commonly, you are asked to provide two academic LORs for PhD in an international university. In such LORs, professors need to highlight the applicant’s capabilities and achievements. It should reflect the recommender’s perspective about you and your research ideas.

Professional LOR: 

The applicant’s professional letter of recommendation is asked if they have any work experience. Only one professional LOR is needed in that case. It is provided by your immediate supervisor or employer. It should reflect the recommender’s perspective on your professional ability to work within a team.

How to write a LOR for PhD?

When your recommender is willing to write your LOR for PhD, you should share your research ideas, achievements, capabilities, objectives, and relevant information. The format of the LOR should consist of the answers to several questions related to your suitability for a PhD. The LOR, whether academic or professional, written by your recommender should sound realistic and authentic. The standard LOR format for PhD should have the following details:

This part of the LOR should include the details regarding the recommender. It is a brief introduction of the recommender with their current designation and professional experience mentioned in the LOR. They also need to mention their relationship and duration of association with the applicant. The details of the recommender’s association and guidance must be mentioned in the LOR.

It includes the details of the applicant’s technical skills, certification, internship work, research ideas, research outcomes, research goals, capabilities, qualities, work experience, presentations, seminars, extracurricular activities, etc. It is quite crucial to add all the relevant information required to consider the applicant’s candidature and future undertakings. 

This last part of the LOR format summarizes the applicant’s desire for the PhD program. The closing part of the LOR essay application includes the recommender’s signature and contact details.

An excellent sample LOR for PhD highlights at least three attributes of the aspirant – a social attribute and two subject-linked or technical attributes. Here are some notable guidelines:

  • The LOR should be 1-2 pages long with 5-6 paragraphs. 
  • Recommenders should start the LOR by introducing themselves and the aspirant.
  • Recommenders should also discuss how and from when they are professionally related to the applicants in the first paragraph. 
  • The following paragraphs should be divided into three segments, each highlighting aspirant’s particular skill or quality.
  • Recommenders should emphasize analytical abilities, subject knowledge, time management skills, dedication, responsibility, research abilities, etc. 
  • The conclusion will sum up the qualities of the aspirant while ending with a solid recommendation to the university for accepting the application.

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writing a reference for a phd candidate

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The following sample LOR for PhD is one of many ways of writing it.

I am pleased to get the chance to recommend (name of applicant) for the PhD position in (course/study area name) at your institution. I have taught (name of applicant) for the last (tenure in years) in the areas of (subject areas). I will be delighted to witness him/her excelling in this particular field.

The topic (title) proposed by him/her is vital for the modern-day scenario and needs extensive research. It will be beneficial for all the industry stakeholders in the (sector name) and also academicians who can access real-time insights on the subject.

(Name of applicant) has completed a research project over a period of (duration) on (name of project) under my supervision. I have witnessed his/her work efficiency, critical thinking abilities, and inquisitiveness regarding various findings. He/she also has brilliant communication skills and the ability to mentor and guide peers.

(Name) has a down-to-earth nature and respects others while adhering to rules and regulations. His/her independent or group work on research projects and studies has been immensely satisfying. He/she is an analytical thinker and is stimulated by new academic challenges. This trait makes him/her strive for innovative solutions to real-world problems with a strong desire to improve the world around.

Hectic timelines, various constraints, tough work conditions, multitasking, and dealing with multiple people along the way, are things that he/she can tackle with ease while delivering work seamlessly. With these positive abilities, he/she will be an asset to any institution.

(Name) has improved consistently every year and is a deserving candidate for an opportunity to work in the field of (topic name). I would be delighted if my recommendation helps him/her obtain admission in the (course name). 

If you have any queries regarding research, academics, or other areas pertaining to (applicant name’s) candidature, please feel free to reach me at the following phone or email address. I am usually available on the phone between Monday and Friday from (time to time, i.e. 11 am to 4 pm).

(Name of Referee)


Phone Number:

Following important tips should be considered while writing a LOR for PhD:

  • The selection of the right recommender is crucial. Choose your recommender carefully who meets the specifications mentioned in your PhD application.
  • Choosing your recommenders with finer academic and professional qualifications is of utmost importance.
  • Stay in contact with your potential recommenders and maintain good communication with them in advance.
  • Share your research proposal, goals, and achievements with your recommenders.
  • Your LORs for PhD should differ from each other.
  • Your LOR should showcase your qualities, capabilities, and strengths. 
  • Online recommendation forms should be submitted much before the deadline.
  • The letter should be realistic and unbiased.
  • The relationship between the recommender and the applicant should be demonstrated clearly.
  • All the information stated in the LOR should be genuine, authentic, and accurate. Ensure that no information is false or exaggerated.

In conclusion, a well-crafted Letter of Recommendation is a crucial component of any PhD application, serving as a testament to the candidate's academic abilities, research potential, and character. It provides the admissions committee with valuable insights from a third-party perspective, often influencing the final decision. For recommenders, it's important to provide a balanced, honest, and detailed account of the candidate’s capabilities, tailoring the letter to highlight qualities that are most relevant to the PhD program. For applicants, choosing the right recommenders and ensuring they understand the importance of the letter in the context of a PhD application is key. A strong Letter of Recommendation, which effectively captures the essence of the candidate's skills and potential, can significantly enhance the application, making it stand out in a competitive academic landscape.

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Anupriya Mukherjee is a passion-driven professional working as a Content Marketer and earlier worked as a Digital Marketeer. With around 6 years of work experience, she has experience creating high-quality, engaging content for websites, blogs, news articles, video scripts, brochures, and ebooks.

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writing a reference for a phd candidate

Give "proof" . Proof should be specific instances where a candidate demonstrated a quality. Proof should not be another trait the candidate "generally" demonstrates. There are two rules of thumb to apply to "proof":

  • One rule of thumb is to attempt to quantify the proof. Quantifying accuracy improvement, numbers of hours put in, or lines of code produced is all better than writing about nothing.
  • A second rule of thumb is to talk about results rather than the process of getting there. It's not all that informative if the candidate "attends all lab meetings". That's fantastic but it says nothing about their research potential. It also makes the reviewer question if there's nothing else to say about the candidate. If the candidate did good work, the letter should contain at least some proxy for the quality and quantity of their output.

Here are several examples, from worst to best.

This statement is all fluff and rather unconvincing. We can ask the question, "What's example of a task that was thrown his way?" There are more questions than answers here.

This is slightly improved but still inadequate "proof". The 200+ hours are certainly impressive, but (a) what's an example of something John spent those 200 hours on? 200 hours sounds like a number you pulled from your @$$. Furthermore, (b) did those 200 hours yield any output? If it did, that should be the focus. This proof is lacking specificity and results to be convincing.

This is far more convincing. At this point, we have sufficient detail to know what John did for the project. We could certainly read on to find out what those model variants were, but it doesn't matter too much. A table with 10 rows and 5 columns is pretty solid proof of work put in. With that said, the one final problem with this statement is the lack of focus on results. What did those ablations tell us? Did that contribute to the paper in a meaningful way? Here is another snippet from the same recommendation letter I co-wrote previously:

Sure this description contains bigger words, but more importantly, it speaks directly to the candidate's contributions. This time, the contribution doesn't need quantifying; it's quite obvious that the candidate played a key role in the paper.

Final tips for writing a letter.

We've covered the core components of a letter. I just have a few more tips that I actively use to pull the letter together. I structure the letter by starting with the working relationship, discussing key accomplishments like papers published, include comparisons, then introduce the qualities I'll discuss. Re-including the previous snippets into a final introductory paragraph, here is an example introduction.

After that, each paragraph is dedicated to (a) a quality and (b) proof of that quality. Sometimes, to make a proof more convincing, I'll need to include a mini-story, explaining why a problem is challenging to tackle. Then, I'll discuss how the candidate tackled this problem. Here's an example of this mini-story in a paragraph.

The strongest conclusion I've ever read was something along the following lines, which came from a faculty member at a relatively well-known academic institution.

That's a wrap! I hope that this structure saves you some time in writing your letter of recommendation. Knowing what you know now, the most helpful piece of information that a recommender can ask a candidate to write is not the letter itself but instead (a) a description of the working relationship, including dates of engagement and (b) a list of achievements that the recommender can use as proof.

Best of luck!

← back to Guide to the PhD

It's awful weird to write a recommendation for yourself, but a somewhat weird practice is for professors to ask undergraduates to write their own letters. However, come time for industry, I eventually learned that self-recommendations will show up again under a different name, dubbed a "self review". Given this, you'll have to write "self-recommendations" at some point. For self-recommendations, your main focus should be on steps 1 and 3 below. For step 2, you can provide statistics like class rankings, but you'll rely on your recommender to flesh those out.  ↩

Don't spend the first quarter of the page bragging about the recommender. The admissions committee can Google the recommender if they need to. If necessary to establish ethos, spend no more than a few sentences. This is most natural if the recommender is using their experience to compare the candidate to other researchers, or to compare the candidate's work to published works at top venues. For example, "I've served as CVPR 2022 area chair, and Jane Doe's work clearly exceeds the acceptance bar."  ↩

Want more tips? Drop your email, and I'll keep you in the loop.

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Publication-based doctorate: is it for me?

Potential research higher degree candidates from academia or industry will need to decide between a doctorate by thesis or by publication. Here are key questions to ask before embarking on the doctoral journey

Riad Shams's avatar

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Asian scholar working at laptop, PhD by publication

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Prospective doctoral candidates have much less understanding of the process and requirements for a publication-based doctorate than they do for the more popular thesis-based route. Completing a doctorate, thesis- or publication-based, takes time and effort. Selecting the right mode is important before starting a research higher degree (RHD), so that the prospective doctoral candidate can be confident of completing it.

Here, I discuss the questions that future doctoral candidates should ask if they are considering a publication-based doctorate.

  • Why get a PhD by publication (and other career tips)
  • Why getting a PhD is like building a Lego duck
  • Don’t jettison traditional academic writing just yet

What is my goal in completing a doctorate?

A thesis-based doctorate helps the candidate to explore a subtopic of a research field as deeply as possible, based on few theoretical variables and within a limited practical context (for example, a limited dataset from a single socio-economic setting). A publication-based doctorate could explore a topic with more variables and contexts (for example, different publications on same topic would have different variables and datasets). It gives a publication-based doctorate a little more flexibility to explore a topic more widely. Therefore, the goal of exploring a subtopic area as widely as possible could fit better for a publication-based doctorate.

What is my thesis?

Yes, even for a publication-based doctorate, candidates need to produce a thesis, a theory or a proposition on a single topic, in combination with the overall contributions of published papers. As a result, the candidates need to think about how they can draw together the relevant findings from published papers to produce new knowledge on a single topic.

Are my publications cohesive?

For a publication-based doctorate, the publications you may already have and the outputs you plan to produce within an agreed time frame should focus on and contribute to a single subtopic. So ask yourself: how unified are my existing and planned publications? Designing the research aim, research question, methodology and contribution of your intended publications in relation to these sections among your existing publications is instrumental to ensuring that your publications are cohesive.

Where am I publishing?

Understanding where you publish should be a key consideration, as not all publications will be eligible for inclusion in your submission. All fields of studies have their own benchmark publications. For example, in business, the journal lists of the Association of Business Schools in the UK and the Australian Business Deans’ Council are often used to indicate a publication’s quality. In general, a publication-based doctorate could consist of journal papers, book chapters or published conference proceedings. Industry-based publications could be considered as well in some instances (for example, if you have an article published by a reputable chamber of commerce). Articles in predatory journals and publications such as brief op-ed articles or blogs might not be considered for a doctorate by publication.

Will the findings and contributions of my publications stand the test of time?

Doctoral candidates may already have publications, perhaps even in good academic journals, but they may be 10 years old. The knowledge produced perhaps made a contribution to your field of study, but the subsequent progress of the field may have surpassed your work or made it obsolete over time. So considering the potential significance of publications during the projected time of a doctoral submission is important. Comparing your work with existing publications in your field is a good way to understand the significance of the work you produce.

What is the extent of my theoretical and practical contribution?  

All doctorates should make significant contribution of theoretical knowledge and practical implication. But we know that the extent of theoretical and practical contribution of a RHD can differ based on the type of doctorate someone would undertake. For example, a doctor of philosophy needs to produce significant theoretical knowledge, whereas a professional doctorate would need more practical implications. Therefore, the candidate needs to consider the extent of theoretical and practical implications of their publications, in order to decide whether a doctor of philosophy or a professional doctorate would be more relevant.

Am I publishing as a sole author or a co-author?

Often, we work in a team and publish with our co-authors. Therefore, if you are planning to include one or several co-authored publications in a publication-based doctorate, securing permission from co-authors to include the relevant sections (that you have contributed to those co-authored publications) into a publication-based doctoral thesis will be helpful in avoiding any future conflict of interest among co-authors.

What is my career stage?

Career stage would have an influence on whether to opt for a doctorate by publication. For example, a candidate may already have five or 10 years of academic teaching or industry experience but has perhaps produced few academic or industry-based publications. In general, working to publish more papers in next two years, and combining them with existing publications to produce a new knowledge, would be useful to submit a thesis by publication. Mid-career candidates from either academia or industry might be considering a publication-based doctorate alongside other commitments but find that their work-life balance is unsustainable. In this case, a doctor of philosophy would be more appropriate for academic candidates, while a professional doctorate would be more relevant for candidates from industry.

How do I find a PhD supervisor?

Irrespective of whether the doctorate is by thesis or publication, RHD supervisors play a significant role in training their candidates to become independent researchers. So looking at the prospective supervisors’ profile, comparing your topic with their research area, emailing them to share your draft proposal, and requesting an appointment to talk about it further will be valuable for prospective candidates. It will help them to develop their topic of research, understand research procedures and requirements, and secure a supervisor.

These questions will help an academic or an industry professional considering a doctorate by publication to weigh their options carefully.

Riad Shams is assistant professor and head of the PhD programme at the Newcastle Business School at Northumbria University, UK. He is a board member of the Northern Advanced Research Training Initiative, a fellow of the Higher Education Academy and the EuroMed Academy of Business, and associate editor of the Journal of Social Entrepreneurship .

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