- scholarly journal articles editor and author(s)
- funded research proposals agency officials and proposer
- job recommendations potential bosses and their bosses
Are you the correct person? Say NO if any of items below apply.
- you have a conflict of interest: working in the same area,
applying for same funds, pushing another candidate for the job.
- you are inexperienced: know little about the article's or
proposal's field; you don't know the person's abilities.
- you are likely to be excessively negative. If so, beg off
for some plausible reason. Your report may hurt your reputation.
Always assume your report will *not* be confidential. Never write what you
couldn't defend reasonably to affected person about work/ideas/ability.
Make most negative comments by failing to praise or neglecting to mention.
[Last comment is most relevant for letters of recommendation.]
Papers and proposals.
1. Supply your summary of the paper or the proposal. Usually this will
be better than the abstract and will demonstrate you understand the work.
2. Give a clear recommendation(s) [topic sentences]. In subsequent paragraphs
explain reasons so that inexperienced editor can clearly understand.
4. Comment directly on the quality of figures/tables and their captions.
5. Reject papers that do not contain a least publishable unit.
Reject proposals that do not contain substantial new ideas.
Letters of recommendation
1. Explain in what way(s) you know individual. A short story helps.
2. Answer any specific questions specifically.
3. Give evidence for your opinions.
4. Summarize your opinions, avoiding negative sentence at the end which
will be interpreted as discreet "don't hire" opinion.
Picking and Soliciting References
Applying for non-professional job:
o Find people who know about your work skills.
o Find people who know about your reliability.
This includes not only bosses but also others who might have had a chance
to observe you in the work environment. But these individuals must have
been at least one level above you. For example, if you were working for
one faculty member, another might have seen you or several occasions.
Applying for graduate school:
Try to find people who did more than teach you in a course:
o Professors you worked for in a research or in non-research mode.
o Professors with whom you did a reading course, a special project.
o Ph.D.'s you worked for in a company, perhaps in a summer job.
Try to find the most senior and best known persons:
o They are more likely to be known by the admissions committee.
o They are more likely to write better, more informative letters, if for
no other reason that they have read more letters of recommendation.
o Approach potential reference as far in advance as possible.
o Ask each in person. Of course, once the individual has been a
reference, email second requests may be ok depending on the person.
o Make sure each realize how many different letters are required. If a
single letter with different addresses is o.k. that is not a problem.
But if each application requires a quite different style letter, you
should make sure the reference realized this.
For any reference
o Make sure each knows for what you are applying. For example, supply
a copy of the job announcement, fellowship or prize.
o Supply a complete copy of your application materials. Then the
letter writer will have your current information to spur memory
and to shape the letter toward your goal.