My field is language-related and I have been conducting research in it with two professors in the past couple of years. Is it better for me to request recommendation letters from these two professors for my PhD application or should I rely on a more diverse approach? For instance, combining letters from one of these professors with those coming from professors who taught me during the MA years (which, by the way, I graduated from several years ago) or maybe even my MA thesis advisor. I should also mention that it is not very likely for me to apply to universities in the US.


Generally, doctoral programs are designed to produce researchers and academics in a given field. Given this, I suggest that you request letters of recommendation from the faculty members who can best speak to your ability to produce high-quality research. It sounds like you've been working with two professors who might be able to do that.

There are some caveats, though. You want the best possible letters of recommendation you can get. If these two professors with whom you have conducted research are willing to provide excellent LORs, then I'd suggest that you ask them for LORs. But if your relationship with them is strained or if you under-performed while working with them, then perhaps you'll have to look elsewhere.

I'm uncertain why a more "diverse approach" would be advantageous to you. Your LORs should speak to your ability to excel in a PhD program, your capacities for research and original thinking, the likelihood that you'll contribute to the department, and other qualifications.

  • Thank you for the informative response. I assume by "look elsewhere" you mean I should necessarily find another person who can attest to my research abilities, right? My relationship with one of the professors I have done research with may become strained in the near future as our ideas of good collaboration are gradually diverging. I have, for instance, turned down one of his proposed projects as I thought it was not worthwhile. I am considering turning down another of his, IMO, mediocre ideas as well. So, he may either refuse to give me a letter or may not write a stellar one.
    – DIanon
    Nov 30 '20 at 19:02
  • What if worst comes to worst really and s/he refuses or I decide that I do not trust this professor with a letter. If I don't have access to anyone else who can genuinely vouch for my research abilities except for the other professor and I am forced to rely on others (e.g., my MA professors), do you think this may hurt may chances?
    – DIanon
    Nov 30 '20 at 19:06
  • If you do not trust the professor to write you an LOR, then you should not ask him/her for it. You mentioned working with two professors. Perhaps ask the other professor for an LOR?
    – Yasha
    Dec 1 '20 at 5:30

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