I am applying for admission to the Master's program next fall. However I am in doubt about the source of reference. I have two options:

  1. My mentor at a research institute who was pursuing his PhD. when I was a research intern. However, he did not complete his PhD.

  2. Research Scientist(PhD) at my current organization where my role is that of a software developer. Therefore the recommendation is based on my work as a developer rather than on my research contributions.

Both are willing to write strong recommendations for me.

Who would be a better source of recommendation?

  • Many applications require (or allow) more than one reference. Is that not your case?
    – Bob Brown
    Nov 30, 2014 at 20:03
  • I need 3 recommendations. 2 professors from my undergraduate institute are recommending me.
    – Shalabh
    Nov 30, 2014 at 21:47
  • Are you sure you can't include four recommendations? Many application management systems will allow for additional materials. You can ask the graduate school whether they will allow this.
    – RoboKaren
    Jul 13, 2015 at 8:11

2 Answers 2


I would ask mentor #1 (with a master's degree) to write a letter to the PhD research scientist #2, and have the latter (#2) submit a letter for your application. Thus, the recommendation letter is received from a prestigious source, is based on current experience of your work habits and character, but can also incorporate quotes/details from the more junior person. This is not an unusual pattern in my experience.


I would use the first person because it is about your work in research. I think that their qualifications matter very little: What really matters is the nature of your work when you were under their supervision.

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