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I will be applying for a PhD this year. So, I would like to ask for recommendation letters soon. Should I ask for each recommendation letter separately, or may I group email all the letter writers? Is there any general benefits or caveats in either approach?

My primary supervisor would like me to stay for a PhD at my current university. So, the group email might make the case seem "more decided". I'd like to avoid any further discussion on staying, since I thought to do so earlier (kind of promised) but have changed my mind since. It might negatively affect the letter to some extent.

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I would recommend that you do not send a group mail to professors you plan to ask for help. It will look somewhat lazy, and some may be offended that you were not willing to take the time to write a separate email (which should barely take any time). Another reason why this is bad is that hopefully each recommendation will not be saying the exact same thing, and you may want to reflect differences when you ask for the letters.

In fact, I would probably recommend approaching the professors (or others) that you plan to ask in person first. Of course, this depends on your relationship with the professor-- if they are very busy and have already previously agreed to write a letter then this step might not be necessary. However, when asking professors for letters it might seem a bit impersonal if you do not ask in person, and you also will not be able to gauge their reaction to be asked if the correspondence is online.

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One of the things professors want to know as recommenders is, "What makes me particularly qualified to write a letter for you? That is, why should the recipient of the letter value it over a letter from someone else?" You probably cannot answer that question adequately in a group email, and so you will diminish the quality of any letters you may get from such an email.

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