In case it varies between countries, by thesis committee I mean 2-4 professors who examine you on your MSc research after you submit your thesis, so except for your advisor, they are usually not familiar with your work prior to submission. Some of them might belong to other universities/departments and not be familiar with the student at all.

I am wondering whether such letters would be valuable. On the one hand, I feel they should be the next best thing after letters from people you've done research with, but on the other hand such letters can only refer to the quality of the outcome of your research and not your character.

What about letters from professors who have read your papers/thesis but haven't met you in person and thus haven't held a conversation regarding your research with you?

2 Answers 2


In the UK at least, when applying for research jobs soon after completing a PhD it's quite common for one of the referees to include the external examiner of your thesis (a member of the committee that is external to the institution which awards the PhD). The idea there being that as they're experts in an area in which you've worked and they've assessed a sizeable product of your research (i.e. the thesis), as well as having engaged with you during its defence, they should be in a position to speak authoritatively about your abilities as a researcher.

The professor who has only read your work is in a significantly different position. While they may have the expertise in the subject area, and the familiarity with your work, of the examiner, they've not assessed you in a formal role, nor really engaged with you as an individual.

Of course, your question is about an MSc thesis committee, rather than a PhD one. Without more specifics, you will have to judge whether the involvement of committee members is similar to the involvement of a PhD thesis committee member.


You are free to ask whomever you want for a LoR, but you should be careful as only persons who have had the opportunity to get to know you, are in a position to write strong letters.

So, if the professors in your committee are not familiar with your work, they could at best write very generic (read weak) letters for you. In my experience it is far more likely that such faculty will decline writing a letter for you, as they don't want to cause damage to your application with a weak LoR.

My advice is to approach people with whom you had a good and lasting working relationship for a LoR. These can be faculty that wrote papers with you, supervised your work on a project, the supervisors of the lab you worked in, even is some cases faculty whose class you took (take the last one with reserve though). Ask them whether they are comfortable writing a strong letter for your application.

Finally, never expect professors to spin a tale to make you look better on your LoR.

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