I will be applying now for PhD programmes and I wonder if I should notify my referees about every single application, providing data, such as: title and brief description of the project so they can tailor their references? Or that would be too much for them to get every single time an email like that? I know that they are busy with academic or own research commitments so I don't want to pile them with emails if that's not necessary. They are aware that I'm applying now.


1 Answer 1


My suggestion would be to get in touch with your referees and tell them you that you will be applying for several PhDs, so they should expect to potentially get multiple requests for references.

You can then tell them that if they receive a request for a reference and would like more information about the PhD, so that their can tailor their references, then you'll be very happy to provide that for them as necessary. It may of course be the case that your referees will not be inclined to tailor references to individual projects.

This way they're only receiving information when they would like it.

  • Thank you for your reply. Yes, they are aware that I'm applying for several PhDs. They know what my research area of interest is but they are not asking for specific details. It's just probably me thinking that it would make it easier for them to write a reference for me if they have more data but I wonder if I'm not bothering them too much if I keep sending an email every time I submit an application. They haven't say anything but the academic year is starting now so I'm sure they will get busier now.
    – HoldenDK
    Sep 26, 2016 at 9:20
  • 2
    @HoldenDK I've never had to write a reference, but from reading the references that were written for me when applying for PhDs a lot of what was said was relatively general (e.g., something about demonstrating critical thinking, something about practical research skills, something about writing), so I'm not sure that PhD references necessarily need to be tailored to the project in order to be persuasive.
    – Ian_Fin
    Sep 26, 2016 at 9:27
  • @HoldenDK - If an application would be strengthened by a recommender tailoring his letter to the particular school, then okay, risk getting on the recommenders' nerves by sharing specifics. But try to plan ahead, figure out all (or almost all) the schools you will apply to, so you can send, preferably, ONE email with the info they need, organized in an easy to read format. Sep 28, 2016 at 21:40

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