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As supervisors, many times we are asked to write recommendation letters. In my case, I have been recently asked to write one for a student, who is looking to enroll in a Ph.D. program. Due to the short time working under my supervision and the lack of results, it is not easy to highlight their strong points. In fact, It is also difficult to emit my recommendation. What would you do if you were in my shoes?

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    What would you do if you were in my shoes? — Say no. – JeffE May 7 '17 at 13:03
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    Due to the short time working under my supervision and the lack of results Is this an undergrad who has just started an REU with you? I don't think it's realistic to imagine a modern REU as a situation in which the student is supposed to produce results. That would have been a more reasonable expectation in 1980, when perhaps 0.01% of undergrads got involved in research. Today it's more like a box to tick for a student who wants to go to grad school. A bad REU is one where after it's done, the student can't even explain to someone in the field what it was about. – Ben Crowell May 7 '17 at 23:26
  • @BenCrowell perhaps the OP is referring to himself. The OP is a PhD student himself and thus lack of experience prevents him from writing any meaningful letter of recommendation. Those letters should be written be senior researchers. Getting one from a PhD student will be of no value for the applicant. – Rüdiger May 8 '17 at 19:34
  • @Rüdiger so, in that case, is it better not to write it? Claiming the lack of experience of the supervisor... – Bub Espinja May 9 '17 at 6:34
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    @siserte Indeed. You should tell him to ask someone more senior, someone who already has had lots of students. His opinion will be much more telling. – Rüdiger May 10 '17 at 23:59
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If you wrote a lukewarm letter, you probably wouldn't be doing your student any favors! So here's my suggestion:

I'm excited to hear about your interest in pursuing graduate studies. But at this time, I don't have enough information to write a strong letter. If you're still looking for a recommendation next year [next semester], I'd be happy to revisit this decision.

I recommend delivering your decision in person.

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Decline on the grounds that, indeed, you've worked too little together.

However (and actually adding to Peter K.'s answer), a discussion in order to understand why they chose you might be useful -- meaning that usually one asks for recommendation from people with whom they've worked longer. If their background and intentions don't seem suitable, maybe also tip them that another career path would be better?

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Either decline to write it or get them to write a draft.

The other option would be to engage with the student and have a conversation with them about the "job" and see what their reaction is to what you think the qualities are that would make them successful. Do they have those? Can they convince you that they do?

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