I am currently doing my Masters in Neuroscience and applying for a PhD in neuroscience and had a research project component (50%) but my supervisor is close to retirement and sort of unaware of the system of LORs and how strong they need to be/how they need to be written. I have a really good one from one of my academic professors and I have asked my supervisor and she said yes, but she's been sitting on it and hasn't done it yet. I do however have really good recommendations from my undergrad - college principal/head of department and a professor. Could I use those? Or should I submit an above average one from my supervisor (if she gives it to me, I know she'll just say that I did good work and finished the project - no personal references etc). Or should I try getting another academic one from one of my masters professors?

  • 1
    Surely your supervisor read your recommendation letters when he admitted you? I doubt it's possible for him to be completely ignorant of the process (and it's not exactly complicated to explain)...
    – astronat
    Aug 12 '17 at 6:50
  • So, in France, letters of recommendation aren't really a thing. So no, she didn't read any before taking me on a research intern. But yeah, she's "aware" of the process but not how crucial they can be and how much in detail they need to be (anecdotal etc.). I've even offered to write up a draft if required but she hasn't gotten back to me for a month! I'm feeling quite lost :/
    – user78181
    Aug 12 '17 at 10:08
  • What do you mean LORs arent a thing in France? I needed them for both the undergrad admission and a scholarship for the masters. They are also asked for admission at the Master 2 level [math]. Aug 12 '17 at 13:34
  • You're the first person I've heard say that. I live there and most of my friends are French and in academia (masters and PhDs) and haven't bothered securing any.
    – user78181
    Aug 14 '17 at 3:46

I doubt that your supervisor has managed to work through their entire academic career without developing knowledge of how to write a letter of recommendation. The best thing you can do is to get in touch with them again and re-iterate that you would like them to write you one. If they still hold off from doing it then definitely use your fallbacks.

  • It's not that she's unfamiliar with the concept. It's just that in France it's not common at all and that English isn't her first language. So it's a combination of those two things which makes me believe I'll get a so-so recommendation despite having done a good job. For instance, in French, saying someone is above average is a good thing, because you're saying they're better than most but we know it has a bad connotation in English. So it's just stuff like that. I'm just worried :(.
    – user78181
    Aug 14 '17 at 3:49

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