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As a thank you to my thesis supervisor, I would like to write some sort of letter expressing my gratitude for the work he has done for me.

I was wondering if students ever write letters in such a way that they can be used by professors as a sort of "reference" letter when applying for jobs or teaching grants. For reference, my supervisor is a Senior Lecturer at a university in the Australian system. Would a letter like this be appreciated? What should it look like?

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    Such an acknowledge will presumably appear in the acknowledgement section of your dissertation/thesis. That said, I see nothing wrong with extending whatever you write in the acknowledgements section to something longer. I think it is more appropriate for such a letter to be kept private, hence, there's no need to write it in "such a way that they can be used by professors as a sort of 'reference' letter when applying for jobs or teaching grants." (I don't know what a "teaching grant" is. Did you mean research grant?) – user2768 Aug 14 '17 at 12:26
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I don't know about the Australian system; in the US, it's quite normal for applications for promotion and teaching awards to require letters from students (though I think usually students from classes, rather than doctoral students). However, I wouldn't pre-emptively write one; my recommendation is that you write a letter or email, in which you could offer if they ever need such a letter. The other thing you could reasonably do is write a short email to their head of department, just saying in a few sentences wy you felt that they were successful as a supervisor. That's probably the best way to help their career.

  • it's quite normal for applications for promotion...to require letters from students — Letters from former students are expressly forbidden in promotion cases at my university. – JeffE Aug 15 '17 at 1:51
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    Fair enough. They were required at UVA; I said "normal," not universal. – Ben Webster Aug 15 '17 at 13:48
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In North America the website LinkedIn is very popular. My present supervisor has several recommendations from past graduate students on his profile. This essentially consists of a short paragraph relaying the supervisor's strengths and professional abilities. It is publicly available, so this will help to make his profile/work stand out for potential future students and collaborators. I would recommend something along these lines.

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