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Nibbler

Reference Letter Question

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Hey everyone,

So I received a request to write a teaching/mentorship reference letter for one of my long-time supervisors who I really look up to!
I have never written a LOR, thought id have a huge white beard at that point. I had two questions I hope someone can help me with:
 

1) Is there a general outline someone can link me to for writing reference letters? Should I go as personal as possible or try to tone back?

2) Is it appropriate to use M.D Candidate under my signature or is that silly?

 

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3 hours ago, Nibbler said:

Hey everyone,

So I received a request to write a teaching/mentorship reference letter for one of my long-time supervisors who I really look up to!
I have never written a LOR, thought id have a huge white beard at that point. I had two questions I hope someone can help me with:
 

1) Is there a general outline someone can link me to for writing reference letters? Should I go as personal as possible or try to tone back?

2) Is it appropriate to use M.D Candidate under my signature or is that silly?

 

1) It really depends on the purpose of the letter. Are you providing it to your supervisor to use generally as a component of a teaching package or tenure package or some other application package? Or has it been requested by someone else for the purpose of an award, or application or something like that? Usually when it’s requested for an award or similar you will be given some information about what they want you to talk about in the letter, and that may help you understand how personal would be appropriate.

Generally in a reference letter it’s most important to have examples to illustrate the main points you want to make. For example, it’s not that useful to just write “so and so is a great communicator” or “so and so has been an excellent mentor to me”. You have to follow those statements with examples that illustrate why they are true. Personal stories and anecdotes can be a very useful for this purpose. You’ll need to use your judgement for how personal to make it though.

2) You should only use credentials you actually have or are admitted to and in the process of obtaining. So you shouldn’t write MD candidate if you’re just applying to medical school. But if you’re actually in medical school, you could write something like MD 2021 candidate or MD year 1.

You could also include any previous degrees or a degree you’re currently working on (e.g. BSc or BSc year 3). And if relevant to the situation, could include a title for your position. (E.g. if you were employed in this supervisor’s lab as a research assistant, you might include ‘undergraduate research assistant’ in your title).

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Usually the letter will start with how pleased you are to have the opportunity to write for your supervisor, how long you have known them and in which capacity.

Then you would go into detail about their teaching, mentorship, etc. and how they stand out in your view in each domain.

You can end by summarizing how well they exemplify the criteria of whatever purpose you are writing for, that you hope they will be strongly considered for the promotion/award if applicable, and perhaps that you'd be happy to speak further if the committee wishes.

Agree that including specific examples/stories is very important to strengthen your points. The letter would be most powerful if you described the impact that your supervisor had on your professional development - so making it personal in that sense would be valuable indeed. Things that are not directly work-related (e.g. family and social life) would be the type of personal info I would tend to leave out. 

There was an entire thread on here a while back debating the use of MD "candidate". You're almost always safe using "XX Medical School Class of 2022", as you have in your signature.

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1 hour ago, frenchpress said:

1) It really depends on the purpose of the letter. Are you providing it to your supervisor to use generally as a component of a teaching package or tenure package or some other application package? Or has it been requested by someone else for the purpose of an award, or application or something like that? Usually when it’s requested for an award or similar you will be given some information about what they want you to talk about in the letter, and that may help you understand how personal would be appropriate.

Generally in a reference letter it’s most important to have examples to illustrate the main points you want to make. For example, it’s not that useful to just write “so and so is a great communicator” or “so and so has been an excellent mentor to me”. You have to follow those statements with examples that illustrate why they are true. Personal stories and anecdotes can be a very useful for this purpose. You’ll need to use your judgement for how personal to make it though.

2) You should only use credentials you actually have or are admitted to and in the process of obtaining. So you shouldn’t write MD candidate if you’re just applying to medical school. But if you’re actually in medical school, you could write something like MD 2021 candidate or MD year 1.

You could also include any previous degrees or a degree you’re currently working on (e.g. BSc or BSc year 3). And if relevant to the situation, could include a title for your position. (E.g. if you were employed in this supervisor’s lab as a research assistant, you might include ‘undergraduate research assistant’ in your title).

Thanks for the response, I appreciate it :)

I am an incoming 2022 M.D Candidate, I also have an H.BSc. I may just include the prior for simplicity. 

The purpose of the letter is to be used in a professional portfolio attesting to mentorship and teaching competency. 

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37 minutes ago, Lactic Folly said:

Usually the letter will start with how pleased you are to have the opportunity to write for your supervisor, how long you have known them and in which capacity.

Then you would go into detail about their teaching, mentorship, etc. and how they stand out in your view in each domain.

You can end by summarizing how well they exemplify the criteria of whatever purpose you are writing for, that you hope they will be strongly considered for the promotion/award if applicable, and perhaps that you'd be happy to speak further if the committee wishes.

Agree that including specific examples/stories is very important to strengthen your points. The letter would be most powerful if you described the impact that your supervisor had on your professional development - so making it personal in that sense would be valuable indeed. Things that are not directly work-related (e.g. family and social life) would be the type of personal info I would tend to leave out. 

There was an entire thread on here a while back debating the use of MD "candidate". You're almost always safe using "XX Medical School Class of 2022", as you have in your signature.

Thanks for the tips, very helpful. Thankfully our relationship spans 7 years at this point so I'm sure I can give a few solid examples :)

That's awesome, I just wasn't sure if it was appropriate since technically I don't have the degree yet.

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Good luck - it will feel good for you to be able to do this for them :)

Incoming medical student (1st year, or class of xx) is pretty clear as you stated. Some people don't like the term 'candidate' as that overlaps with PhD candidacy examinations.

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15 minutes ago, Nibbler said:

Thanks for the response, I appreciate it :)

I am an incoming 2022 M.D Candidate, I also have an H.BSc. I may just include the prior for simplicity. 

The purpose of the letter is to be used in a professional portfolio attesting to mentorship and teaching competency. 

Portfolio letters are tough, because you don’t know the exact situation in which they will be used in the future — so it’s best to pick just a few key elements of their mentorship that you most appreciate and highlight those. 

Edit: And @Lactic Folly‘s suggested template is a good one and very typical.

In my experience, in things like portfolios for teaching, reviewers are unlikely to read the supplied letters and material all that closely, especially if it’s long. They typically have a LOT of information and packages to review. So a shorter letter (I.e. a page, maybe 2 at the absolute max of you really think it’s necessary) is much more likely to be given the attention it deserves.

 

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On 5/27/2018 at 10:10 AM, Nibbler said:

Hey everyone,

So I received a request to write a teaching/mentorship reference letter for one of my long-time supervisors who I really look up to!
I have never written a LOR, thought id have a huge white beard at that point. I had two questions I hope someone can help me with:
 

1) Is there a general outline someone can link me to for writing reference letters? Should I go as personal as possible or try to tone back?

2) Is it appropriate to use M.D Candidate under my signature or is that silly?

 

In answer to your question, I would agree with french press and others that good, vivid examples are the best thing to put in to a reference letter

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21 hours ago, Snowmen said:

2) Very silly. You're not a candidate in the same way as a PhD candidate (in that case, "Candidate" refers to a PhD student that has completed some specific degree requirements). Simply write, "Medical student" or "Medical student, Class of 2022".

Thank you, this forum can be so clutch :P!
 

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