Writing an effective and supportive recommendation letter

FEBS J. 2022 Jan;289(2):298-307. doi: 10.1111/febs.15757. Epub 2021 Mar 5.


Writing recommendation letters on behalf of students and other early-career researchers is an important mentoring task within academia. An effective recommendation letter describes key candidate qualities such as academic achievements, extracurricular activities, outstanding personality traits, participation in and dedication to a particular discipline, and the mentor's confidence in the candidate's abilities. In this Words of Advice, we provide guidance to researchers on composing constructive and supportive recommendation letters, including tips for structuring and providing specific and effective examples, while maintaining a balance in language and avoiding potential biases.

Keywords: faculty development; graduate education; mentoring; recommendation letter; research culture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mentoring / standards*
  • Mentors / psychology*
  • Research Personnel / education
  • Research Personnel / standards*
  • Writing