Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

A Recommendation Letter Word Cloud

Cosmic VarianceBy Julianne DalcantonJanuary 21, 2009 3:52 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Given the current DEFCON 1 level of anxiety about recommendation letters, and my belief that more transparency is usually a good thing, I thought it would be informative to assemble a word cloud of about 10 years of recommendation letters written for undergraduates applying to graduate schools or fellowships (with names and schools omitted).


As you can see, the top three themes are "research", "project", and "work" indicating that the letters are highly weighted towards what students have actually accomplished, rather than just pure intellectual firepower. The cloud for graduate students applying to postdoctoral positions would be more biased towards words like "thesis" and "papers", but would again emphasize what one has done, not how intelligent one is. So, if you are a student thinking about graduate school, you should make sure you get involved in research, and, when you do, make sure you get something done!

    3 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In