Writing Recommendation Letters Online



Knowledge is in the end based on acknowledgment.
—Ludwig Wittgenstein

This handbook would not have been possible without the warm support of many. I am indebted first to Mary Gage and Tineke Cunning, both former directors of Penn State’s Undergraduate Fellowships Office, and John Dutton and John Cahir, both former Deans of Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. These individuals provided active support as this handbook evolved and shared with me the goal of improving faculty recommendation letters. Many scholarships advisors across the country, particularly members of the National Association of Fellowships Advisors (NAFA), offered assistance and actively promoted the use of this handbook. I am also grateful to the faculty and graduate students from various schools—unnamed to protect their identities—who gave permission for their letters to be printed here. There is no substitute for reading real letters written for real students, and many of the letters here are the best I’ve ever seen.

The electronic edition of this handbook exists thanks to the creative support team at Penn State’s John A. Dutton e-Education Institute and the Institute’s Open Educational Resources (OER) Initiative. I owe particular thanks to Jennifer Babb, Instructional Design Assistant, who laid out the book in Drupal and taught me the basics of using the software, guiding me patiently through the process and always with a watchful eye for continuity, form, utility, and professionalism. Mark Wherley created the artistic interface for the manual, while Marty Gutowski integrated the interface and served as an excellent technical troubleshooter. These individuals, along with others who are part of the OER Initiative and collaborated on this project, have been an excellent support team.