Guidance Notes for Referees –
AHRC Doctoral Studentships
As a referee, you should be able to comment in detail on the applicant's recent work and his/her preparedness for doctoral study. It is helpful if you provide evidence both of the skills that the applicant possesses and, importantly, how they relate to the proposed study (as described in the applicant's ‘research proposal’). Academic referees are asked to draw on their experience of the applicant's work as a whole. Professional referees should state how long the applicant has worked with them and in what capacity, detailing the type and range of duties performed.
References that do not provide a detailed appraisal of the applicant's academic development and suitability for his/her proposed study, but are simply a general statement of support, may disadvantage even the strongest applicant. Please do not make inappropriate comments such as personal remarks.
Please comment under the following headings:
a) Previous performance
- Please provide a realistic appraisal of the applicant's abilities based on your assessment of his/her academic and, where relevant, professional performance to date. Include comments on the applicant's overall performance in his/her degree(s) and his/her performance on individual modules or courses if you have taught him/her at undergraduate and/or Master's level.
- The assessors are interested in such qualities as the applicant's conceptual ability, ability to solve problems, independence of mind, potential to develop innovative methods, communication skills, organisational abilities and, where relevant, his/her practical or technical capabilities. Please give examples to illustrate your comments.
- For professional referees, please draw on your experience of the applicant's work to give an appraisal of his/her professional performance to date. Please highlight the applicant’s strengths in the area in which he/she plans to study and note any weaknesses the applicant may have. Please give examples to illustrate your comments.
b) Preparedness for doctoral study
- Please give your assessment of the applicant's motivation and commitment, his/her capacity for working independently on the project throughout, and the likelihood of the applicant completing the project successfully - mentioning any relevant intellectual, practical, technical or professional skills the applicant possesses that you have not already highlighted.
- You should say how the proposed research project relates to the applicant's experience to date, and to his/her future plans. You may wish to address questions such as how the applicant has developed and improved during his/her undergraduate or postgraduate career.
- If the applicant is currently undertaking a Master's degree, and if you are permitted to do so, please include details of any formal assessments of his/her Master's work. This information should link in to the predicted grade that you have indicated.
- If the applicant has commenced his/her doctoral study, please include details of his/her progress to date. You should give an assessment of the applicant's progress and say on what basis this assessment has been made.
- Professional referees should also comment on the applicant's professional commitment, motivation and potential. It would be helpful to say how the professional experience the applicant has gained has built on his/her academic studies, and how it will prepare him/her to pursue his/her research and meet his/her long-term career aims.
- If the applicant has already studied at postgraduate level, please give examples of how this study has prepared the applicant to undertake doctoral research. If the applicant has no experience at postgraduate level, please comment on his/her preparedness to move directly to doctoral research without an initial year of Master's-level training.
- It would also help the assessors if you could mention any additional training that the applicant will need in order to successfully complete his/her doctoral studies.
- Where the degree has not already been awarded please provide the likely Master's degree result.