I am finally looking to start a PhD and have found a potentially ideal studenship and really don't want to mess up the application. I have so much stuff to sort out in a very limited timeframe (I found out about the studentship three weeks before the deadline for submission).
The thing that is currently exercising me is who would be the most useful referee? The application info states that one must be an academic referee, so I should really approach the university where I did my MSc, back in 2000. Trouble with that is, I really didn't do a very good job of the MSc. I was working full time, had health issues etc. I did only just enough to scrape through and got a pass. I wonder if, 13 years on, this will come out in the reference. I am imagining that they won't have much info on me apart from the fact that I attended and passed. So, should I risk it and go to that university for a reference or to the one where I took my first degree, worked like a demon and got a first?
Secondly, who would be best to use for my second referee? I am a consulting psychologist (the PhD is in a psychology-related subject) and could approach one of my regular service-users (the Chief Psychologist of a charity I do work for). The advantage is that it would be current. The disadvatage is, I don't do research there (although I have published a couple of brief articles in their in house journal). The other two options are to approach my supervisor from a job way back, for whom I did quite a bit of research. However, I left this job in 2002. I also lecture part-time, so could get a reference from there as well. It is not in the area of psychology that I intend to do my research in (I am dual-qualified), but it has some academic relevance.
Or should I just contact the university offering the PhD and ask them who they would like to hear from?
Any thoughts on this would help my bad-addled brains immensely.
My understanding is that the references from a PhD should demonstrate that you are able to commit to and complete a PhD - so showing that you can research, communicate, project plan and work to deadlines (etc, etc!).
I would think that your Chief Exec would be good for a current reference which will show your existing skills and experiences. For your academic reference, it may well be that after all this time you get a bog-standard reference saying you completed, unless you personally contact a tutor you worked closely with who would give you more personal comments. I think it would look strange to get a reference from undergraduate as that was before the Masters and will be less time-relevant. So I'd contact the place you did your Masters, see if there is someone there who remembers you personally, and failing that ask them for a standard reference. If the current person talks up your existing skills and experience, then the academic one will show (at the least) that you can complete a degree at postgraduate level.
I hope this helps. I had a similar issue and settled for one bog-standard, slightly out of date reference for my Masters and one current reference from my line manager. The Uni were fine with it.
Fabulous. Thanks for the tips. I have got to the can't-see-the-wood-for-the-trees stage of the application process and can't trust my own brain to make any sort of sensible decision. I will contact the Uni and tentatively offer them the outdated MSc ref plus current Chief Psych ref and see what they say.
Just one thing to add here. This may vary from University to University, however, doesn't the academic reference have to be from your undergard degree?
The University where I did my PhD wasn't interested in my Masters references.
This may be a solution to your problem.
Ah. You having raised this question, I went back and looked on the site (could have done that in the first place, couldn't I?). It says "an academic reference from your most recent period of study", so that is that. Bog-standard, you-did-an-MSc-with-us-in-the-Dark-Ages reference it is, then.
But thanks for the input.
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