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Academic Referee or Reference

What is an Academic Referee or Reference?

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Some prospects for higher education and employment call for academic references. 

You or the person you suggest can improve academically or professionally with the aid of a strong academic reference. Knowing more about academic references will make it easier for you to ask for or write one for someone else. 

This article defines academic references, explains how to select and ask someone to be your reference, and provides instructions on creating your academic reference.

What is an academic reference?

You might be unsure of an academic reference if you’ve never had to get one. A sort of written recommendation is an academic reference, often known as an academic letter of recommendation. 

References provide evidence of a person’s personality and skills. For various opportunities, such as scholarships, grants, study programs, internships, and careers, professors and lecturers, are frequently asked to provide references for their current or past students and teaching or research assistants.

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What is an academic referee?

A teacher or another person who has monitored your learning in a classroom typically serves as an academic referee. They will be familiar with your learning style and will have graded your work.

You could be aware of the idea of references if you applied to a university. In reality, even though they might not have been called that, the references you receive while applying to universities are academic references.

If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of a university reference, this Think Student article explains it in depth.

Someone you can trust to give a truthful assessment of you as a student should serve as your referee. They don’t have to be aware of every last element of your life.  

Your referee should, however, be able to speak authoritatively about your academic success and any factors that might have affected it.

Your referee should know about learning disabilities, traumatic experiences, or other circumstances that may have affected your academic performance. 

Even though you may have already discussed this with the party asking for a reference, doing so again will support your claims.

Your referee will also be able to elaborate on the specifics of how this changed your educational experience.

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Can a friend be an academic reference?

A friend may, in some cases, serve as a reference to attest to your character. Recommendation letters, which are a little less formal than academic references, follow this pattern.

However, using a buddy as a reference for academic work is not advised.

A teacher, lecturer, mentor, or others who can comment on your academic progress must write the reference. It’s crucial that the reference originates from a learner who is familiar with you.

A buddy wouldn’t be a good academic reference because they probably won’t view things from the same angle as a teacher. 

Although your friend may be in the same class as you, they probably won’t notice the changes in your essays over time like a teacher may.

The person you ask to write your academic reference is‌ both a friend and a mentor. 

You must be confident that this person can be relied upon to neither embellish accomplishments nor present matters in a flattering light for your benefit.

Using them as a reference is not advised if you believe they wouldn’t be trustworthy and impartial.

What counts as an academic reference?

Once the reference has been provided, the person who wrote it must be ready to answer any inquiries. The person requesting a reference could wish to confirm details or follow up on a tip.

They will not consider the reference if they discover that you made up your contact information. This can also be the situation if the person who made the request does not receive a timely response from your referee.

You must have faith in your referee’s continued availability after they have written the reference.

Most of the time, it will cause your application for whatever you wanted the reference for to be delayed.

Attempt to be ready for circumstances when your start date might be postponed.

Your referee should know what a reference comprises and the pertinent information to provide, but you should request a chance to review it before submitting it.

They might be aware of the details to add to their reference, but they might not be familiar with your particulars.

For instance, it might benefit your referee to hear about your future professional aspirations or the field you envision yourself working in.

This will enable your referee to highlight parts of the paper that are more pertinent to your goals. 

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What are the Tips for Picking an Academic Referee?

All graduates will require an academic referee at some point to provide a reference regarding their skills. 

In this article, we offer some recommendations for choosing an academic referee, emphasizing individuals applying for postgraduate study.

However, much of this guidance also applies to references from the professional world. Our tips comprise:

  • Consider your college professors and anyone who can attest to your abilities.
  • Before submitting any applications, enquire about your desired recommendations.
  • Give your referees the details they require for them to write a solid recommendation.
  • If necessary, find a non-academic referee who can support your application (for instance, if you haven’t been in school for a while).
  • You should always thank refs for their assistance.

Make sure you follow the instructions we’ve provided below.

1. Find the Best Academic Referees

You should choose your referees carefully to ensure that they will have an influence.

  • They are familiar with you and can attest to the excellence of your work.
  • They are well-known figures in the field you want to study.

It’s possible that this is your favorite professor. However, looking up and contacting possible referees while you’re still in school is worthwhile, particularly if you believe you’ll eventually want to pursue a postgraduate degree.

2. Ask First!

Academics frequently find out they are someone’s reference only after getting a call asking for one! Avoid allowing this to occur.

Especially if you’ve used them as a referee before, this is frequently as easy as sending your chosen referee an email or contacting them before adding them.

But if you’ve never asked someone for a reference before, you should offer to meet with them and review your recommendation’s specifics beforehand.

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3. Provide All Information Required

This one has two implications: First, give your referee any information they ask for since they could want to learn more about you.

Meeting in person can be helpful in this case because you can bring your resume or application for a postgraduate program.

Second, be sure to collect all the data required for your referee to contact the school you’re applying to.

This typically includes your connection to the referee, their position, and their contact information.

Check the application instructions if you’re unsure of what to include, though.

4. Non-Academic References

Getting in touch with your former professors may be difficult or irrelevant if you haven’t attended school in a while. You can usually substitute a non-academic referee in these situations.

But keep in mind that non-academic referees shouldn’t be close friends or relatives. Instead, choose a professional acquaintance, particularly if your work experience is relevant to your application.

5. Say Thanks!

Although you don’t have to go baffling, sending your referees a simple “thank you” note wouldn’t hurt. This merely conveys your appreciation for the effort spent writing a reference. 

They are more likely to provide you with another reference in the future if you need one, which is more selfish.

Additionally, don’t forget to get your documents proofread if you are planning an application for work or higher education.

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How to write an academic reference

If you’re a professor, a current or former student, or an assistant may contact you and ask you to provide them with an academic reference.

You might agree if you think highly of the person and wish to see them succeed in their academic or professional endeavors.

You can use the following checklist to draft a letter of recommendation:

1. Add contact details, date, salutation, and purpose

Use a typical block letter format, aligning the date, your contact information, and a formal salutation to the left.

Use their name when addressing them directly; otherwise, use a general salutation. Type the date and salutation if printing your reference on letterhead-branded stationery.

2. Explain your reason for writing

In your opening paragraph, explain why you are writing. Name the person for whom you are serving as a referee and briefly describe your motivation for doing so. You may, for instance, state that you are writing to support the applicant’s application.

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3. Detail your relationship with the person

Describe how you came to know the individual you are referring to. You can describe your relationship with them, how you collaborated, or the classes they were taking. You can also note the events that first introduced you to the person’s ability.

4. Describe the person to whom you’re referring

Give specifics that are pertinent to the application in your description of the individual to whom you are referring.

You may, for instance, discuss the person’s performance level, academic prowess, and professional objectives.

You could describe any struggles they overcome while working or studying with you to demonstrate the person’s tenacity. Also, you might talk about the person’s potential in the future.

5. Conclude your reference with a call to action

In order to encourage the reader to take the applicant’s application into consideration, end your reference with a call to action.

You can also ask that the recipient contact you if they have any additional queries.

Add a formal sign-off above your printed name and position and provide room for a signature.

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FAQs – Academic Referee or Reference

What does an academic referee mean?

An academic referee should be someone with whom you have an academic relationship and can comment on your academic capacity to undertake postgraduate studies. For example, a thesis supervisor, lecturer, or tutor. 

Who can I use as an academic referee?

As your referee should be able to comment ‌on your academic performance, they should be familiar with your work. This will usually be an adviser of studies, a module coordinator, a lecturer, or a supervisor.

Who serves as a referee on a college application?

You should choose a referee who can accurately assess both your intellectual and personal qualities and who you are familiar with. Most of the time, professors from your undergraduate program, such as your personal tutor or dissertation supervisor, will be your references for a master’s degree. 

How do you request a referee for your academic work?

You only need a few phrases to ask a professor for a reference. Introduce yourself and share your career aspirations in the opening. Tell them why you want them to be a reference, and explain your reasoning. Next, inquire about their willingness to serve as a credible reference.

Can I use a friend as a referee?

The person giving the reference has to be knowledgeable about you and capable of supporting any claims made about your character with examples. Although choosing a friend or member of your family to serve as a referee is permissible, choosing someone unrelated to you is preferable because they can see their judgment as biased.

Who is eligible to serve as a CV referee?

Your past employers, a team leader, a manager, or a work experience employer are a few excellent referees to consider. You can also select persons you’ve volunteered for, past coworkers, clients, coaches, or teachers. Typically, two references will be requested by potential employers.


You may get inquiries for academic references as you apply for jobs or higher education programs. 

They typically request references near the conclusion of the application process, and getting one after a particularly drawn-out one might be annoying. 

Fortunately, getting an academic reference is a rather simple procedure because academic references are straightforward papers.