I found this article from Inside Higher Ed. to be pretty interesting. From the perspective of a student applying for fellowships and scholarships, I find getting letters of reference to be a stressful process. I know the faculty members I ask are very busy, so interrupting their time to get a letter of reference always makes me feel like I’m wasting their time. Even more-so if I’ve already asked for a letter in the past.
However, from the perspective of someone who has had some input on the selection of student researchers, I’ve found the letters accompanying their applications to be helpful on occasion, but more like reading an impersonal form letter on other occasions. I liked the idea the author of this article proposed to simply add on phone numbers for references. It would have been great to be able to ask more specific questions about a particular candidate. I’m wondering if anyone else has an opinion on reference letters, whether you are asking for them, reading them, or writing them.