SSHRC Doctoral Awards:
Letter of Appraisal form—Instructions for referees
Two referee forms are part of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Doctoral Awards application package. One form must be completed by someone very familiar with the applicant’s research and abilities (i.e., current or previous research supervisor). The other should be completed by someone sufficiently familiar with the applicant’s research and abilities to provide a meaningful commentary. The referee form is available only through the unique URL included in the system-generated email you will receive requesting a letter of appraisal. We suggest you bookmark the link or save the email.
Your Letter of Appraisal form is available until the application has been electronically submitted to SSHRC. This form must be verified and submitted before the applicant can submit their application package. The system will not accept incomplete applications.
- If you misplace the unique URL required to access this form, the applicant can resend the invitation.
- If you decline the invitation, the applicant will be notified by email.
- If you are removed by the applicant, you will be notified by email.
- If you try to make changes to the form after the applicant has submitted their application package, you will receive one of two messages: (1) Form update error or (2) The application form has been forwarded to SSHRC.
You must complete three modules to submit a letter of reference: the Identification module, the Letter of appraisal module, and the Accept and submit module.
Fields identified in bold are required and must be completed.
Names and initials
Any changes to the information displayed in this section will be reflected on the application form.
Indicate your position (e.g., associate professor, director). If an applicable position is not listed, select “Other” from the list and type the information in the box provided.
Select the appropriate discipline by clicking on the “List…” button. If an applicable discipline is not listed, select “Other” and type the information in the box provided. Duplicate entries are not permitted.
Select the organization and department/division by clicking on the “List…” button. The country list will appear. Select the country, the province or state (if applicable), then the organization. If the organization or department/division is not listed, select “Other” and type the information in the box provided.
Letter of appraisal
Applicant’s CV and form
You can preview the applicant’s CV and application by clicking on the appropriate link at the top of the page. The system will generate a PDF file of each form. You can view the application even if the applicant has not yet completed it.
You might have to complete the Letter of Appraisal form later if the application is not yet complete. We therefore recommend that you save the system-generated email.
Best practices and guidelines to limit unconscious bias
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and SSHRC are committed to promoting equity, diversity and inclusion to ensure equitable access across their programs.
The following best practices and considerations should be taken into account when drafting your letter of appraisal:
- Be accurate, fair, clear and balanced.
- Avoid being unduly personal.
- Support your points by providing specific examples of accomplishments where possible.
- Support superlative descriptors (e.g., excellent, outstanding) with evidence.
- Include only information that is relevant to the selection criteria (e.g., do not include information related to ethnicity, age, hobbies, marital status, religion, disability status, financial need, etc.).
- Avoid sharing personal information about the applicant. Such information might be useful only to explain academic delays or interruptions and should be addressed with caution.
Limiting unconscious bias
The agencies strongly encourage the use of inclusive language (e.g., “the applicant” or “they” instead of “he/she”). The letter of appraisal should be free of words or sentences that reflect prejudiced, stereotyped or discriminatory views of particular people or groups, or their institution.
Use of inclusive language has been shown to decrease unconscious bias during the evaluation process. For more information, refer to the Canada Research Chairs Program's guidelines for letter writers on Limiting Unconscious Bias.
Letter writers should also refer to the tri-agency Bias in Peer Review training module as a guide for preventing unconscious bias in merit review.
For further information on unconscious bias, consult the Gender-based Analysis Plus webpage of Women and Gender Equality Canada (formerly Status of Women Canada).
When writing your comments, bear in mind that applications are reviewed by a multidisciplinary selection committee, some members of which might not be familiar with the field or subfield in which the applicant proposes to study.
Your letter of appraisal should inform the selection committee about the following elements (see the selection criteria for complete details):
- the quality of the research proposal, including the focus and feasibility of the research question(s) and objective(s); the clarity of the proposed methodology; and the significance and expected contributions to research;
- the applicant’s relevant training, such as skills and knowledge acquired through academic study, traditional teachings and—if the applicant’s lived experience is included in the research proposal—lived experience;
- the quality of research contributions in relation to discipline-specific norms, related research approaches and knowledge systems, and the extent to which they advance the field of research;
- the significance and relevance of the applicant’s experiences and achievements within and beyond academia, relative to the applicant’s stage of study, lived experience (if the applicant’s lived experience is included in the research proposal) and knowledge systems;
- the applicant’s judgment and ability to think critically, their originality, initiative and autonomy, as well as their enthusiasm for research;
- the applicant’s ability or potential to communicate theoretical, technical and/or scientific concepts clearly and logically in written and oral formats;
- the applicant’s demonstrated commitment to responsible conduct of research and ethical conduct for research involving humans; and
- if applicable, the applicant’s proficiency in the language(s) necessary to pursue the proposed research.
Accept and submit
Note: The applicant cannot submit the application until you have submitted the Letter of Appraisal form.
Under the provisions of the Privacy Act, the content of appraisals is accessible to applicants on request. Although the names of the referees will not be disclosed, the full text of the appraisals will be accessible to the applicant, except for any comments made regarding other applicants and their identities. The information you supply is for adjudication purposes; it is subsequently retained in the applicant’s file and protected by the Privacy Act.
If you have problems with SSHRC’s online application form system, contact our helpdesk by telephone at 613-995-4273 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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