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Which would make a better letter?


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I am wondering if there is any weight put into the whether the person is a lecturer, associate professor, professor, etc? I ask because I know a person who is technically only a lecturer but is also in charge of organizing the honors requirements for biology department. We know each other very well, and I feel she would be able to write a good letter. Alternately, I could ask one of my professors that I've taken a class with and that I don't know as well. So, is there a benefit to getting a letter from a professor who runs a laboratory vs a lecturer, when my goal is a phd in Bio?

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Usually, more weight is given to someone who is in a permanent position at the department and generally considered a "member" of the faculty, whatever that means. If someone is only hired to be there to teach courses and nothing else then it might not be as good. But I know a lot of schools hire permanent staff that are part-time scientist and part-time lecturer. I think a tenure-tracked position is the "expected" position for the letter writer, but I think any permanent position could be a good letter, depending on the content of the LOR.

That is, I would go for an assistant/associate/full professor LOR unless there was a really compelling reason to ask another permanent staff member. And I would need to have a very very good reason to ask someone who is not a permanent member of the department for a letter (e.g. a postdoc, a sessional lecturer etc.)

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If this person has a PhD and is at your school on a permanent basis, then that sounds like a good option. If she is transient and/or doesn't have a PhD, that makes the value of what she can say more limited. That said, if you already have two letters from professors, then if this is the strongest third letter you can have, I'd still seriously consider it. There is a question of what each potential letter writer can write about, and more importantly, if this lecturer can write about aspects of your personality or work that your other letters won't address. If the professors who are your other options hardly know you and the lecturer knows you well, there is a good chance that she's still your best shot, even if she's not a professor. 

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