Thursday, January 05, 2012

Your Research is Systematic and Penetrating

The strange thing is, I think I got this same e-mail, or one very much like it, and I think I am in a different field from Mark P, the person who submitted this to the Cover Letter contest as a slightly modified version of an actual e-mail.

Dear Mark P,

You must be enjoying your Merry Christmas at the moment. My best wishes to you and your family, and Happy New Year!
I am an international student applying for Ph. D program in your department, and I am very interested in your area of study [fill in two sentences from my website, with the grammar connecting them in error]. Besides I have read your paper entitled [Title of a recent paper from our lab], the research is systemic and penetrating. You can't imagine how I crave for being a member of your group and do further research under your guide. Could I be one of your potential students next year? Archimedes once said, Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world. But I say that given the opportunity, I will perform miracles.
The following is my resume which may be helpful for your consideration.I would be grateful if early reply is given.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Mr. cut and paste


jb said...

Time for Megalomaniacs Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Aren't you concerned that posting a real letter could be humiliating and devastating to the writer if he/she discovers it? This is probably from a foreign student who means well.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious! Best one yet.

Anonymous said...

Ha! My field is clearly quite far from either you or Mark P and I got two of these from different countries this week. They must have a (bad) form letter/example prepared somewhere that these students are cribbing.


Anonymous said...

I also received a very similar email! Yikes! Is it one student or is this a template being passed around by international grad students?

Anonymous said...

If the person who really sent this somehow saw this, I don't see how they would be devastated since their name is not given. They might learn something useful: sending a letter like this will not get you the result you want so you should figure out the best way to correspond with a professor you might want to work with.

Sagit said...

To Anonymous 12:18: FSP stated on the original post for submitting cover letters was that the goal was for people to submit humorous parodies, not real people's cover letters.
She stated in the comments that the only real cover letters should be submitted by the people who wrote them.

Anonymous said...

I agree that these are from a template letter. I seem to get waves of very similar cover letters.

Topping that was the time I got identical cover letters on two consecutive days ... accompanied by identical CV's (differing only in name/contact info)!

Laura said...

If this is in fact a template letter, as many posters seem to say, does anyone actually respond to them? I recall reading on a CS professor's website that most of his colleagues ignore such letters, which in his field usually concern summer research opportunities. However, he said that he sends them a simple response directing them to the subpage of his website that I was reading, which explains the reasons why he isn't willing to consider taking on such students.

Anonymous said...

You should start a contest on most ridiculous feminist claims. I nominate the claim that Wikipedia is sexist because, apparently, only 13% of its contributors are female.

Look at that! In the absence of formal doorkeepers, female participation has actually dropped! Perfect!

Anonymous said...

We're definitely in different fields. Though I still am guessing which field is yours, you live more in the physical sciences-NSF world and I in the biomedical sciences-NIH world, so if we both got it, perhaps there is an internet template?

PS I am honored to be included in this list of great letters

PPS given how many people who got this, I don't think we need to worry too much about hurting anyones feelings.

PPPS I politely respond to all inquires that look like they were really directed at me rather than broadcast widely--they are easy to distinguish. Even if I am saying I don't have openings available, I think its only polite. However, I simply delete form emails.

Mark P

Anonymous said...

Students applying from some foreign countries use internet message boards and groups to solicit peer feedback on their essays, letters, etc. I had a graduate student several years ago who collected an assortment of 'template' essays from the message boards used in his country of origin, for a project on ESL writing. If a student is not confident in their English skills, they will stick closer to the templates provided on these boards.

This is an example of the fact that interpreting graduate school application materials is a "noisy channel" problem.

My field is computer science and I, too, have seen letters similar to these.

critik said...

I'm international, already have my Ph.D, and I think the letter is okay. I am assuming the writer doesn't speak English as a first language - so with that in mind, what is wrong with it?

muddled grad student said...

I think the problem here is not the English or the strange use of expressions in the letter but rather the fact that it is a template letter with fill in the blanks. The biggest problem is "[fill in two sentences from my website, with the grammar connecting them in error]. Besides I have read your paper entitled [Title of a recent paper from our lab]". Have have receive 3 or 4 of these things when I was just a PhD student. The email address could have only been acquired from our lab website which also informs anyone who cares to check that I'm a PhD student and the interested area of study is actually my PhD topic. When people get used to receiving scores of such letters they start to just send them to the spam folder without considering it regardless of their actual credentials.
Perhaps the problem doesn't lie in the students themselves but rather their advisers etc who should discourage such practices and show them how to make such contact and so on.