I am looking for a dataset containing academic recommendation letters, written in English, with as many following fields as possible:

  • content of the letter
  • date of the letter
  • purpose of the letter (e.g., faculty application, visa application, internship application, etc.)
  • relationship between recommendee and recommender
  • demographics on recommendee and recommender
  • 2
    How do you properly anonymise such letters? I doubt very much that this can be turned into Open Data.
    – user6083
    Feb 19, 2016 at 10:02
  • @jknappen That's one of the elements I am curious about :) maybe softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/27264/903 (but for FERPA if in the US)+ manual checking. Also maybe more lenient outside the US. Feb 19, 2016 at 14:46

1 Answer 1


Idea 1: Troll google for personal letters of reference with a search engine - here are some samples:

  • include the strings "letter of reference", "to whom it may concern"
  • exclude the string "template"
  • filter for PDF and DOC files

example query

examples results pdf1, pdf2, pdf3

enhanced query:

  • include degree (Master, PhD)

  • include department (Physics, Law)

The downside is you'll have to do the categorization yourself

Idea 2: (ethical?) Post fake job advertisements on Craiglist or Indeed and ask people to send CV with letters of reference. At least one would then have geographical and topic-based categorization.

Idea 3+: There are plenty of less-ethical things beyond here. That being said, analysis of the hiring process is an important research topic and leads to important discoveries like - Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination.

  • 1
    1 and 2 are not really suitable for academic letters. I'm also looking for letters, and would be happy with non-academic ones, too. 1 seems sort of reasonable, but a lot of work. Also, IRB approval is uncertain.... Apr 13, 2016 at 20:25
  • 2
    For mining google, it might be interesting to look at city council applications. They seem to be public in some cities, which could make the use legal. Apr 13, 2016 at 20:44

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