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Don't plagiarize your cover letters!

Mon 10 Feb 2014 by mskala Tags used: ,

The text below pretty much speaks for itself. Bold highlighting and numbered footnotes in [square brackets] are mine; all the rest is as I received it. Some irregularities of spacing and punctuation, visible in the original email, aren't obvious in the HTML. Names of the students are redacted because (after finding several more copies on the Web) I imagine the students are relatively innocent victims of bad advice. Name of the institution not redacted because I hope others who receive such letters and look for them on the Web will be able to easily find this posting.

Fri, 16 Aug 2013Mon, 10 Feb 2014
Dear Professor[1] Skala, Dear Professor Skala,
I came to know about you from your research paper " Counting distance permutations ". I came to know about you from your research paper ' Untangled monotonic chains and adaptive range search '.
I am a fourth year student pursuing my dual degree (Bachelors with masters) in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, INDIA. I will be completing my eight semester (4td Year) by the end of April, 2014. I am a Junior Undergraduate student pursuing Bachelor of Technology in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, INDIA. I will be completing my sixth semester (3rd Year) by the end of April, 2014.
I am extremely interested in game theory,[2] algorithms and its applications. I would like to work under your guidance in this or related field or would be glad even if I could assist you in any ongoing project related to my field of interest. My ideas and inputs may prove to be helpful to fulfill the demands of the project. As far as my experience is concerned, I am doing a course "Game theory and its application in Computer Science" and "Introduction to game theory" in the same field.[2] I have performed well so far in this field and thus I'll be able to match up with the technical and theoritical aspects of this field. I am extremely interested in 'Data Structures and Algorithms' and its applications. I would like to work under your guidance in this or related field or would be glad even if I could assist you in any ongoing project related to my field of interest. My ideas and inputs may prove to be helpful to fulfill the demands of the project. As far as my experience in Computer Science and Engineering is concerned, I did two courses 'Data Structures and Algorithms' and 'Design and Analysis of Algorithms' and found them very interesting. I have performed well so far in this field and thus I'll be able to match up with the technical and theoritical aspects of this field.
I started reading question papers[3] to get an idea about the current research problems and the opportunities in this field and thus during that I came across your research paper.From all the knowledge I have gained about these areas, I find that it fascinates me to a great extent. I am very motivated and open to work under your guidance. Working under your guidance will definitely contribute a lot to my knowledge, skill and experience in this field which I wish to pursue further. I started reading research papers to get an idea about the current research problems and the opportunities in this field and thus during that I came across your research paper. From all the knowledge I have gained about these areas, I find that it fascinates me to a great extent. I am very motivated and open to work under your guidance. Working under your guidance will definitely contribute a lot to my knowledge, skill and experience in this field which I wish to pursue further.
Please consider my application for internship for the period of May-July, 2014. For your reference, I have attached my curriculum vitae, but should you require more information, I would be glad to provide it. Please consider my application for internship for the period of May-July, 2014. For your reference, I have attached my curriculum vitae, but should you require more information, I would be glad to provide it.
I have always wished to work with innovative and dynamic people and I really look forward to be a part of your team.Hoping for a positive reply from your side. I have always wished to work with innovative and dynamic people and I really look forward to be a part of your team. Hoping for a positive reply from your side.
Thanking you! Thanking you!
Yours sincerely,
[name redacted]
Senior Undergraduate
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
IIT Kanpur
Kanpur 208016
INDIA
Yours sincerely,
[name redacted]
Junior Undergraduate
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
IIT Kanpur
Kanpur 208016
INDIA

[1] I only wish this were my correct title.

[2] My research paper "Counting Distance Permutations" (PDF preprint here; publisher's DOI here) is not related to game theory. I have never done any significant work on game theory. Game theory does not mean the creation and study of computer games; it is an abstract mathematical topic.

[3] I don't know what a "question paper" is.

Here's how I replied to the one that arrived today.

Dear [name redacted]:

I have no authority to hire anybody. I am currently looking for a job myself. You should also be aware that researchers at Canadian universities are rarely, if ever, able to hire undergraduate assistants internationally; normally, any such jobs would only be open to students who are already studying at the researcher's own institution. Information on applying to become a student at the University of Manitoba is available from this Web site:
   http://umanitoba.ca/student/admissions/
Applications to the undergraduate program must be made to the institution, not to individual researchers.

More importantly, your letter is nearly identical to a letter I received from another IIT Kanpur student last Summer. A Web search turns up several more copies of the same letter, each with a different student's name attached, all from IIT Kanpur. Strong original written communication skills, and avoidance of plagiarism, are mandatory for all academic workers; and your job application letter is an important opportunity for you to demonstrate those skills. I hope you will think carefully about the impression of you and your institution created by your letter.

Sincerely,

Matthew Skala

1 comment

Paul N
I wish that was your title, too.

Misspelling "theoritical" is a nice touch. Maybe they are theocritical? (Not that I should be snarking, given that I cannot spell "etymology". I had to look up the xkcd comic to track down the spelling.)
Paul N - 2014-02-11 02:11


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