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Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Government of Canada

Letter of Appraisal
Instructions for Referees


You have been invited to provide a letter of appraisal for a SSHRC Doctoral Awards applicant. We suggest that you refer to this document while you are completing the Letter of Appraisal form. You may also access this document by clicking on "Instructions" at any time within a screen. This will link you directly to the instructions for the screen you are completing.

If you delete the system-generated email requesting that you provide a letter of appraisal, the applicant can resend it. If the applicant removes you as a referee, you will be notified by email.

After you have submitted the Letter of Appraisal form, you can still modify it, as long as the applicant has not electronically submitted their application to SSHRC. If you attempt to make changes to the form after the applicant has submitted their application, you will receive one of two messages: (1) form update error or (2) applicant has forwarded form.

Important: The only access to the Letter of Appraisal form is through the link indicated in the system-generated e-mail. We suggest you bookmark the link or save the e-mail.


Referee details

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" from the list and type the information in the box provided. Duplicate entries are not permitted.

Organization - department/division
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" from the list and type the information in the box provided.

Letter of appraisal

Applicant's CV and form

You can preview the CV and application by clicking on the appropriate link at the top of the page. The system will generate a print out (PDF) of each form. When viewing the application, it is possible that the applicant will not have completed the research proposal. If so, you may have to return to this form later to make an adequate assessment. For this reason, we 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 the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (the agencies) are committed to promoting diversity, equity 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.

Best practices

  • Be accurate, fair, clear and balanced.
  • Avoid being unduly personal.
  • Support your points by providing specific examples of accomplishments where possible.
  • Use superlative descriptors (e.g., excellent, outstanding) judiciously and support them 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 may be useful only in explaining 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 Department of Women and Gender Equality's (formerly Status of Women Canada) Unconscious Bias – Additional Resources webpage.


When writing your comments, bear in mind that applications are reviewed by a multidisciplinary selection committee, some members of which may not be familiar with the field or sub-field in which the candidate 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 candidate’s relevant training, such as skills and knowledge acquired through academic study, lived experience* and traditional teachings.
  • 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 candidate’s experiences and achievements within and beyond academia, relative to the candidate’s stage of study, lived experience* and knowledge systems.
  • The candidate's judgment and ability to think critically, their originality, initiative and autonomy, as well as their enthusiasm for research.
  • The candidate’s ability or potential to communicate theoretical, technical and/or scientific concepts clearly and logically in written and oral formats.
  • The candidate’s demonstrated commitment to responsible and ethical research conduct principles.
  • If applicable, the candidate's proficiency in the foreign language(s) necessary to pursue their proposed research.

* Note: References to an applicant’s lived experience can be included if mentioned in their research proposal.

Accept and submit

Under the provisions of the Privacy Act, the content of appraisals is accessible to applicants on request. The text of the appraisals will be made accessible to the applicant, with the exception of any comments made regarding other applicants or individuals and their identities, and any information provided in the appraisal that could identify the referee. The information you supply is for adjudication purposes; it is subsequently retained in the applicant's file and protected by the Privacy Act.

Before you can submit the Lletter of Aappraisal to SSHRC, you must successfully verify your form. When you select the "Accept and Submit" module and click the link "Click here to verify your form", the system will generate a Verification Report thatwhich lists any fields which must be completed or corrected. Once you have successfully verified your form, you must click on the link "I accept" and the completed Lletter of Aappraisal will be submitted electronically to SSHRC. When you Cclicking "I accept", it confirms that you accept the Terms of Use: and that your electronic acceptance is the equivalent to your handwritten signature.

Note: The applicant can not submit their application until you have submitted the letter of appraisal.

Technical support

If you have problems with SSHRC’s online application form system, contact our helpdesk by telephone at 613-995-4273 or by email at

Date modified: 2020-07-29