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Graduate Studies

For Reviewers, Committee Members, and Chairs

Role of the review: To assess a candidate’s potential success in a program of study or academic award, and select candidates for recommended offers of admission or academic awards.

Suggested strategies to minimize implicit bias in the review and selection process:

  1. Use clearly established, standardized assessment metrics and processes with a common rubric and an understanding of bias.
  2. Allow sufficient time and avoid multi-tasking when you review applications to allow for self-correction of bias-related tendencies.
  3. Review the selection criteria before you begin evaluating applications.
  4. Question whether your evaluation would change if the applicant were of a different gender or cultural background, if they had a different name or if they were working on a different research topic.
  5. Guard against over-reliance on one piece of information or on “first impression” reactions.
  6. Organize the applications by random sorting the order of review numerically.
  7. Pre-score all nominations assigned and submit pre-scores to the designated committee chair or administrator prior to the selection committee meeting.
  8. Consult guidelines for reviewing nominations involving Indigenous scholarship or research with Indigenous communities, such as those available through your institution or Government of Canada.
  9. Programs and committees can develop a standardized letter of recommendation with cognitive and non-cognitive scales.
  10. Read the writing sample first, then look at test scores, then look to the letters for — ideally — concrete information that contextualizes the rest of the material in the packet, particularly the writing sample or candidate statement.
  11. Pay attention to the facts within the specific content.
  12. Establish the weight of each component of the assessment. (Letter of reference, grade point average, personal statement, writing sample relative to each other.)

Source: Adapted from the Vanier Graduate Scholarships website. (Canada, 2020)