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I have been given verbal agreement by my employer to use an aspect of a project we are going to be working on here at the office as my Masters thesis project. However, the school wants some sort of formal notice from my employer indicating that I have their approval to use information such as logs files as part of the data analysis and that any algorithms developed while on the job will still be permitted to be released as part of the thesis.

How should I format a business letter to indicate that this agreement has been made? Obviously it doesn't need to be as formal as a formal research agreement; however, it does need to be formal enough to satisfy the thesis director.

  • 1
    Ask the research director for a sample format. – HLGEM Jul 2 '12 at 15:12
  • @HLGEM - I did already and they only have sample formats for university to corporations research agreements, which are also legally binding documents as opposed to memorandums of understanding. – rjzii Jul 2 '12 at 15:15
  • I would hope memorandums of understanding are also legally binding otherwise they are sort of useless. – Donald Jul 18 '12 at 17:43
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In the absence of a formal document, I would write it up in as simple a form as possible.

"Here's what I intend to do, here's what the company is allowing, here's what the university requires."

If you try to make it too legal, you run the risk of the company or university getting lawyers involved, whereas if it's simple enough, your boss and research director may be okay signing it themselves.

I would probably do a first draft and send it to both, saying "is there anything I left out?" You do need to make sure any edge cases are covered. Alternately, you could add a sentence saying "if other issues are discovered over time, we may make an addendum to this agreement."

  • 1
    i like this one. Draft something, and run it by all parties. – acolyte Jul 2 '12 at 17:08
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Ask your boss for advice. Either they'll write something up on company letterhead, or they'll give you some pointers to do it yourself. It's a perfectly valid request, both from your university to you, and from you to your boss. In fact, it's probably a good practice to get such a written agreement regardless. Verbal agreements are bad. They're full of deniability. Written ones are not.

  • I actually asked and was told to put something together for them to sign off on. So there really isn't any internal guidance on what it should look like either. Right now I have a generic list of what they gave me permission to do, but I'm not sure if it would really hold up and the overall tone and format seems off. – rjzii Jul 2 '12 at 16:39
  • @RobZ - There has to be somebody to ask, that can answer your question, at your company. – Donald Jul 18 '12 at 17:45
  • @Ramhound - It's a small company and this is the first time anyone has ever done this. So no, there is not anyone to ask. – rjzii Jul 18 '12 at 18:53

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