Emailing your professor can seem daunting, but it’s actually quite easy to do if you follow the right steps. If you’re interested in research, you’ll likely have to communicate with professors at some point to learn more about their projects or volunteer in their labs. The good news is that it’s not difficult to get in touch with them and ask them questions the bad news is that they probably get hundreds of emails a day, so they may not respond right away or ever!
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Think about timing
Depending on when you’re contacting your professor, you may or may not want to include your research topic in your email. Some professors will only respond to emails that include more specific details about their area of interest. While others like to receive emails with broad research interests, so they can decide if they’d like to work with you on that project. If you know what your professor is interested in (and there are many ways to find out), then mention it!
Prepare your pitch
Before you send off that email, make sure you know exactly what you want from your professor. Are you looking for career advice? An opportunity to collaborate on a project? An introduction to another expert in your field? While there’s no one way to approach your email as everyone has different experiences with professors, different reasons for contacting them, and different expectations for working with students tailor yours as appropriate.
Attach any files you might need
Some professors might request extra materials or files to help them better understand your research. If you can, be sure to attach these files to your email so your professor has everything they need in one place. Also, if you want them to reply directly back to you, instead of using their classroom email address (which is likely an alias), make sure you include that in your email as well.
Include what you’ve done so far in the project
Include your research, hypothesis, and question. Make sure to mention that you are asking about [research topic] to get published. Also, be sure to say what university you attend so they know where you are from. This could open up more avenues for your professor to help with answers or give them ideas for new research directions!
Don’t be scared of rejection – many professors do this all the time!
One of my biggest fears when emailing professors was that they’d annoy me. I worried they’d think I was annoying or pushy, even if my intentions were good. But you know what? Most are happy to get emails from students interested in research opportunities! Don’t take it personally; they might have another student working on your project already. And definitely don’t let rejection deter you from seeking out other mentors and research opportunities!
Follow up if necessary, but always get it out there!
Following up is part of your job as an informed student. However, if you’ve already sent that professor an email, it may not be appropriate to follow up again within a few days. Wait two weeks before contacting them again; however, some professors will respond quickly, while others take longer to respond. So if it’s been over two weeks, wait another week or so before sending another email but still, try not to forget about him or her!