How to Communicate with Professors

W. Caleb McDaniel

September 4, 2012

Professors Want to Talk!

"I Just Went and Asked"

When an extraordinarily famous professor agreed to work with a friend of ours on her undergraduate thesis, we were shocked. “How did you get HIM?” we demanded. “I just went and asked,” she answered. “He says no one ever asks him to do anything anymore because he’s too famous, and he misses students.” A professor can’t work with every one who asks, but it’s certainly worth talking to someone whose work you admire.

Heather Cox Richardson

Your Lunchmate May Be a Nobel Laureate

Your Lunchmate May Be a Nobel Laureate

via David Leebron on Twitter

Professors are Normal People

You Are Not Alone ...

Even for a professor with smaller classes, it's a drag to get an e-mail that merely says "I'm in your English class and need the assignment." All your English professor's classes are English classes; she or he still needs to know which one is yours.
 Consider, in light of this advice, the following examples:

An e-mail from "qtpie2005" with the subject line "question."

An e-mail from a university account with the subject line "question about English 2011 essay."

Which one looks legitimate? Which one looks like spam?

Michael Leddy, "How to E-Mail a Professor"


Kieran Healy, Duke University

When in Doubt, Ask

That is the best way to avoid confusion about what is expected of you---confusion that can sometimes lead to serious consequences.

Further Reading