How to Write an Email to a Professor? - PhD

Structure of a perfect email

A lot of people ping professors but never hear back.

First I will mention some important steps and then the structure of a perfect email that you can write to a professor. First of all, read the requirements of admission at the department’s website. Remember that unlike Pakistan, each department of a university has their own requirements.

If the requirements are clear then proceed to Go to professors personal website and search for the section of future students, prospective student or any such kind of thing. Here you may find a secret code the professor has given to filter out those students who are spamming them. For example, they’ll ask you to write “CRAZY FROG” at the end of your email or so. They might also tell you to answer some questions in email. This is the most important step. Write a one page research proposal about the field you are interested in. To write a proposal you need to add the following paragraphs. 1) Introduction about topic 2) Related Work and its limitations 3) Your proposed abstract methodology to resolve it 4) Technical details of how you’ll implement the method 5) suggested future work and a bit of hint that you’re open to other areas as well. This research proposal will show basically if you’re really qualified to work with he following professor and both of your interests match or not. Read two or three publications of that professor related to your research proposal so that you can admire them in your email. You just need to skim through the articles. Don’t send the same email to all professors. Don’t send an email to multiple professors in same lab or department.

  • Now starting with the structure of your email:

  • Your email ideally consists of 3 paragraphs in total. Having 2-3 lines each.

  • 1st Para:- Tell about your latest degree. Mention that you are interested to start a PhD/Masters under their supervision in which term/semester. Finally, mention your current occupation (if any).

  • 2nd Para: Write about how the professors work interests you, mention their articles. Always write what with why i.e. why it interests you the most.

  • 3rd Para: Ask them if they can supervise you. Mention that you have attached your detailed CV (ideally 3-4 pages), Research proposal, transcript of Masters (or Bachelors if N/A), and research publications (if any).

This is it!

Ideally, the professor should reply. In case if they don’t then it literally means they aren’t interested, its still suggested to ping them once (ONLY ONCE!) after 2-3 weeks just as a reminder. Secondly, if that professor is so important that its the end of the world for you its better that you review/critique at least two of their papers and attach that review along with the email.

Note: Attaching review will show how skillful you are and how much in-depth knowledge you have about professor’s field of research. Secondly, a lot of people think that research proposal is the work which the are going to do in their Ph.D. This understanding is totally wrong. A research proposal simply shows what you think about a research area and how are your writing skills. Though you mention that you are going to pursue it in your Ph.D but it doesn’t literally mean that. Its just a way of expression that you’re interested in something.

Like this post or have questions? Drop your words in comments and I’ll get right back to you.