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I am just finishing my PhD and I have now been on the job market and started to speak at many universities. I have realized it is a time commitment for a person to host a seminar speaker and am really grateful for the experiences that many of my hosts have given me at these universities. For this reason, I have made a policy of sending thank you notes to those that host me when I visit another university's seminar. These notes that I write typically just say thank you for taking time to host me and funding my visit (if they funded it). It also thanks them for their input and questions about my work if they gave me a useful idea. One of my colleagues has told me this is odd, so I wanted to ask:

Is writing thank you notes to someone for inviting me to speak and hosting me at their university overkill? Is there any negative outcome that can happen from doing this?

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Check out Randy Pausch's lectures. He specifically mentions the importance of thank you notes. – user13107 May 7 '14 at 8:16
Even if it is unusual, I can't see how it could possibly be bad unusual :) – starsplusplus May 7 '14 at 10:33
up vote 17 down vote accepted

I agree that sending a paper thank-you note is a little unusual. There's nothing wrong with it, of course. You may come across as slightly eccentric, but academia has plenty of people like that!

A thank-you email, on the other hand, is perfectly usual.

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A paper note does have some old times flavour that some people will appreciate. It will certainly help them remember you in the future... – Davidmh May 7 '14 at 9:37

I have had the pleasure of taking a few courses with the most thanked man in computer science. I think part of the reason so many people have thanked him in their papers is that he consistently teaches his students to show appreciation for people's help and to be helpful themselves. The students he advices also tend to do well in their careers. I think there is a causal relationship (although he also picks good students).

By all means, keep showing appreciation for people's help. Even if paper thank-you notes are unusual in your field, just send them anyway.

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