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I have self-funded, 8-page long research which is highly suited a famous researcher, in both their academic and personal interests. How should I ask them for comments and advice? I am not asking them to be my advisor or to provide me funding, but a direction to continue my research. A letter of recommendation would be great, of course.

Should the research be written in an attachment, or in the email right ahead? They have to read the research anyway, right? It has a preamble, which conveys the mathematical results in Apple's advertisement style, and has received extremely positive feedback. Should this be placed at the top of the email, even before the salutation? Many presentations do this way, and it does create more impression than the traditional approach. How would other researchers normally do in this situation?


My current approach:

  • A salutation and a hope that the letter isn't sent when they arn't too busy.
  • A three-line paragraph just for choosing a proper pronoun. I want to show the respect, but using "professor" multiple times feels distant, which they might not want to be.
  • A five-line paragraph telling how they fits me (not because they're famous, but because they have niche expertise on the topic), and what my goals are (funding, advice for career path)
  • A five-line summary of the attachment
  • A three-line sentence to introduce referees
  • A thank-you conclusion, re-acknowledge that they're busy but still spending their time reading my letter. Hoping the best for them and their family.

My worry is that they wouldn't open the mail at the first place, or find the summary to be too "astonishing" to be true.

  • Definitely not. I for example do not provide any advise to students who are not enrolled at my university. I reckon you get better mileage by posting your research on ArXiv and asking for comments. Alternatively, post your hypothesis and a link to your paper on a forum. Good luck! – Prof. Santa Claus Feb 24 '18 at 5:39
  • @Prof.SantaClaus I understand that you are not paid for outside students, but why won't you do so if the email is tailored to you? Unfortunately my research is written on a language other than English, so ArXiv at the moment is not an option due to lacking of time (by lacking of fund), though I do want to have it translated to English in the future – Ooker Feb 24 '18 at 9:09
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    @Ooker For the simple reason I don't trust a random stranger, especially with a publishable idea. Note, I don't mean stealing your idea. However, if I see some errors or fruitful avenues stemming from your work, and if I suggested them, would I get the credit? I get many emails from students wanting me to be their pseudo-supervisor. In a perfect world, yes, I'm happy to help but .... – Prof. Santa Claus Feb 24 '18 at 20:47
  • @Ooker I actually saw labs that provide consulting, I dont know what is your field, but in chemistry, starting is from 100 to 400 euros per hour. – SSimon Mar 3 '18 at 5:29
  • @SSimon sounds like family consulting? Mine is pure math/physics. But the consulting services sound like to answer specific problems, not to tell which career path you should take? – Ooker Mar 3 '18 at 5:37
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A friend of mine wrote an undergraduate thesis that was groundbreaking original research. Nobody at his university had the expertise to evaluate it, but one of the faculty suggested he send it to a fairly famous professor at another university. He did.

That professor read his work and sent him some feedback, including several (correctable) errors he noticed. He also made sure my friend's application to his program was approved and he was offered their best fellowship. Eventually my friend attended that doctoral program and the professor he had contacted was his advisor. He also published the a journal article based on his undergrad thesis in one of the leading journals of his field.

This is an unusual story; most "self-funded" research is not of that quality and many famous researchers don't bother to read that sort of email. If your work is of that kind of quality, and if you are lucky enough to find a researcher who opens and reads it, this approach can work. If you believe you're in that situation, definitely do send the manuscript in your initial email (or post it online and provide a link); the likelihood that the researcher will follow up and ask you for a copy, when he/she has no evidence of the quality or relevance of your work, is extremely low.

Always start with a salutation; the last thing you want is to come across as being rude. I would keep the email short, but long enough to show the researcher that you've done serious research and that it's relevant to his/her interests. Roughly the length of an abstract, though in your email you can describe things less formally and point out specific connections with the recipient's work.

  • I've updated my approach. Do you think it's better? – Ooker Mar 3 '18 at 5:03
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Assuming that you are not already personally acquainted with the famous researcher, it is not a good idea to send them 8 pages of anything.

If you cannot see a way to become personally acquainted then your next best step would be to find some other perhaps slightly less famous researcher whom you do know and ask them to introduce you to the famous researcher whose views you wish to obtain.

Failing that, send a very short letter asking whether they would be willing to look at some work of yours, giving a really good reason why they should.

If your work is outstandingly original, such that any researcher in your field would be astonished by its brilliance, then ignore the above. I have in mind the case of the Indian mathematician Ramanujan, who did send a lengthy unsolicited paper to G H Hardy and changed his life.

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