24

If I read a scholarly paper and find it interesting and beneficial, should I write a short thank you letter to the author? Should I send the thank you letter from a .edu email address?

  • 9
    Absolutely, yes. – earthling Aug 13 '13 at 7:25
  • 11
    @silvado I do! have received a couple and it made me feel good – user7130 Aug 13 '13 at 8:08
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    @silvado I think many researchers would wish their papers were read by hundreds of people! – gerrit Aug 13 '13 at 10:05
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    On this point, one of the emails I received as a thank you for my paper was from a new graduate who had not yet defined his own research, he said one of my papers helped put it all in perspective for him and allowed him to develop a focussed research problem. – user7130 Aug 13 '13 at 10:18
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    Yes! just don't expect the author to respond. – J. Zimmerman Aug 13 '13 at 13:27
28

It certainly wouldn't hurt, and as a published author myself, I would say it would be very nice feedback, particularly if you include details about:

  • specifically any particular points/methods you found useful.

  • A brief outline of how you are extending the work.

  • Perhaps any question you have about the article.

This could be a good way to make yourself known in Academia, especially if the author is an influential scholar in your field. However, a caveat, don't overdo it - in terms of being 'over the top' complementary or too many 'rapid fire' letters/emails.

But, it would more than likely be appreciated as it would be a validation of the author's work.

  • 4
    And chances are very small that someone will frown upon a compliment :). – Paul Hiemstra Aug 13 '13 at 12:19
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    Too bad one cannot simply upvote publications... – Tobias Kienzler Aug 14 '13 at 12:53
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    @TobiasKienzler There is a project to make it possible: selectedpapers.net – Piotr Migdal Aug 18 '13 at 23:48
  • @TobiasKienzler It is open for collaboration (see github.com/cjlee112/spnet/wiki), if you are interested - drop an e-mail to the mailing list. – Piotr Migdal Aug 19 '13 at 7:24
19

I want to try to give some background to convey the perspective of the researcher on this matter.

For a scientist, the publishing of a paper is usually the culmination of a lot of hard work. The scientist has gone through coming up with the project, implementing it, solving all the problems, summarizing it all into a paper, and then through a long process of peer review. Each of these steps involves major effort.

Then the paper gets published. I personally found this to be very anti-climatic. The paper summarizes so much effort, but you rarely get any personal feedback about the paper, except maybe at meetings and conferences. Since we are all publishing our work openly for the benefit of mankind, I think every scientist would be happy to get feedback from people on his/her paper and hear that it was helpful in some way.

17

Given that most of the correspondence I get when putting out a new paper goes something like "I have just read your very interesting new paper. I want to inform you of my related works [....]," and thus is very transparently a request to be cited, the rare message that just says something like "I liked your new paper!" is always a welcome change of pace.

7

Please do. The author will likely be pleased to hear about any specifics you found particularly interesting or helpful.

As a scientist one of the main goals is to disseminate your findings and spur interest in your work.

It is especially good to send a letter if the paper becomes a significant inspiration for your own research. But, in this case you will also complement the authors by citing their work in your papers.

5

I would certainly be very pleased to receive 1 or 2 of such letters but I would hate to make it a standard academic practice (The image of Jean Bourgain reading "fan mail" sends shivers down my spine. Brrrrrr....).

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