I am currently applying for a PhD position and have emailed many professors. My emails often include a general introduction and my CV plus a research statement is attached.

I try to be brief in the email text, as I know professors get tons of emails like mine and don't have time to read a long one. That's why I just mention my interests in the body with the reference to my research statement for the detailed explanation.

Up until now, the replies were only about positions, funding, etc. But today I got an email expressing this about the email itself:

I recommend that you briefly describe the focus of your research interests in an e-mail (main body, not as an attachment) when contacting a suitable member of staff in order for the staff member to assess their suitability as a potential supervisor in that area.

[...] As a principle, we do not encourage sending e-mail attachments in initial correspondence, as a public institution we receive a lot spam and potentially harmful e-mails with attachments.

I was wondering, is this the prevalent routine that I should consider for my emailing other institutes/professors as well? Or is it just their principle and others' may differ?

  • 3
    There once was a virus (Sircam) that transmitted through email. People would get a message saying "I send you this file in order to have your advice", and an attachment. Opening the attachment installed an executable file, which promptly mailed itself (as an attachment, with the same message) to everybody in the users's address book. So there's some wisdom behind not opening messages that are attachment only. Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 17:45
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    Put your work on the web, and include the URL in your email. If they're interested, they'll follow it.
    – JeffE
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 3:21

2 Answers 2


The writer of that response has given you a valuable clue. If, having read the email body, the recipient does not already have an active interest in working with you, the recipient is very unlikely to look at the attachments.

Instead, include a short paragraph about your research interests and a short summary of your CV in the body of the email and offer to send details if requested.

  • Well, my understanding was adding the SOP would be a positive point in itself, as it shows that I have thought about the subject I want to do research on. Can a short paragraph convey that?
    – Mahm00d
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 13:53
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    @Mahm00d The goal of that initial contact is to get the recipient's attention. If you accomplish that, there will be plenty of time to go deeper.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 14:04

The advice is good. The recipient wants to know at a glance whether it is worth following up. You can say at the bottom that CV and SOP are available on request - or even put them online somewhere so they can be directly accessed.

But a further bit of advice, though I realize that you didn't ask for it. Do your research first in to the potential interests of anyone you send such an email to. Some people blast out a huge number of "requests to join your research project" when the background of the sender has nothing whatever to do with the research of the recipient. These, of course get sent to the junk folder immediately and your future attempts will go there also. You don't suggest that you are doing this, of course, but I still suggest (to others reading this) that they don't do that. People with a background in "Waste Water Recovery Engineering" don't have a lot in common with Computer Science or Mathematics, but I still get such letters of interest - years after my retirement, actually.

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    Thank you for the advice and the further one. Putting the CV and SOP online is an actually good tip, I like it better than saying I'll provide them upon request.
    – Mahm00d
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 14:31

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