I'm a master student in statistics. I took this professor's class, in which I've done very well. I have discussed with him about my research project a few times while taking the class, although he is not my thesis supervisor. It's been 2,3 months since my last time meeting him. I shared my paper draft (written over this summer) with him recently via email since he seemed genuinely interested in my progress and even suggested I should keep him posted. I'd also like to ask him for a reference in the fall for PhD application. The draft was quite lengthy although I think the content is at least original and interesting for a researcher in my field. So my guess is that he doesn't have time to go over it and does not care enough to meet me for a discussion. There is a possibility that he might have missed the email. There is another complication that he suggested one time if I wanted him to supervise my research but I have already chosen another professor as my supervisor at that point. So he could have felt uninterested after knowing that, although we had one more discussion after that incident.

Question: How and when should I follow up with another email? I really want his reference but do not want to appear like a burden (that's why I did not reach out to him for the whole summer until now). I may be able to go to his office uninvited but I'm not sure that'd be a good strategy.

Thank you!

1 Answer 1


If you want a reference then you should send an email specifically asking for a reference. Send it now, there is no point in waiting.

This doesn't really have anything to do with his response or non-response to your previous email, but if you like you could include a postscript: "By the way, I was wondering if you had a chance to look at the paper draft I sent recently? If you have any comments I would be glad to hear them."

Two emails in a summer is certainly not a "burden", so forget about that.

Visiting the professor's office would also be fine, except that since it is summer he is not so likely to be there.

  • I thought it might be a little too early since I will not submit application until October. My thought now is to wait till September and send a second email explaining that I understood he was busy in the summer etc. I'm worried that follow-up with another email immediately and further asking for a reference may seem too "desperate".
    – Daniel Li
    Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 17:48
  • It is never too early to ask about a reference. At worst he will ask you to remind him again when it gets closer. I don't see anything "desperate" about any of this, nor do I think it would be a problem if there were. On the other hand, waiting till September gives him only about a month of time for the letter, which is almost too little and may be an inconvenience for him. By asking now, you give him the option to work on the letter during the summer, when he may be less busy than during the term. Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 17:50
  • Thank you, Professor Eldredge. That makes sense. Do you have any suggestions if the email is ignored the second time around?
    – Daniel Li
    Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 17:55
  • @DanielLi: Wait a week and send another one. Then try to call on the phone or visit him in person. Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 17:56
  • Ok. Sounds great. It has been less than a week since my last email so I will wait just a few days. I'm just too susceptible to anxiety. Thank you so much!
    – Daniel Li
    Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 17:59

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