Currently doing a PhD, got the initial literature research done and got to a point where I would want to approach companies in my domain to ask them whether they would be interested in participating (doing interviews) with me.

How do you approach firms (outside your network)?

I have made numerous attempts and get barley past the gatekeeper and having worked in the industry myself for some years, I get it. Why would I want to sacrifice my teams time to participate in research with (from their perspective) questionable outcome.

Any advice? How do you sell your research to the industry as a PhD student?

  • Hard to answer in general. It might depend on the nature of the research.
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 12:45
  • Don't do anything until you have human subjects approval. Also, work like this is hard - you need an advisor who has familiarity in this type of methodology. This is nothing to cover in a SE Q&A.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 15:25

1 Answer 1


I do not know your field, but I have some suggstions:

1. Define precisely: what is in it for them?

If you are emailing person X in industry to participate in your interviews with some long email like

Dear X,

I am working on [technical research project Y] and I am looking to collect industry opinions on [Z]. I was wondering if you would be interested in helping out with [QRSTUV]...

then probably this email will be ignored or deleted. It is not clear to X why doing this is in their interest. And it sounds difficult for them to learn about your project and figure out how to help.

So I would focus on making your email simple, and explaining clearly why they might be interested.

  • Is your research likely to benefit the people working in this industry? Say so right up front and explain it from their perspective, not yours.

  • Is your research in a topic that many people in this industry share an interest in? Pitch this as an opportunity for them to share their expertise and knowledge.

There are many other possibilities depending on what research you are looking to do.

2. Do an internship with the industry

I do not know if this is an option, but in general it might be the only effective way to develop a collaboration. Once you have done an internship, many routes would be open, including collaborating with the industry as part of your research (depending on the field).

3. Get someone more senior (your advisor or someone with connections) to contact them

The industry people will always pay more attention to someone who has status and the possibility of real collaboration and funding that might benefit the industry's interests.

  • 1
    Dear X. I'm investigating sexism and pay disparity in your industry and would like to interview your employees for this important study. The benefit to your company is that you will learn where you stand vis-à-vis your competitors in this industry.
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 0:01

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