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Quite simply, I have contacted several professors in the same department, and they have all expressed an interest in supervision, and several of them have also said, "you should also consider professors X, Y..." So I ask:

Can I disclose in my correspondences that "yes, I am also in discussions with professors X, Y..."? I feel like the scenario is a bit like being in Dragon's Den and I don't know whether it would be a good idea and then have them potentially discussing me behind my back? Or what does happen in these circumstances usually?

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    This is fine. None of this needs to be secret. You're asking them to advise you, not to go out on a date. Aug 19 '20 at 17:03
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    Incidentally, it's not a problem if they're discussing you "behind your back". They're presumably not going to be talking about how you smell bad or something. If they talk about who would be appropriate to supervise you, that would be a useful discussion. Aug 19 '20 at 17:05
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    @JairTaylor If someone smelled poor enough to attract attention, they may in fact discuss that. But assuming OP presents professionally there is no harm in those conversations, which are definitely not unique to professors or academia.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 22 '20 at 16:01
  • The dating analogy is very apt. Both parties have a strong interest that the pairing happens freely and out of a genuine interest. World you want to marry someone who is only interested in you because they had no other choice? Maybe you would, but ideally for a long term relationship to succeed it helps if both parties agree that they want to be together and make it work! Aug 22 '20 at 17:43
  • @user2705196 So when you go on a date, do you spend a lot of your time talking about all the other people you're dating and ask for advice on which one is right for you? Snarkiness aside, I agree there are similarities, mainly in that you are trying to figure out who would be a good fit before diving into a deeper relationship. My point is just that unless perhaps you are a Terry Tao-like prodigy, there probably won't be a lot of jealousy involved among the potential "mates", so there's no reason for any special secrets or walking on eggshells. Aug 22 '20 at 19:05
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Yes, you can do that. You are taking their advice, actually, and giving them information they might want. But don't neglect to also say that you are (very) interested in either working with them or keeping contact.

But it is also essential that you have a conversation with each of them about how it will play out if you become their student. You want to know if they have good research ideas (in case you aren't yet committed) and that they will be able to spend sufficient effort on your behalf.

It is also useful to speak with one or more of their current students to get feedback on such things.

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  • And as for the professor I've already been in touch with, do I inform him of the new contact I've made with this new professor?
    – JNS
    Aug 19 '20 at 16:49
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If Professor A suggests your speak with Professor B and C, I suggest you copy in Professor A when writing your introduction email to Professors B and C. Keeps things open and transparent.

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