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I am working as a researcher in a research lab, and I want to apply for a Ph.D. position. I have read that most of the professors read emails sent through professional email-id only. But my current professional email id is restricted to be used in the research lab only. What should I do to make my application email stand out?

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  • Use Gmail or whatever provider. Just be careful with your username, ask for receipt, and especially write a clear subject, PhD application from XY might be OK.
    – Alchimista
    Feb 28, 2021 at 10:15
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    @Alchimista I delete email that asks for a receipt on the grounds that it's none of their business when I read email. Here is an SE answer about receipts from a decade ago: pm.stackexchange.com/a/544 Perhaps my "just hit delete" reaction is extreme, but a search on "should i use email read receipt" suggests that they're nearly universally disliked.
    – Bob Brown
    Feb 28, 2021 at 11:03
  • What country (countries) are you applying in? The application process differs, and also, in some places, depends on your current degree(s).
    – Buffy
    Feb 28, 2021 at 13:47
  • @BobBrown upvoted your comment by mistake. What you intend is correct for most communication except a kind of application, or application enquire. It just signal that the potential applicant cares of the procedures, not that s/he dig into what the recipient does or not. Actually, if that would be possible, even a call meeting should be welcomed by a serious senior leading research. The problem is that not everyone has dedicated secretary service. Moreover, I am able to read email without agreeing sending receipts, so I do not see the problem. Of course, an upsetting email having a receipt...
    – Alchimista
    Feb 28, 2021 at 14:08
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    @Alchimista I guess we must agree to disagree. I find that receipt request to be off-putting no matter the purpose of the email. Your advice about a professional user name and a clear, meaningful subject line is bang-on.
    – Bob Brown
    Feb 28, 2021 at 14:55

2 Answers 2

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  • Use an email which sounds serious, like [email protected]. Also have your full and real name as a name in the From: field. Whether it is a professional email does not matter. But it should look professional, in the sense mentioned.

  • Keep your email itself concise. Make it clear why you want to apply to this specific place. This, of course, means that you apply to a few selected places which you picked for the specific research they are doing. Note that just looking up the professor's most recent papers and saying "I find $PAPERTITLE1 and $PAPERTITLE2 very interesting." is likely not going to work, for several reasons.

  • Attach a CV, and possibly some other documentation. Don't say "I can send you a CV upon request." You want to minimize the professor's work to learn about you. If possible, also mention who they could ask about you, either in the CV or the email itself.

  • Don't misspell the addressee's name, or their institutions name, etc.. And address them directly. Emails starting with "Dear Sir" look like you sent them to many people.

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  • Thank you @user151413 This is really helpful. Is it fine to talk about the paper published by the professor, if I mentioned more about it? For instance, if it intersects with my area of research or if I want to add something to it. Because most of the articles I have read about application email specifies that mentioning the professor's publications or articles makes the mail look less general.
    – aa0811
    Mar 4, 2021 at 12:30
  • @Anjali Anything which makes clear why you wan't to work with him/her, and you don't just apply randomly, helps. What does not help is to just copy paper titles, abstracts, and the like: People will notice. What also doesn't help: Picking their last 3 papers. It might be that for some reason, those are not at the heart of what they do (they just got involved/sidetracked into that), so then saying that you find this aspect particularly interesting will not have the desired effect. Making this personal is time-consuming, and cannot be done if you mass-apply. That's precisely the point.
    – user151413
    Mar 4, 2021 at 13:42
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An institutional email address is not a requisite nor it does make your inquiry looks less serious.

I personally was suggesting a receipt request, but apparently most people dislike the option no matter the purpose. I personally can see the difference between a peer of mine pushing for some action and a student in trepidation. However, as the chance that I would be the recipient is ridiculously low, don't ask for a receipt.

Be cautios and clear filling the subject field. I do suggest something like "PhD openings inquiry, name surname" or so.

I also suggest that the body part shows that you didn't choose the particular recipient at random. This can be very short, at this stage.

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