I've never been in a University in my life, but I enjoy reading research papers to expand my knowledge and go deeper in the understanding of details which are not covered by books.

A recent paper shows that this substance X causes reaction Y. Many others have shown that reaction Y can cause a dangerous consequence Z. I'd like to ask the author of the paper if he thinks substance X can trigger consequence Z. No one seems to have answered this question and, if they did, they're out of my radar.

Many papers covers details and little aspects of how reaction Y causes consequence Z, however I've found that a Wikipedia article does a good job in summing up all of these papers:

  • Can I link the Wikipedia article to the Doctor?
  • Or should I link the 20+ papers?
  • Assuming consequence Z is well known in the field, should I give for granted that he knows of it (thus not linking anything)? Can putting the links to something that is well known make me sound like a pretentious prick?
  • Don't worry about your education level. If a research cannot deal with little scrutiny he/she might as well do something else. No need to link 20+, just 1-2 that indicate Y and Z. Also, check if any of those 20+ article has the researcher as one of the authors, or trace the work of the said researcher. Knowing some more of the work may facilitate the communication. – Penguin_Knight Feb 28 '14 at 0:56
  • Be as open as you are here and keep it short. – Carsten S Jul 22 '15 at 9:08

About your questions:

1) If you want you can link the Wikipedia article or make a small summary explaining your thoughts, usually Professors or researchers do not have too much time to read long emails; so try to keep it up simply

2) explained before

3) It is nothing bad that you point to the other papers of consequence Z, if he knows about them he will tell it straightforward

In conclusion, do not feel bad that you did not have any formal education. Just address to the researcher in a respectful manner and tell him/her that you are interested about his job. You do not need to send your CV or a motivation letter just for asking something, but beware, you can or you cannot get an answer (usually depends how much interested of free time the researcher you are appointing has)

Good luck!

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  • 1
    off course, I don't expect an answer... I've also tried to write nothing longer than 4 lines. "hey! question! thanks! goodbye!" – Saturnix Feb 28 '14 at 0:55

You can contact any professor asking about they research projects, assuming you are polite enough and really interested in the topic, not just in talking with somebody from the "real science".

The kind of response (if any) largely depends on the personality of the researcher, how busy is he at the moment, how frequently he receives a contact requests of this kind and how good is your question (a really good question contains majority of the answer asking to explain which alternative is true or to clarify particular point).

There are no particular rules that would force a scientist to ignore or to respond your message.

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