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Under what circumstances is acceptable to email an author questions? Let me give some examples of different circumstances:

  1. some experiments were performed, but not all details were included.
  2. I (the reader) don't understand a certain detail about the paper.
  3. Asking for more details about a particular procedure.

I know this is not a black-and-white matter. In fact, is there even etiquette on when to email or when not to?

If it serves anything, I am asking from a STEM perspective.

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  • I do not think there is any special rule about this beyond basic politeness.
    – Greg
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 6:59

1 Answer 1

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Ask when you've made a legitimate attempt at understanding the paper, but need more help. If you ask before making the attempt, then it might come across as lazy. Afterwards though you're probably in the clear: in general people love it when others read their papers, since it makes them feel important, and especially if you are asking thoughtful questions since it indicates you are genuinely interested in their work.

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    Yeah this is basically it. Perhaps as an addition - don't feel entitled to a response. They may or may not have time/interest in answering your questions, and respect that decision.
    – Jeroen
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 9:55
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    I would replace the somewhat cynical/negative phrase "makes them feel important" with something like "makes them feel useful".
    – TimRias
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 10:16
  • I'm a nobody, a member of the general public, and my experience has been that whenever I have contacted a paper author with questions, they have been very glad to answer, and usually gratified that someone else is interested in their work and is listening to them. People who write papers are very interested in the topics they write about and like to talk about their work. They are not like J.D. Salinger who is constantly pestered by his millions of fans. Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 13:31

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