I am currently working on a research project that I believe has significant potential. I have identified a top professor in my field whose expertise aligns perfectly with my research topic. I would like to ask this professor to co-author a paper with me, but I am unsure how to approach this request professionally and effectively.

Are there any tips on things to do and not to do? Anything I should be considering?

I plan to send an email with my abstract, see if the professor is interested. Then I will discuss roles with him and wait for him to finish revising my paper.

  • 4
    Your question is unclear: Do you already have complete results but want the professor to contribute to writing a paper based on these results, or you need help completing a research project (which could eventually result in a paper), or you simply want to put professor's name on the paper that you are writing? The latter would be a "gift-authorship" and, thus, inappropriate. Commented Jun 22 at 10:41
  • What do you want from this professor? If you want them to work in your project with you, that's quite unlikely to happen. If you want to work with them, find something that they are interested in, and show that you can contribute to the things they care about. For example, if they raised a question in some of their paper, and you research project has a (partial) answer to the question, approach them showing your work. This has higher chances of resulting in a collaboration than a mere "would you like to join my cool project?", which will probably be ignored or maybe even negatively received.
    – Manlio
    Commented Jun 22 at 11:36
  • 7
    It sounds like what you need is some feedback rather than a co-author. So, the real question you should ask yourself is "how do I get meaningful feedback on my manuscript"? You seem to be assuming that the answer to that question is "by offering them co-authorship" but it really isn't, or rather it needn't be. Regardless of whether you offer anyone co-authorship or not, the main difficulty for you will be getting the professor to read the manuscript in detail in the first place. It's not clear at all that offering co-authorship will increase your chances in this respect. Commented Jun 22 at 17:55
  • 5
    I think this entire approach is all wrong and it just smells of trying to glean some type of celebrity by affiliation (for lack of better words). If you have a good idea, submit it, it will go to peer review and you will get your answer. If you require further assurance prior to that point, reach out to others in your area for their opinion. Ask a colleague, etc... you don't have to engage and associate with a "top professor" or offer them authorship in order to test the waters with your idea. Have some courage in your own work.
    – R1NaNo
    Commented Jun 23 at 2:05
  • 1
    Adding onto what Adam said: if that's what you want them to do, that's not worth a coauthorship, but you should give them a sentence in the acknowledgements if they agree to help. (Note: do not read that as "try bribe them with an acknowledgement".)
    – Ray
    Commented Jun 24 at 17:44

2 Answers 2


A cold email has a low probability of success and a high probability of winding up in the trash unread. You can try it, but don't expect much unless you are already known to that professor or have a reputation that they are aware of through your previous work.

There are two strategies, however, with a higher likelihood of success.

If you are a student or independent researcher, you can ask a professor to introduce you and mention your common interests. A mail from a colleague, even when not known to them, is likely to be read.

Alternatively, but more expensive, is to find a way to meet them, perhaps at a conference. You can then express your interest in working together.

And, starting the conversation with "would you be interested in co-authoring a paper" also seems to be premature.


If your paper is related to a recent paper published by that professor (e.g. extends the results or solves an open problem from that paper), I would suggest to write an email saying "I have read your interesting paper X, and have found a way to extend it [add more details]. I attach the draft for your interest. Any comments would be welcome". This will not necessarily lead to co-authorship, but you may get some feedback on your paper, which is always a good thing.

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