A mathematical result is presented in a set of lecture notes by a professor, and I have not been able to locate any journal papers which include the result. Would it be appropriate to ask the professor, via e-mail, for a citation to a journal paper?

Note: I am not a student of the lecturer.

  • 2
    I assume you have thought long and hard about the statement and are reasonably sure that it is not a consequence of the preceding results in the lecture notes, yes? Sometimes such statements are left in textbooks and notes as exercises for the attentive reader, and not always are such exercises marked as such. May 27, 2014 at 7:28
  • 2
    @StephanKolassa: Yes, the result isn't derived, though it is stated how to derive it. The lecture notes don't have a bibliography, nor are there any on the course website, or even the prof's personal site. I also checked textbooks which I knew the professor used for the notes, but have not found it.
    – JNS
    May 27, 2014 at 7:37
  • The answers notwithstanding, an alternative: take your question to the appropriate SE site, probably Physics?
    – Raphael
    Feb 12, 2015 at 7:28

1 Answer 1


Sure, it can't hurt to send a brief, polite email. Just make sure that the reference isn't already given somewhere in the notes, or the professor's course website, or his/her list of suggested reading.

Of course, you should prepare for the possibility that your email will go unanswered. Professors tend to be busy. There is little-to-no benefit to them (other than the pleasure of helping out another human being, that is) in tracking down a reference for someone who isn't a colleague, student, or potential collaborator. There's also the possibility that this professor didn't prepare his/her own lecture notes, and the grad student who did is long gone, etc.

  • E-mail sent! I'll let you know of the outcome :)
    – JNS
    May 27, 2014 at 7:46
  • 7
    He replied within minutes with an answer; thanks!
    – JNS
    May 27, 2014 at 7:56
  • 3
    @user1997744 Put him on your list of prospective supervisors!
    – Moriarty
    May 27, 2014 at 11:04
  • @Moriarty: I'm 16 years old, doing self-study, but sure :) The result was a metric tensor which was a solution to the low energy equations of motion of a string theory, and I couldn't find it anywhere else.
    – JNS
    May 27, 2014 at 11:05
  • @user1997744 That's very impressive!
    – Moriarty
    May 27, 2014 at 15:31

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