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In a face-to-face meeting with a professor, he told me he would send me some papers to read. It's been almost a week, so I assume he's forgotten. That is understandable, since he has a lot to do. I would like to send an email to remind him, but am having difficulty writing it. How can I phrase it nicely?

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    This question sound like a scenario taken straight from this Ph.D. – Lie Ryan Mar 28 '15 at 11:40
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    Is this being afraid of your supervisor an American thing? I see so many questions here either about just normal human interaction or about things supervisors are the best person to answer.... If your supervisor promises to send you something but he/she does not then just mail. He/she is human, you are human, tried each other as human. – Maarten van Wesel Mar 28 '15 at 11:41
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because sending reminders to professors is no different from sending reminders to anybody else, so this is not a question about academia. – David Richerby Mar 28 '15 at 15:38
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    Dear Dr. Wossname, I have some time off this coming weekend; is it possible you could send those papers along before Friday? Yours very truly... – Bob Brown Mar 28 '15 at 18:03
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    @BobBrown Why make up a fake reason? – David Richerby Mar 28 '15 at 21:05
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Dear Professor X,

during our meeting last week, you mentioned that you wanted to send me links to a couple of papers. Would you mind?

Best, Y

I often find students agonizing over the exact wording of totally normal emails. The text above took me 10 seconds to write, and that's the amount of time you can expect the typical professor to spend on the typical email. You're not going to be held to a much higher standard either. Be polite, formal, and above all brief. Address the person at the top, sign off at the bottom. That's all that's being asked for.

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    Good answer but I think it would be useful to remind the person which papers they were going to share. Professors will routinely meet with many people and may not be able to remember the specific papers they had promised to share. – Benjamin Mako Hill Mar 28 '15 at 12:20
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In addition to the other answers, remember that most professors and other established researchers are extremely busy and overcommitted. Email often then serves as a durable marker of a task to be done, and can be seen when the person is in a position to carry out immediately (i.e., in front of their computer).

I thus often actually ask students to email me to ask for something that I've promised them, without waiting to see whether I remember on my own. That is because getting that email helps me to make sure that I actually respond promptly. In fact, my collaborators and I often do it with each other too for the same reasons, and it's surprisingly helpful.

In short: relax, and don't worry about the phrasing too much, as long as you're not actively rude.

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    Spot on. In fact, the O.P. has practically written the email already, in this question – simply change the pronouns: You told me you would send me some papers to read. It's been almost a week, so I assume you've forgotten. That needs just a few more words to wrap it up: Could you please send them when you get a chance? Thanks. – J.R. Mar 28 '15 at 9:54
  • @J.R.: "It's been almost a week, so I assume you've forgotten." - seriously? To a sensitive professor, this might sound somewhat reproachful or inadequately demanding, as if saying "Dear professor, how dare you let me wait for almost a week?!". (I agree with the rest of your comment.) – O. R. Mapper Mar 28 '15 at 12:17
  • @O.R.Mapper - I suppose you're right – those words could be interpreted in more than one way. (A better way to say it might be: "It's been almost a week, so maybe it's slipped your mind?") In any case, I'd hope most professors would be thankful for the reminder and not read too much into it. – J.R. Mar 29 '15 at 0:43
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A simple polite email will be just fine. You can write something like the following:

Dear Professor Smith,

I very much enjoyed our conversation last Tuesday. Thank you for meeting with me. In that conversation, you mentioned two papers that I am eager to read, one on post-colonial algebras and another on dialectical topology. Could you please send me the references for those articles?

With Gratitude,

Alice

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    This is OK if the conversation was a one-off with a professor you don't have much of a relationship with. If it's your advisor and you're meeting every week or more, the first two sentences are way over the top, IMO. – Max Mar 28 '15 at 8:36
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    +1 for the idea to remind the person which papers they had promised to share. – Benjamin Mako Hill Mar 28 '15 at 12:20
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Professors are busy people and it's not unusual for them to forget such things. It is perfectly fine to send them a reminder. Make sure you set some context, in case he has forgotten the discussion you had with him. Also, clearly mention what he had promised to send you. Keep it short, simple, and polite. Some of the templates above work fine.

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