Is it inappropriate to mail a senior academic (e.g. professor), whom I don’t know, asking –

  1. to check Lemma, Theorem ( less than 3 to 4, short/ little)
  2. how a graph can be constructed (with given conditions), this might require his ‘intellectual time’ as the class of graph is unlikely to be familiar.
  3. reference related 1,2 .

In general, if I need 1,2,3 as described above how I communicate with an academic over e-mail?

  • Do you have an existing relationship with this professor?
    – David L
    Aug 3, 2015 at 2:02
  • @DavidL , please consider both case. Because, every one is unknown before one starts to reply.
    – Michael
    Aug 3, 2015 at 2:03
  • 8
    I see you already know about math.stackexchange.com - that's a better option for such questions than emailing strangers. Aug 3, 2015 at 2:13
  • 4
    This could be theoretical work in another discipline. I don't think the OP should be sent to another site. Aug 3, 2015 at 5:18

2 Answers 2


Hmm. If you want to build a relationship with a researcher or potential mentor from a distance, step one would be to send a short email to sound the person out. Here is a possible outline:

  • (How I got your name -- if a professor recommending contacting the name, that is especially favorable -- but don't lie; if it's through looking for articles on Topic X, and finding some articles on the internet, that's okay)

  • What I have read of yours, and why it was very interesting for me

  • A succinct statement of what I am working on, my institution, my advisor, etc.

  • Mention that I have one or two questions related to my research that I have not been able to resolve locally (perhaps give reason), but I think this is an area you are strong in, and may I send you my question?

If he responds and says, Go for it, do not send him the whole manuscript unless he asks for it. Succinctly summarize the information needed in order to present your question.

  • 5
    This. You need to be able to convince them that what you need help with is interesting enough to them to actually bother with. Aug 3, 2015 at 11:25
  • I hope you had done so, and got some positive feedback(assuming u r a student)
    – Michael
    Aug 3, 2015 at 19:11
  • 1
    @Jim, yes, I have used this method, when I have a question I want to research, I find someone who studies that area, and contact the person with some follow-up questions. As evilcandybag said, if the person finds the conversation with me fascinating enough, he'll take the time to talk with me. Once such a conversation with a stranger on the other side of the continent went so well she contacted me the next day to invite me to collaborate on a project. So I would encourage you to give this approach a try. Aug 3, 2015 at 22:36
  • @aparente001 excellent , I will , thanks for your valuable feedback.
    – Michael
    Aug 3, 2015 at 22:51

Inappropriate or not, you aren't likely to get a response. Professors tend to receive a lot of email. If they don't have a compelling reason to respond, they might not.

You're asking them to put time and thought into a response to a stranger. The best course would be to talk in person to a professor whose class you've taken. Ask if they would mind looking over your work, and get feedback in person.

  • Thanks, but I meant professors in abroad , I can't take their class :) . The problem is, there are topics which only specialists can advice.
    – Michael
    Aug 3, 2015 at 2:13
  • 6
    @Jim Try MathOverflow.
    – jakebeal
    Aug 3, 2015 at 4:25
  • 2
    @Jim You teachers know other profs.
    – Raphael
    Aug 3, 2015 at 12:16
  • @Jim *advise (Because grammar is important.)
    – jpmc26
    Aug 3, 2015 at 23:30
  • @Raphael they don't.
    – Michael
    May 19, 2016 at 19:52

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .