The application season is coming, and I'm going to spam the mailbox of every professors.
OK, just kidding, but not completely untrue. Of course I will do my homework. As Anonymous said, it is fine to contact a professor if you are:
asking detailed questions about the professor's research, or questions about the research group beyond what you can discover on the Internet
Does that mean that I need to spend time to dig into their papers (actually beyond the internet), or just reading the descriptions in their website is enough? I mean, sure, just like asking questions in SE, the more detail you give, the more likely you get the answer. But I cannot only concentrate on some particular professors, I need to increase the chance of being accepted by, erm, spamming other ones. One PhD student says that he had to contact 17 professors in order to find the best for him (good fund, good research, etc). I think contacting 17 professors, with all emails are careful prepared and worth to reply, will drain my energy soon.
Not to mentioned that in the email setting, you don't have to be obligated. If the email require you to spend a lot of energy to answer it, and if you are super busy, you will likely to ignore it. This will waste my effort.
Q: So, how likely is a professor to ignore an email even when the sender does their homework? How many professors should I contact in order to find the best one? And how much effort should I spend for a professor?
Also, there is a probability that after I read some papers of the professor,
- the paper is easily to follow, that I don't have any question. How should I email in this case?
- the paper is hard to follow, and I meet my limit of knowledge. Is this the gold chance for me to ask, or should I self-teach me this? This could be a trivial question, and asking it may bother them, increasing the chance to be ignored. Especially that I want to switch my field (a little bit).