When teaching an undergraduate or graduate course and knowing about some good students, what would be the best approach in inviting them to join a research project? Contacting them directly, or send an email to all students and then select the "good students" that are also interested?

3 Answers 3


At my institution the selection was two-fold. The professor usually has an open invitation for all students to apply for their lab, but chosen students were known to be approached to raise their interest. This was always done carefully as to don't imply any precedence between students, but not secretly, and almost always orally (not by email or similar). For example, at the project oral defense, the instructor would suggest to the best students to consider applying for their lab.

At least all of my instructors were careful not to "flatter" the students, but only to raise their interest. There is little sense to have a, no matter how brilliant, student working on a project, if they are not interested in the subject.

  • I agree with you, but some good students may not understand the project well or may not realize their capabilities, so maybe it is the faculty job to invite them directly? Not sure though.
    – Thomas Lee
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 15:12
  • Of course, all I wanted to imply is that the faculty I know avoided praising the student to get them to work on the project, but rather by emphasizing the subject of the project to gauge whether the student's interests match. Then leave it to the student to think about it and possibly inquire further and/or apply, if interested. That's what I meant by "raising the interest". Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 15:36
  • 6
    @Mindwin I read that sentence as using singular their as a gender-neutral reference to the professor (i.e., his or her). Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 23:07
  • @JeffreyBosboom I stand corrected. Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 11:34

As an undergrad, I was both approached directly by a prof and responded directly to a job advertisement that a prof posted on a bulletin board near the entrance to our building. Both led to great research experiences for me and no apparent sour grapes or other complaints when my peers found out about my research opportunity. I have also seen a professor simply advertise during class that they had some opportunities available and that those who were interested could see them after class during office hours.


It would be better if you could contact whole class and then select the students who might not only be good, but also very much interested in doing the research. If you think that, someone is good and haven't approached you, you may just ask him/her about it. Also, there's a possibility that you might not know all the students very well, so if you plan to select only the students whom you think who are already good, there's a chance that you might miss out someone who might be better and also more interested. So, I would say to ask the whole group and then decide, depending on the response.

You must log in to answer this question.

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