I'm having a hard time understanding some concepts not explicitly taught in a course I took recently, but quite related nonetheless. I'm wondering if it's okay to e-mail the professor who taught this course and ask them for advice regarding this matter, considering:

  • I am no longer a student enrolled in one of their courses,
  • The subject matter I want to ask about was not part of that course's curriculum, even if it does come (very?) close.

Knowing this I've been wondering whether or not it's reasonable for me to approach this teacher and ask for help.

I've tried my best to research this site for simliar questions, but I've come up with little. The best I could find is only tangentially related at best, since it's not a homework matter.

2 Answers 2


Is it acceptable to ask a professor for [...]?

Yes, the worst it can happen is that it doesn't answer.

But: be polite, short and to the point (if you have a long question, ask for an appointment), and don't expect an answer in two hours.

  • 1
    I would shorten the quoted sentence to "Is it acceptable to ask...?". Your response applies to asking anyone for advice, not just professors.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 20:21

Teachers teach some courses, yet they can be knowledgeable in other fields. They sometimes even prefer different topics. Sometimes, they are passionate enough to enjoy talking about them outside lectures. Part of my present research is related to off-course discussions with passionate teachers.

With only a slight addition to @rMassimo Ortolano you can offer to explain it briefly with a phone call, people are sometimes uncomfortable answering even small questions by email, as explaining context if often easier with spoken words, or on a blackboard.

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