I’ve written on here before about my frustration with unsolicited (student) emails. We all get inquiries about the graduate program, requests for letters from current and former students, and the occasional “I’m a high school student in [insert place], writing a report on [something vaguely related to your research]. Can you tell me what I need to know to get an A? Thx.” I don’t mind any of these, in principle. I’m still green enough in the job that it tickles me when someone wants my opinion. But there are better and worse ways to ask.
GN recently posted a link to Thomas Kortke’s “guide to cold emailing” and I’ll re-post & adapt parts here, because it is that good (but assume the important ideas are Kortke’s).
- Who are you and where are you located?
Hi Dr. Lena,
I am a sociology student at Penn, I will graduate in 2010 and ….
- How do you know me or who introduced you?
… I saw your presentation about “types and trajectories of music genres” when you visited Rutgers in 2008….
- Why are you writing to me? What is your idea/ product/ vision/ request?
This is your elevator pitch – do yourself a favor and spend $9 on the Pitching Hacks book.
… Inspired by your presentation, I started to work on a case study of German folk music, in order to see if there are important cross-national variations in music genres. I found that…
- Give me more info (in the attachment)
… Attached is a presentation/ document/ thesis/ article that explains the idea in more detail…
- How can I help you and why do you think I can help you?
… I am currently looking for data that exhaustively documents folk music in the United States, or books that contain exhaustive social histories of the same.
- What do you want the next steps to be?
I thought you might be able to provide me with some information on where such data might be housed, or a list of illustrative texts to get me started.
- (Extra Credit) Get me excited!
… If I can identify comparative data in the U.S., I feel that I might be able to produce a publishable article that illustrates your claims about the attributes of avant-garde genres holds only in cases where at least two members of the community had personal ties to artists working in other genres.
Apart from cold-emailing me, you should consider this:
1. Get introduced to me by someone I know, your chances of getting a response are very high.
2. Get to know me before contacting me: read my articles (right there, linked on my department home page!), my class web pages, and my blog.
3. Respond to my posts, comments and other creative outbursts – start an online conversation with me.
- Keep it short and interesting – no one reads long emails (unless they come from your boss)
- Put your best foot forward, but don’t stretch the truth
- Brevity and precision are important
- Use whole words (not abbreviations) and whole sentences. As a writer, I appreciate good writing.