I get a lot of emails. I mean a lot. Loads.
One rule I've always had is that I answer them in the order they arrive, which means no skipping about to open the ones that look most interesting. So even if I see one from a student which is spelt wrong and contains four words in total I still answer it. But here's the thing - if you send me an email from your smart phone you must put something in the subject box. If you don't, my inbox will think it's spam and I'll probably never see it.
The reason I'm telling you this is because the care you put into your email is important. I don't expect perfect essays, but I do expect something which makes grammatical sense. And if you write a good email to published academics the results can be spectacular which is what this post is about.
Let's say you're a second year who's starting to think about a possible dissertation topic. Your initial searches keep throwing up the same author so you read some of her stuff; it's good, it makes sense and you like it. You also notice that as part of the abstract record on DISCOVER you can see the author's email address. Sometimes it'll be a .ac.uk address if the author works at a UK university. So my advice is email her and ask for advice. She's the expert, she's the person you're going to be quoting so see what else she's got. Sometimes (and this happens every year to a handful of final year students) the author may have good recommendations or even unpublished work they're willing to share.
But the email you write to them is important. Make sure you've read enough of the author's work so you know their stuff a little at least. Why? Because academics are susceptible to flattery just like anyone else. So tell her why you like her stuff. It helps, believe me. Take your time with the email, make sure the spelling and grammar are spot on and then see what happens. If you get a response you can even reference the email in your dissertation. Rather brilliantly it's your name that comes first in the reference so you'll be referencing yourself!
If you don't get a response then you've lost nothing apart from the few minutes writing the email. However, I find that most authors do respond. Researchers and academics want to share, they want their research to be read and referenced. Just don't begin your email to them with 'Deer Sit or Adam, can I nave soms free journal farticles' because I think you'll be waiting a while for a response.
You know where I am if you need me.
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