How to Email a Professor

The end of any university semester brings the usual anxiety of many exams, papers and final projects due before summer vacation. One of the best things about professors in the United States and the United Kingdom is that they are approachable and available to help with your questions and concerns. We definitely would recommend to take advantage of professors’ office hours! While there are many different ways to email a professor, the following steps will ensure that your request is both polite and direct when written in English.

Subject Line: This is the first way to signal to the professor what you are requesting. Your subject line should be short, clear and summarize the type of request you are making. Your subject line should NOT be a sentence or an outright request for something:

Bad Subject Lines:

  • Help!Wake Forest junior Kelly Rumbaugh ('12), a double major in computer science and mathematics, talks with computer science professor Jennifer Burg, left, in Burg's office in Manchester Hall on Thursday, September 2, 2010. The two were discussing Rumbaugh's computer-generated music project.
  • I need you to…
  • Can you do this for me?
  • Your Name

Good Subject Lines:

  • Question about History 206 Final Assignment
  • Office Hours Appointment Request
  • Interest in Biology 101 Course
  • Final Exam Conflict

Greeting: This should be a formal greeting, such as Dear Professor Smith or Dear Dr. Jones.

Introduction: University professors meet thousands of students and often are teaching hundreds in one semester. The first thing you should do in the body of your email is to clearly introduce yourself and how you know this professor. Things you should include in your introduction sentence are:

  • Your full name
  • The course you are taking (or previously took) with this professor
  • Any indicators of how they might remembers you, such as a question you asked in class, your last paper topic, an event where you ran into them etc.

Your Request: Now that you have properly signaled the request that you will make, it is time to explain why you are writing. Be clear and concise with your explanation. The most important thing to remember in your writing is that you should not assume anything of your professor. This means using a lot of the conditional tense:

  • Would you be available to meet tomorrow afternoon?
  • Could you assist me with my thesis topic?
  • Would it be possible to still register for your class
  • Given this circumstance, could I please postpone the midterm to next week?

Follow-Up Plan: Conclude your email with a way that you will follow-up on your request using the future tense:

  • I will email you again next week to follow-up.
  • I will stop by your office tomorrow to discuss this possibility.
  • I can stay late after class on Tuesday to meet with you.

Sign-Off: Sign your email with one of the following formal closing phrases, as well as your full name:

  • Sincerely,
  • Regards,
  • Best,

Best of luck with your finals and the end of your semester!

The Amazing Outline

 

Outlines are like the Skeleton of your Essay!

Outlines are like the Skeleton of your Essay!

Maybe you’re in the middle of your semester finals, or maybe you’re just starting to work on those final papers for the semester. Either way, it’s that time of year when all of the information that you’ve been jamming in your head for months needs to get organized and come out as a beautifully crafted and sometimes terribly long paper. So where to begin…

For me, outlining is one of the most underrated steps in writing. An outline is like a skeleton of your essay. Before you go to write full sentences, you can plan the general ideas and what evidence you will use in each paragraph. Then when you sit down to write your first draft, all you will need to do is fill in the extra words that connect your thoughts and make your essay more fluent than a list. In high school, I NEVER made outlines and I was ok. Then, I got to university and did terribly on my first paper. My teacher told me to go back, make an outline and pay attention to whether everything was connected to my thesis. My grades went WAY UP and I was sold as an outliner forevermore.

It’s easy to jump ahead to the first draft writing stage based on the following arguments:

  • I’ve already thought about what I want to say
  • I’ve been organizing my notes already all semester long
  • I don’t have time

If you are thinking any of these things right now, take a moment to reconsider. Making an outline is a great way to organize your thoughts on paper and make the actual writing process WAY easier later on.

Outlines can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be. Also, there are many different formats you can use. Really, it doesn’t matter as long as you are feeling organized. Each line in your outline typically stands for a sentence or source used in your paragraph. You can have as many supporting detail sentences or “evidence” as you need to support your topic sentence and ultimately your thesis!  Here are some different options for your body paragraphs (Notice the Paragraph Sandwiches 🙂 ):

The numbers and letters format:

image1

Or you can use the Roman numerals format:

image2

Or if that’s really just too fancy, you can always just use bullet points/dashes:

image3

The more you write in your outline, the less you will have to write when you go to write your final draft. So, if you actually write out your thesis and topic sentences in your outline, all you have to do is plug them in and then expand on them when you write your essay. Even if you don’t do this though, just jotting down the notes you will use in each paragraph will make your thoughts come across clearer when you actually go to write out your paper. Here’s an outlined paragraph of the example we looked at of a Paragraph Sandwich in the previous post!

image4

Here’s a final skeleton you can use when you go to write your paper. Just copy, plug in your information, organize and then start drafting. Happy writing!

P1: Introduction

  • Hook/Opening Sentence
    • Support/Evidence
    • Support
    • Support
  • Thesis!!

P2: Body Paragraph Topic 1*

  • Topic Sentence
    • Support**
    • Support
    • Support
  • Concluding Sentence

P3: Body Paragraph Topic 2

  • Topic Sentence
    • Support
    • Support
    • Support
  • Concluding Sentence

P4: Conclusion

  • Restatement of Thesis
    • Support
    • Support
    • Support
  • General concluding sentence

*You can have as many body paragraphs as you would like.

**You can have as much support or amounts of evidence as you need.