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rosali

Emailing POIs, or I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING

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I'm in the process of writing emails to POIs (not going to send them until after finals are over, though), and I have some questions about etiquette.

1. Can I send emails to more than one professor in the same department at the same university, or is that frowned upon?

2. How much familiarity should I demonstrate with their work? Like "I've read some of your recent articles and they're really cool and intersect with my own interests," or "I've read everything you've ever written"? Somewhere in between?

3. How much should I include on my own work? "My undergraduate thesis was on......and I'm interested in studying.....as a PhD student," or should it be more in depth?

I've had literally no guidance in this process, and I really want to do it right this time, so any help you can give me would be much appreciated!

-Rosali

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1) Totally fine, especially in an interdisciplinary field like comp lit.

2) Honestly, I had read very few things by the POIs when I sent them emails. I mean, maybe an article or two but definitely not everything they've written. Your aim is to connect what they are interested in and work on to your interests.

3) Yes, definitely talk about your research and the direction you want to take it as a PhD student.

Good luck!

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14 hours ago, rosali said:

I'm in the process of writing emails to POIs (not going to send them until after finals are over, though), and I have some questions about etiquette.

1. Can I send emails to more than one professor in the same department at the same university, or is that frowned upon?

2. How much familiarity should I demonstrate with their work? Like "I've read some of your recent articles and they're really cool and intersect with my own interests," or "I've read everything you've ever written"? Somewhere in between?

3. How much should I include on my own work? "My undergraduate thesis was on......and I'm interested in studying.....as a PhD student," or should it be more in depth?

I've had literally no guidance in this process, and I really want to do it right this time, so any help you can give me would be much appreciated!

-Rosali

1. In your time working there, you'd work with more than one person in the department, so what is the problem with talking to multiple people now?

2. I think that the quantity of their work that you mention matters a lot less than how you talk about it and connect it to your own. I think it's better to say that you used their article when writing your senior thesis and were wondering about their thoughts of X issue related to that than it is to say that you've read all seven books they've written and provide no details about why those books are relevant for the work you want to do. I also can't imagine them demanding you to have read their whole output. 

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For each of my POIs at the three programs where I was admitted, by the time of the visit weekend, I had read:

  1. A book, four articles, and a conference paper.
    • Although I hadn't actually read the book until I met him at a local conference last June and he discovered I hadn't actually read it, so he loaned me his copy. First impressions! (don't always matter that much)
  2. Half a book and no articles.
  3. No books and no articles.

There was a discussion on the literature forum a while back where some people argued that it was uninformed to apply to a school if you hadn't read an entire book—and ideally more than one—by each POI at each school you were considering. (I'm not in literature, but I am in a book field.) Honestly, that made me very angry. I'd wanted to find and read some of 3's work before I applied, of course, but as an unaffiliated scholar, I just didn't have the resources to manage it. 3 had absolutely no work accessible online, nor were any of their books or articles in physical journals available in the academic library to which I have occasional access. (Their work isn't on the topic on which the library's collections focus.) In retrospect, I should have asked 3 to send me one of their articles when we emailed in the fall, but it didn't occur to me.

I rarely referenced specific works even when I had read them, though. My formula would be something like, "I'm interested in working with you because I noticed you analyzed TYPE OF SOURCE in your work on TOPIC THAT PARALLELS MINE. I think I will also need to analyze TYPE OF SOURCE to fully answer MY TOPIC." Sometimes that information could only have come from my reading (and sometimes it came from book reviews or whatever) but I figured that if they'd written whatever I was referencing, they didn't need me to give them chapter and verse to recognize the reference. Of course, I sometimes also asked a question or two about a more specific piece of work, but I liked generally keeping the focus on our shared research orientation.

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Awesome. Thank you guys so much; your input is so helpful! :) 

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