When you’re doing your literature review, have you ever noticed the little line at the bottom of the first or second page “send correspondence to…”. And, if you have noticed it, have you ever corresponded with the author?
I must admit the first time I tried it, I was very scared. I knew I didn’t have the expertise to truly communicate about the subject he had published. Still, I liked what the author had written and I had some questions that I felt needed answered. So I took the plunge and sent the email. The author responded immediately and favorably. Ever since that first time, I have continued emailing authors with my questions regardless of how simple they may be, and I’ve never regretted the decision.
Here are some things I have learned about this practice which causes me to continue:
1.No matter how much expertise an author has in a given area, he always appreciates knowing that someone has read his article. For that reason, they are honored to receive your email and more likely than not to respond.
2.Published peer-reviewed authors are no different than the rest of us. They are perpetual learners as we are and welcome questions and requests for clarification in the same way we should.
3.Emailed authors may be willing to share unpublished articles to help explain their topics! I emailed one author with some questions, and in his response he told me he was finishing up some edits on an article accepted for publishing, and he was happy to send it to me as it elaborate further on the one article I had read.
4.Emailed authors may be willing to share their other published articles. Unless you are associated with a university or have subscribed to a journal service, it can be incredibly expensive to find all the articles you need for your literature review. Corresponding with an author of an article you read can help. One such author I contacted readily sent me a number of articles she uploaded to a rapidshare zip file. It saved me a significant amount of time and provided me the information I needed specific to my area of study.
Some things to consider if you are going to email the author of a peer-reviewed article
1.Identify yourself: Let the author know if you’re a student, a postdoc, or a fellow researcher. Regardless of your status as a researcher, authors like to know to whom they are writing.
2.Demonstrate competence: Let the author know you have read one or more of his articles by not only stating the fact but by also sharing what you liked about the article/articles.
3.Ask specific questions: One fortunate thing about submitting an email instead of making a phone call is that you can read and re-read your email before sending, so in doing so, make sure the questions you ask are succinct and specific. If possible, include all the questions you have to that point. Of course it’s always possible that the author will respond and promote more investigation, but for this initial email, don’t be afraid to ask multiple questions, as long as they are specific and clear.
4.Spellcheck. As with any meeting, you want your first impression to be a good one. It will not serve you well to send a poorly constructed email with run-on sentences and misspellings to someone who may later be your reference for a postdoc, internship, or other employment opportunity.
•~Look at these correspondence opportunities as another track of networking. You never know when you might meet this colleague at a conference or seminar at a later date.