How to Ask for My Help


Two students emailed me this week to ask for assistance. They are not students at my institution, and we had never met. I scheduled a phone call with one student. We had a pleasant conversation about applying to doctoral programs in biblical studies, and I encouraged her to keep in touch.

After an unpleasant email exhange with the second student, I emailed his doctoral advisor (a close friend of mine) to let her know why I would not continue to correspond with her student.

You can find plenty of advice on how to email your professor. Here are some tips on asking for help from me. These tips may or may not be relevant for other faculty.

1. Get an introduction. 
Do not call me. If possible, have someone introduce us in person. If you attend the SBL/AAR Annual Meeting, ask your advisor to make the introduction. If you are emailing me, explain clearly who you are and why you are contacting me. If your professor knows me and suggested that you reach out to me, mention his/her name. 

2. Do your homework.
You should already know where I studied, what I teach, and what my research interests are.

3. Make a specific, reasonable request. 
I have my own students and advisees. Be very clear about what you are asking of me. Do not expect me to provide basic research assistance or sermon prep.

4. Be formal and polite.
Some institutions are more informal than others. You may be on a first-name basis with the professors at your home institution, but you should err on the side of formality when contacting me.

5. Follow up.
Send a thank you note or email soon after we meet or talk. Follow up later with any news such as your acceptance into an M.Div. program or your decision to study Akkadian. 

I look forward to talking with you!