How to effectively email your professor
If you have a question for your professor but you’re not sure how to ask or what to say, we’re here to help. There are a few basics you’ll need to know when reaching out for help that we’ve listed below. We’re also sharing an email template to help you get started. But first, check out this video that outlines all the ingredients you need for a successful and professional email.
1. Take the time to check your resources. Before reaching out to your professor or TA with a question, check the syllabus and course materials for answers. If there’s a community forum or Slack channel for your class, search through questions that have already been asked and answered.
It’s also a good idea to check your syllabus for your professor’s name, title and contact information. They may also list how they’d prefer to be addressed in the syllabus, and when and where to message them (through Canvas, via email, etc.).
2. Identify yourself. When sending an email to a busy professor, you can make it easier for them by including your name, class and section information (the days and times your class meets). It is also a good idea to include detailed information about the module or assignment you’re asking about (ex: Module 3 Discussion post) to help them find you an answer as efficiently as possible.
3. Cite your question. This is most relevant if you’re emailing about a grade change or a specific point of confusion in an assignment. Find the point in the rubric that reflects why you believe your grade should be changed, or a certain part of the assignment that you don’t understand, and take a screenshot to show exactly what you’re asking about. Doing this will help you ask more informed questions that your professor will be better able to quickly address.
And don’t forget to include what action you’d like your professor to take, whether that’s letting you know the answer to a specific question, setting up a meeting or responding with more resources.
Start your message by filling in this email template adapted from Inside Higher Ed.
Subject: Question on [include your question topic here]
Dear Professor [Last-Name],
I hope you’re having a great [week/weekend/Friday, etc].
I’m in your [class name] [section number] class that meets on [day of week] at [time]. [Ask your question or describe the topic you need help with here]. I’ve looked in the syllabus and [list what else you’ve done to find a solution].
[Name what action you’d like from your professor (setting up a meeting, asking them to review an assignment, etc.)].
Thank you for your time. I appreciate your help.
Don’t forget to double-check your professor and class details, and give the message a few read-throughs for accuracy, grammar and professionalism before sending. Good luck!