Contacting Potential Supervisors

How to Contact a Research Supervisor

Are you interested in a graduate research program at Brock University?

Most research programs require students to contact a potential supervisor before applying to the program (refer to your specific program requirements).

With that in mind, here are some guidelines to follow when reaching out to potential supervisors. Keep in mind that the process of securing a potential research supervisor can take some time. We recommend reaching out to potential supervisors as soon as possible, and following up closer to the application deadline to let them know you are preparing your application.

  1. Subject line: Be clear and concise in your subject line. This is your first opportunity to grab the professor’s attention and to let them know that you are interested in studying with them. For example: “Prospective PhD student seeking to study XX”.
  1. Address them professionally. Use “Dr. (insert last name)” or “Professor (insert last name).
  1. Introduce yourself briefly. Include your name, background, and your research interests.
  1. Know their research. Highlight a few points about their research (from their papers) that you found interesting which align with your research interests. Make sure you summarize their research in your own words to avoid plagiarizing and be sure to include why working with them would be beneficial to your research.
  1. Tell them what you bring to the table in terms of skills and outline a research project you would like to work on in graduate school (this shows you understand how to design a research project).
  1. Ask if they are available to meet in person or by phone to further discuss the possibility of working with them for your masters or Ph.D. program.

What do you do if they do not respond?

Don’t take offence – professors are very busy individuals. Wait a week before following up. In your follow up email, keep it short.

Example: “Hi Dr. XX, I understand you’re extremely busy. Just following up regarding my previous email. I would love to further discuss your research over coffee. Are you available next week?”

Give them a few different times that you’re available to make it easy for them. If you do not hear from them try reaching them by phone.

Following up demonstrates that you are truly interested in working with them and are eager to secure them as a supervisor.