Academia gets a lot of questions in this genre.


Many of the asker's problems could be solved if they reworded their post to be addressed to the academic in question, and then asked the question. I feel like these posts are just looking for affirmation. They contribute to the noise rather than the signal. Can we make a catch-all question or otherwise reduce these?

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    Questions about academics asking students questions seem more interesting to me. Feb 24, 2016 at 4:51
  • Looking at the top ~ten questions on that list, it doesn't seem like there could be a (useful) common answer for all (or even many) of them.
    – ff524
    Feb 24, 2016 at 4:53
  • Not all the questions linked are in the genre. Feb 24, 2016 at 4:54
  • Perhaps you could provide a list of questions that you think this proposal would apply to, then.
    – ff524
    Feb 24, 2016 at 4:55

1 Answer 1


If I understand your concern, I think that there are two genres of questions embedded within the "how to ask" that might be good for setting up community wiki answers for:

  • "How do I effectively ask a busy stranger for help with admission/funding/hiring/research?"
  • "When should I treat professors as authority figures and when like ordinary human beings?"

The rest I think are highly heterogeneous, but we get a lot that are basically students or junior researchers who are struggling with these two general issues, and a CW might be able to help consolidate them.

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    Right. These questions are not really about the stated situation. They are about the asker's self confidence. Feb 24, 2016 at 22:39
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    @AnonymousPhysicist It's not just self-confidence, it's also about complying with social norms. If you ask a busy stranger for help in a problematic manner, you are guaranteed to not get help. Likewise, there are some times when you should treat a professor as an authority figure and not an ordinary fellow human being.
    – jakebeal
    Feb 25, 2016 at 16:42

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