Could (Can) You Really Contact A College Professor If You Have A Question About Their Discipline?

Yes. If you’re going to make any claim in a post on the SDMB, you’re going to have to do some research first. If you don’t, expect to get replies to your post. Sometimes doing research is hard work.

Sure. I do this all the time, both in the course of my “legitimate” daytime work and in pursuit of my own writing.

Look into the background of the people you want to ask, to be certain they’re the expert you want. It helps if they have a record of replying.

Do a bit of homework to see what is out there about the topic (you may be able to answer it yourself), and only then ask an informed question. It’ll impress the professor (and be more likely to get a reply) if you show some knowledge of the topic, and are asking a question that’s not likely to get a reply from your own efforts.

Be respectful

Nowadays people are more likely to ask question by e-mail, which doesn’t require anything for a response. But, back in the pen-and-paper days, author Robert Heinlein used to fulminate against fans who wrote letters expecting replies who did not include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Should you be sending a physical letter (maybe your professor doesn’t have an e-mail address), be sure to include that SASE.

Sounds like someone had just read Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis.

I don’t believe this is accurate. People don’t need evidence or facts to believe anything, as tavaritz points out.

Did you use “LDS” and not “FLDS” or other terminology to distinguish the mainstream church from the polygamous offshoots?

Placement marriage appears to now be unique to FLDS and not practiced by other polygamous branches, and I can see why if the question used the wrong terminology that it would be insulting.

So if I claim that my cellphone is in front of me slightly left on my table I must research it to believe in that fact? I don’t follow. IMHO I just need me to keep my eyes open while I’m typing this.

I had an Anthropology professor who solved a murder one day after being contacted by the police. He was pretty happy to do it and told all his students when it happened. Of course, being police has more weight than if it were just, say, me trying to contact a prof. But all mine seemed reasonably accessible to the general public.

Interesting story @Siam_Sam ! How did the professor solve the murder?

And @HeyHomie , nitpick re. the title, “a question about his discipline”. Many academics are women. Referring to a professor and “his” discipline is as inaccurate as calling all doctors or lawyers “him”, or as un-inclusive as calling all nurses “her”.

Regarding your question, I’m a female professor, I’ve been contacted with questions about my discipline and have gladly replied or referred the question to colleagues.

Stats on women in academe:
In the US, women held nearly half (49.7%) of all tenure-track positions in 2018, and 39.3% of tenured positions.
Women academics held 41.3% of academic positions across the 28 countries of the European Union (EU-28) in 2016

Pardon the hijack.

I am not HeyHomie but I’m guilty of this all too often. I have spent 11 years in university (undergrad, two masters and a PGD) from the 1980s to the turn of the century. In that time I took a total of 94 courses or independent studies. 88 were taught/supervised by men and 6 by women and those were all in the 1980s. My last two degrees (Computer Science and Decision Science) never saw a female faculty member that I can recall.

So while I’ve reacted angrily to people who assumed female doctors were nurses and that female attorneys were secretaries/paralegals, I have a mental block of professor = male.

My daughter will be off to college in a few years, and I’m sure she’s going to have a sharp word or two for me if I keep this up. Hopefully if she goes in for Engineering she will find there are more female role models in the faculty.

This is the order different people (never before met by the professor) are likely to get a response from the professors I work with:

  1. Subjects in one of our studies (though depending on the question, possibly passed on to a study coordinator)
  2. Undergrads or graduate students interested in the field
  3. Non-academics with a reasonable question
  4. Kooks
  5. Journalists

The problems can be when the question writer thinks they are in group 3, but the professor thinks they are in group 4. This may be an earnest question by the asker, but something the professor has heard many times before from kooks, or some sort of spear phishing JAQing off the professor is keyed in to. In the past we’ve gotten that kind of thing from PETA types that start innocently enough, “I just have a few questions about your animal research…” and then turn to harassment.

Number 5 is only sort of a joke. It really depends on the exact nature of the question. Nobody wants to be misquoted or taken out of context, which has happened to many of the professors I work with. The professors are much more likely to go through the university’s media relations department and put out a press release journalists can just copy and paste.

I /am/ HeyHomie and I take umberage with @gkster’s claim that I left out female professors of the discussion. In my final sentence, I said “Dr. Important Professor” and “assuming she had the time.” So one instance of “he” and one of “she” in reference to professors.

Don’t you know by now that nobody ever reads the whole OP if they think they can tell what the thread is about just from the title? :slightly_smiling_face:

Well, if it’s good enough for some of the moderators, it’s good enough for the rest of us, right?

Not good enough for at least one of the IMHO moderators:
Thread title changed to reflect inclusiveness. (Aspenglow)

It’s clear that the male pronoun in the title was much more visible than the OP’s “she” pronoun reference in their last sentence.

OTOH some people love seeing their name in the New York Times whenever the paper wants a comment from a famous physicist/famous mathematician/famous biologist/whatever. You would be surprised.

They do if they want to post on the SDMB and not get a lot of criticism for it.

Evidence for the claim that your cellphone is in front of you slightly to the left on your table is looking at it. Lack of evidence is when you say it but don’t bother to look at it. Evidence differs according to the kind of claim you’re making.

Respectfully: they don’t. Anyone can post a thread about how they believe in any deity of their choice and no research is required to justify that belief. And no one here is going to attack a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Baha’i or a Southern Baptist or a Methodist or any other denomination at all for the fact that they believe without themselves becoming the instant object of scorn. There is no research required to believe because there are no facts required to believe.

Do you know what peripheral vision is? Do I need to research it if you don’t know what it is?