Outreach 101: How to Cold Email for Research

Learning how to write cold emails for research will turbocharge your outreach. Explore how to contact, connect, and build relationships through email.

cold email for research

As a researcher, you understand the importance of building a network of connections. They help you to gather new data. Those connections form collaborations that further your work. The idea is great in essence, but how about in practice? How do you go from obscurity to a meaningful connection and a budding relationship?

This is where you need to learn how to cold email for research. Cold emailing is a fantastic tool for outreach that can drastically expand your network. In turn, that network will deliver fascinating new insights and help you to move your own research further.

In this article, we’ll share just how to get started with cold email for research purposes. You’ll learn how to write effective cold emails that position you best to foster a new relationship. Plus, you’ll learn tips that will help your emails stand out in overcrowded inboxes.

  • How can you prepare before sending a cold email?
  • What are the key components of a winning cold email?
  • What strategies can you employ after sending a cold email?

Cold Emailing and Research

Before launching into a cold email strategy, we should first define precisely what we mean by cold email. A cold email is an unsolicited email sent to an individual stranger. This person is one that you’ve had zero interactions with before. They may not even know that you exist. Typically, in the research field, you will send cold emails to field experts, other researchers, sources of information, or potential collaborative partners.

It’s important to note that cold emails aren’t the same as sending spam emails. Spam emails are sent in bulk with little personalization. They’ll also have very little (if any) relevance to the audience. Conversely, cold emails are sent with the understanding that there is some mutual benefit for both the sender and recipient. Each email is personalized and researched so that it is relevant to the recipient.

Cold email can and should be a tool that is used regularly within research for all of the reasons mentioned above. The effectiveness of a cold email campaign (even if only a handful of emails are sent) relies on the content of the email and how it is presented. Further, the audience to whom the email is sent matters greatly. If you can send an email that concisely articulates your requests, chances are you’ll find success.

The Steps Before Sending A Cold Email

how to do cold email for research

Blindly typing and sending an email to a stranger isn’t going to get your results. There are some steps you need to take before you even begin to think about the main wording of the email. It all starts with the person on the receiving end.

Research the Recipient

Take the time to understand as much as you can about the recipient. That means understanding their current role, any projects that they’re working on, and their professional background. If you can, explore any publications that they’ve been involved with. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be better placed to craft relevant content for them. You’ll also be able to tailor your email so that it demonstrates your genuine interest in their work. Don’t underestimate how powerful personalization is to set you apart from the crowd.

Subject Lines Are Important

The subject line that you write is your first impression. It’s the first piece of interaction that the recipient has with you. It might sound dramatic, but this is your first make-or-break situation. If it doesn’t grab their attention, then they’re likely marking it as read, deleting it, or simply moving on. At worst, they might even mark your email as spam. A clear, concise subject line that explains the purpose and content of the email immediately piques the recipient’s interest.

Use a Professional Signature

Even if you aren’t sending from a business or institution, there’s still reason to include a professional email signature at the end of your emails. They look professional, plus it’s a great way to share contact information beyond your email address. If you’re already publishing your work, it also acts as an opportunity to share links to it. The signature looks great and lends itself to your credibility. Don’t spend lots of time crafting one from scratch. There are plenty of generators available online.

Writing a Cold Email for Research

research emails

Now you’re in a position where you know plenty about the individual that you’re sending the cold email to. You have a subject line ready to grab their attention. There’s a professional signature positioned at the end of your email, complete with relevant links. Now, just need the main email itself.

The Opening

Much like the subject line, the opening is your opportunity to intrigue and entice the recipient. You should start by sharing information about yourself and your research. That’s the who. Next is the why. Why are you writing to them in particular? Take advantage of this chance to personalize your message. Mention shared interests or connections to their work.

Crafting your email in this way shows that you’re not a random spam or salesperson. What you have to offer isn’t just another generic message.

The Body

The body of your email makes up the main section. This shouldn’t mean that it’s any less concise than other parts. This is where you should share details about your own research. That means sharing information on:

  • What you’re working on
  • The methods you’re employing
  • Why this research matters
  • How this research relates to the recipient and their expertise

The content here depends on what you’re looking for. Are you looking for data? Then be sure to get specific and explain your intentions with the data. State the terms of your collaboration if you’re asking for one. If you’re looking for them to share some insight, explain how it would be beneficial to your work.

Be wary of technical language. If it’s used widely in your field, then by all means use it. If you’re considering putting it in to sound impressive, don’t. Emails with accessible language will be far better received.

The Close

Whenever you reach the end of your email, be explicit about the next steps. How do you want the recipient to act next? You can achieve this by using a call-to-action (CTA). A CTA can be as simple as asking for a response, but you can be as detailed as you like. You could ask for feedback on your research or for them to book a meeting with you. There are many options. The important part is that you give them a simple opportunity to continue the conversation.

The Style and Tone

When writing, try to strike a balance between professionalism and approachability. You want to seem knowledgeable and respectable in your field but also that the person can develop a meaningful relationship with you. You might opt for a slightly more professional tone in your initial email. This is a first impression, after all.

What Happens Next?

You’ve sent your first cold email, and now you’re eagerly awaiting a response. Is that all you can do? Do you have to just sit and hope? Thankfully, that’s not the case. There’s plenty you can do to move things forward.

Craft a Follow-Up Email

The follow-up email is an incredibly useful tool. The vast majority of people won’t reply to the first cold email that they receive. It might take a handful of emails, each delivering value, before they consider responding. You need to craft a follow-up email. This email should include:

  • A gentle reminder of your previous email
  • A reiteration of your request
  • An expression of continued interest
  • Additional value that they will benefit from that might have come to light since your last email.

Often, follow-up emails will prompt a response. Sometimes a gentle reminder is all that it takes.

Timing the Follow-Up

How long should you wait before sending a follow-up? If you’re eager for a response, you might be tempted to send follow-ups the next day. That’s not a great strategy, as you’ll come across as pushy and not necessarily someone that they’d want to work with. A week is a sensible amount of time. It gives them enough time to read and digest your initial email but doesn’t leave it so long that it fades into oblivion.

You might even consider using follow-up email software to automate the process.

How to Deal with Non-Repsonses or Rejections

After a few follow-up emails, consider their silence as a sign that they’re not interested or aren’t in a position to work with you at the moment. You may also receive rejections. These should be treated with the utmost professionalism. Just because they’re not interested right now doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. Don’t burn your bridges before you’ve had a chance to cross them.

Cold Email for Research: Templates

We’ve created these templates for you to use as inspiration for your campaign. Use these as your starting point and customize them to fit your needs and preferences.

Cold Email to Seek Collaboration

Subject: Potential Collaboration on {{Your Research Topic}}

Dear {{Title and Last Name}}
I hope this email finds you well. My name is {{Your Name}}, and I work at {{Your Business or Institution}} as a {{Your Position}}. I recently came across your work on {{Recipient's Research Topic}} and was impressed by your insights on {{Specific Aspect of Their Work}}.
I have been working on a project involving {{Brief Description of Your Research}}. I believe it could be a good fit with your expertise. I see an opportunity for mutually beneficial collaboration, in particular {{Specific Area of Synergy}}.
Would you be interested in having a brief discussion to investigate the possibility? I am confident that our collaboration will result in significant progress for both our work.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my proposal. I am excited about the possibility of working together.
Kind Regards
{{Your Name}}

Cold Email to Request Data or Information

Subject: Inquiry Regarding {{Specific Data or Information}} to Assist Research on {{Your Research Topic}}

Dear {{Title and Last Name}}
Pleased to make your acquaintance. I’m {{Your Name}}, and I work at {{Your Business or Institution}} as a {{Your Position}}. My research involves {{Your Research Topic}}, and I recently read your work {{Their Work}}. It was a great source of inspiration in my own studies.
I wondered if you would be comfortable sharing any data you have related to {{Specific Data Request}}. It would deliver incredible insight and value to my research. Any data shared would be used solely for academic purposes and remain strictly confidential.
I am under no illusions that this is a small request, so please don’t hesitate to share any comments or concerns that you might have.
Thank you for considering my request. Please know that it would make a material difference to my research.
It would be excellent to arrange a meeting next week. Please let me know a suitable time and date.
Kind Regards,
{{Your Name}}

Key Takeaways

Mastering cold email can make a huge difference to researchers. Building a wider network of connections with people who can offer insight, information, and data is invaluable. Remember that the key to cold email outreach is to deliver value in a personal way. Always let the recipient feel that this is a mutually beneficial relationship.

  • As a researcher, you’ll know better than anyone that time is precious. Keep your emails concise and to the point.
  • Maintain a professional but approachable tone in your emails for the best effect.
  • Sending a well-timed, respectful follow-up can often lead to a positive response.

Accessing templates and keeping track of your email campaign can get complicated. Using an email marketing tool makes life far simpler. That’s where Instantly can help. Instantly can help you to find quality contact information and then manage your email outreach for you. Plus, you can get started with it for free today.