How do I approach my lecturer for help?

Being independent

You are probably aware that your lecturers are administering their units for many students. They will not have time to address every enquiry. You should certainly first make yourself aware of which areas in the university look after what. See What does the university mean by 'independent learning' to ensure that you get a satisfactory response.

Getting in touch

Your lecturer will usually outline their terms of contact in the Unit Guide. See How do I get in touch with my lecturer?, What can I discuss or expect to be able to discuss with my lecturer?, When is the best time to get in contact with my lecturer?. For example, some lecturers work on providing 'an answer within 3 days'. Some, however, expect students to seek answers through discussion on the subject MUSO site.

Busy lecturers are more likely to respond if you ask your question clearly. A clearly worded email or telephone message that lays out the issue is more likely to get a satisfactory response.

Make it clear that you have read the relevant information in the Unit Guide or MUSO Opens in a new window and that you would like to clarify a particular point.


Compare the following two examples of student emails. Which do you think would be easier for Roger, the lecturer, to address?

Student email A

hi roger iv got a set topic question but also weekly questions but iv skipped the weekly questions and am thinking of just answering the topic question ie-my essay question is how might a sociological perspective be applied to the study of every day life explain how this differs from common sense thinking -so iv looked up how a sociological perspective be and how it might be applied and giving acouple of examples how this differs to common sense this is going in the body of the essay i just wanted to know if this is the right way to do the essay with just working around the essay topic with out of doing the weekly question norm

Student email B

Hi Roger,

I'm not sure if I've got a handle yet on essay topic number one, and was wondering if I could get some guidance from you on the approach I intend to take.

I've read about sociological perspectives and how these might apply. I've also got some ideas about how this differs from common sense. I was thinking about making about three points to show that common sense does differ from sociological perspectives - is this a good idea?


'Email speak' is an issue here. It is hard to decipher what Norm wants here, and he doesn't seem to have done the expected work. This would take some time for Roger to sort out. Wanda, on the other hand, has made it easy for Roger to reply because she has done her research and just needs some clarification on direction.

Make it easy to answer

Given the demands on your lecturers' time, it is also a good idea to provide options which can simply be answered. As an illustration: most people notice that they are more likely to get a useful response from their boss if they provide potential solutions for a problem they are presenting, rather than simply the problem. This is also the case when dealing with an overly busy lecturer!

Suffice to say, it is probably a waste of time asking for clarification of a point the day before the assignment is due! Don't leave it too late to make contact.