Dos and Don'ts of Approaching a Potential PhD Supervisor

Similar to most academics, I get lots of unsolicited emails from potential PhD students asking me whether I would be willing to supervise them. Hence, I thought I should put together the Dos and Don'ts of doing this.
Dos Don'ts
Email only potential supervisors in your area of research. Email everybody in the department or school. Start your email with "Dear Sir or Madam".
Specify a topic that is of interest to you. Be as specific as possible. Ideally, you should attach a detailed research proposal to your email. State that you want to do a PhD in an area as large and vague as e.g. finance. Write that, since the age of 5, it has been your dream to do a PhD. (I didn't know what a PhD was at that age!) This is not a great start.
The choice of the university is an important consideration. So is identifying a suitable supervisor. Do your research by consulting staff profiles. Choose a supervisor who is research active in your field of interest. Email a potential supervisor without consulting their staff profile first. Email somebody praising them for being a specialist in e.g. management accounting when in actual fact they specialise in corporate governance.
Attach a research proposal with a comprehensive and up-to-date literature review to your email. Send out a literature review which fails to cover the most recent literature or – worse even – the addressee's own research in the area (OUCH!).
Ensure your research proposal is free of typographical, grammatical, punctuation and stylistic errors. Send out a research proposal that is difficult to read, badly presented and riddled with errors.
Attach a list of references (bibliography) which is in a consistent style (e.g. Harvard referencing style). Include a bibliography that is messy, incomplete and inconsistent. Often potential supervisor first look at your list of references to get a quick impression about your profile! A big part of doing PhD research is being able to get the details rights and to be conscientious.
Spell check your email. Send an email full of spelling and grammatical errors. Misspell the addressee's name.

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