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I am an undergraduate and am about to begin the last year of my degree. I live in a country with very limited research opportunities for undergraduate students, and wish to gain research experience for a stronger application to universities abroad. I wish to carry out a study on my own. I do not wish to include any supervisors as the faculty in my college isn't great and I don't trust them to have any valuable inputs. Frankly, including them would delay the process and involve a lot of back-and-forth and awkwardness around telling them I simply don't agree with how they want to do things. I have a couple questions.

  1. Is it possible for me to send a paper for publication if I don't have a degree yet?

  2. Will my research be seen as credible standing by itself with an undergraduate as its sole author, or would you suggest I include a professor's name in it as well?

  3. Is it better if I have other co-authors, such as another peer in my class?

Finally, if anyone has any suggestions for how I could possibly gain research experience, I would appreciate that as well. I cannot approach my supervisors to include me in any research they're carrying out, and there aren't any research labs where I could intern.

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    I think you are very naive if you think you have a chance of your first work, without having any advice from anyone, amounting to much. Research is an iterative process where even experts make many mistakes and have to reevaluate. – Bryan Krause May 19 '19 at 23:03
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    what is your field? This will be very difficult in some fields, completely impossible in others. – cag51 May 19 '19 at 23:24
  • @BryanKrause Not sure what you mean by "amount to much". But what I want out of this is to be able to show on paper that I have some experience in research. I wouldn't want to jump in something I'm not ready for and don't have the resources for, but I don't see another way. I'm open to suggestions. – tacendus May 20 '19 at 6:03
  • @cag51 My field is psychology. – tacendus May 20 '19 at 6:03
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    @BryanKrause I'll keep this in mind. I won't go ahead without supervision. Thank you for taking the time to help me out! – tacendus May 20 '19 at 23:01
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To answer your questions directly, yes, you can submit for publication as an undergraduate or as a completely uneducated person for that matter. Science and other scholarship is about the work, not the author's credentials. It will be credible if it is credible, independent of who you are. But it needs to say something new and interesting to have credibility. It is more, much more, than going through the motions of carrying out a study.

The only real reason for having a professor involved is that you can take advantage of his or her experience in doing research, writing it up, and getting it published. The name and credential is, as mentioned above, not the important thing. Likewise, a joint effort with peers is valuable since it is more likely that a few minds working on a problem will notice issues that need to be addressed and come to a better result. Other than that - little or no effect.

However, if you don't have any experience in doing this, it is pretty unlikely that you will be successful in your first attempt given the time constraints. Learning to do research and get it published, like any other learning task requires both practice and feedback. Many people, even with more educational background than yourself will struggle to reach the point at which it can be done with any facility. Most of them (a few exceptions) have the advantage of being able to bounce ideas off of much more experienced people - feedback.

Of course, if you do write something up and submit it to a journal or conference, it will be reviewed. If it has any validity at all you will get feedback from the reviewers. Hopefully it will be constructive, but sometimes it is disheartening. But it is better to get some local feedback before attempting publication, just so you get the practice and wind up submitting things that need less "polishing" to actually be published.

Like anything, though, you get experience through practice. Early attempts may be successful, but for most it takes a few tries. But the practice needs to be tempered by feedback.

If any of your professors have published material, you might want to approach one of them with some idea for a study. Ask if they can guide you and give you feedback. Even if you don't reach the publishing stage, that feedback will be valuable in figuring out how to approach research and how to make it presentable. Someone with more experience is also more likely than yourself to have an idea about what sorts of things are ripe for research. It does you little good to work on questions already answered and it normally takes a lot of study to understand where the research "edge" is any given field. A more experienced person can help with that, showing you what is the most important thing to look at.

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  • This is very helpful, thank you! To clarify, it's not that I haven't been formally trained in conducting research, and the only reason I'm hesitant to approach my professors is because I see the way they teach, stumbling over their words, contradicting themselves, panicky when someone asks a question. It makes me believe their concepts aren't clear. However, I suppose it can only benefit me to approach someone and ask for feedback. I agree with you in that I'm clueless as to what constitutes the "research edge", and my first attempt isn't likely to be good. Thank you for helping me out. – tacendus May 20 '19 at 7:41

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