Is it beneficial/harmful to get a letter from a research supervisor who was not satisfied with my work? (I wasn't interested in that topic, but I kept working in the lab for the money).

Or forget about that and instead focus on people who were satisfied with my research experience only?

  • 6
    I wasn't interested in that topic, but I kept working in the lab for the money — Note to others: Don't do this.
    – JeffE
    Dec 18, 2013 at 2:44
  • 1
    and for the visa.
    – trxw
    Dec 18, 2013 at 2:54
  • 1
    Yeah, don't do that.
    – JeffE
    Dec 18, 2013 at 2:56
  • Was that research supervisor your advisor?
    – Nobody
    Dec 18, 2013 at 4:11

2 Answers 2


Talk with your advisor about this. Depending on your relationship with your advisor, you may still be able to get a decent letter. Use the following formula:

Decent letter > No letter > Bad letter

If your advisor cannot write you a decent letter you will have to find someone else who is. Do note that not having a letter from your advisor will be a huge red flag; you will have to come to any interview with a ready explanation as to why your advisor did not feel comfortable recommending you.

  • 1
    How about those sticky situations where the advisor has a long-standing policy if never telling you if the letter they write is in your favor or not (nor will they let you read it)? I've seen that happen unfortunately. Dec 18, 2013 at 16:39
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    @LordStryker - If that happens, then your advisor is a jerk, and you will have to suffer the consequences of having a jerk for a boss. (Substitute in your epithet of choice for "jerk" if that term isn't strong enough for your tastes.) I cannot think of a good way around that.
    – eykanal
    Dec 18, 2013 at 16:42
  • "jerk" suffices. :) Dec 18, 2013 at 16:44

Get a reference letter from your supervisor. Inspite of the fact that the letter may not be that great, it plays an important role.

But apart from that OK letter, you can also get a very good letter from the people who were satisfied with you.

So in the end you will have two letters with you to show and will give a fair opinion about you.

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