So I'm pretty much working on my own project with guidance from two supervisors. Since it's my own project (and it's exploratory research), the two supervisors don't need to pressure me to get results. So - I got into a lot of dead ends in my current undergrad research project, and while I've definitely learned a lot in my current research, I highly doubt it can lead to a publication by now, especially since my supervisors are unfamiliar with the technical details of my model, and the objective of the research is such that there aren't many people in the nation I can contact who are familiar with what my supervisors want to do. I've already contacted a number of people who might be familiar with it, but most of my emails have gone without reply.

At this point, I only have a month left before I leave for graduate school, and I'm not sure how I should conclude my research with my supervisors. I've already written up a report (which could perhaps be analogized to a senior thesis, and which could be helpful for the future) - I've shown the report to one of my supervisors. At this point, what should I do? Should I show them what I've done? Should I feel guilty? I've actually been out of contact with one of my supervisors for several months.

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    The title doesn't seem to match the content of the question. – Dave Clarke Jun 21 '12 at 8:28
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    "Should I feel guilty?" — NO. – JeffE Jun 21 '12 at 12:31
  • It's not uncommon for email contacts to go unanswered. It's better to speak to these people in person about what you've done if possible... otherwise, phone conversation is the next best thing... Very few people will read too much into an email from a random contact. – Paul Jun 21 '12 at 15:34

You say you have learnt a lot, so you need not feel guilty. You do not think your work is publication-worthy yourself, and you also are leaving for grad school - so the only solution is to move on.

Make a neat report explaining your work. Even if it is not publishable, you could include it in your resume as a "technical report." From the tone of your question, this seems to be the only way out.

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    +1 Undergraduate research is more about the learning experience than results. It gives you the basic tools you need to go onto graduate research (and it also helps you to make sure you like research). – scientifics Jun 21 '12 at 13:34

One potential idea is to submit the work and get your degree and head off to grad school. Keep the work that you have done in a bottom drawer for a few months or a year. Then pull it out again and reassess whether it is any good or not. If it is good, then polish it up and submit it somewhere. If it is not good, then you've lost nothing.

It's not uncommon to do unpublishable work at the undergraduate level. Don't worry about it and don't be hard on yourself.

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    Strike "at the undergraduate level". It's not uncommon to do unpublishable work, period. – JeffE Jun 21 '12 at 12:30
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    @JeffE: Yeah. Today, for example. – Dave Clarke Jun 21 '12 at 12:49

To me it sounds like you don't really communicate with your supervisors — that is key to research, even with an independent project. Especially with undergrad research, your supervisor is there to help guide you on your project. With graduate school so close, make sure you conclude with a good meeting with your supervisors.

Also, take this as a learning experience for two things: 1. Research doesn't always work...in fact, it fails more often than it works. If the answers were apparent and easy, it wouldn't be research. 2. Communication with your supervisor/advisor is KEY!

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Find a different supervisor. Maybe a very bored grad student. If that doesn't work work on a different aspect of the project until you hit another deadend.

However, it sounds like you've tried both so there is always finding a new supervisor and a new project when you do finally go to grad school.

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