I am currently working on a research project at a non-academic institution as part of a summer internship. They've brought me in to work on a topic that is somewhat within my area of study. However, there is nobody here who shares my field. There are other folks with related expertise, but it's not quite similar enough to be of help (at least not at this stage in the research). Furthermore, my work involves data that is quite different than what I'm used to working with. It's enough to say that the data requires different analysis techniques than what I'm used to--to the extent that the application of this research is whole sub-field in its own right.

I'm obviously reading papers to familiarize myself with this sub-field, and I've also reached out for direction from colleagues who have plenty of experience in this area. The real problem stems from the lack of an experienced adviser/supervisor who can help direct the project. As much as I'd love to be capable of doing this solo (and this will probably be a good trial-by-fire learning experience), I'm concerned that I'm still too novice of a researcher to go it alone.

I'm not throwing this project away, so what are some steps I can take to make progress despite this limited supervision?

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    If there are any open-source data analysis tools you can use, you could look up for their mailing lists. Such are usually active and allow asking questions. (At least in my field)
    – mmh
    Jun 25, 2015 at 14:40
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    Also consider participating to related workshops, conferences, or seminars, if possible. Or try searching for some good books?
    – mmh
    Jun 25, 2015 at 14:42
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    If this is at a corporation (and possibly other places), you should check with your supervisor about whether external contacts would need to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), particularly if this is a 'strategic' research project.
    – mkennedy
    Jun 25, 2015 at 16:53
  • Expanding from @mkennedy's comment: Even if your supervisor cannot help with technical issues, they should be able to help with questions about what sorts of resources you can access and how to access them. Jun 25, 2015 at 17:41

1 Answer 1


Networking would be my run-to. I'm sure you can find someone that knows enough on the topic to help guide you.

I had a research paper that I had to do for my programming degree and I had to research programming for different platforms, in my case, web flash games in comparison to mobile game development.

I knew nothing about the software, code language, or how the 2 different platforms varied in the game industry so instead of just reading other papers, textbooks, and videos I went on to website where these games were found and left comments asking for the Devs to contact me, I contact the site owners themselves about getting into contact with one of their Devs, and I even posted an ad on Craigslist (I did actually find someone that taught courses in the subject though Craigslist and he was the best source I found).

You really just need to ask around and it's easier to find people than you may think as long as you put effort into it.

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