During my undergraduate degree, in engineering, I took part in two 'undergraduate research assistantships'. Neither of them went well, from my point of view. Both were done during school terms, and were in my 2nd and 3rd years.
In the first assistantship, I chose to work in an area outside my field of study (and outside of my future interests), due to some interest from high school. The topic was too complicated and unfamiliar to me, however, and I was not able to make any contributions. I spent the entire term attempting to read papers on the subject (and not understanding most of them).
The second was more related to my field, and I was able to make some contributions. It was not at the quality that I would accept from myself now, however.
If a masters application form/site asks for a complete record of academic activities/jobs, I will be including information on these.
Would it be likely to help, or harm, and application if I included information on these voluntarily? I can see two possible views myself, but do not know if someone reading an application is likely to see them that way, or which would carry more weight:
- Poor performance is the major factor that will be seen in the applications
- Including these could show the ability to try and take on extra work (hopefully more successfully)
In either case, I would be able to speak about some lessons learned from the experience. Along the lines of 'Don't start a major project in an area you have zero knowledge in; get some foundational experience in it first'.