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How to know if research project is going anywhere?

  1. Oct 29, 2014 #1
    As an undergraduate, how do you know when your adviser actually intends for you to get work done and do something that might be publishable? I'm in a liberal arts college with low emphasis on research, so sometimes I have this paranoid feeling that my adviser doesn't actually care whether I even know what our project is about. When I simply ask for more to learn or read about relevant to our project, he does not give an answer. I've taken multiple upper-level and graduate physics courses at this point, so I feel like I should be able to contribute something at least. Should I think about switching to a different adviser? Is this a normal problem for undergraduates?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 29, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    My brother experienced this in grad school. His advisor lost interest in the work he was doing and was difficult to reach. As a result my brother spent a lot time spinning his wheels and getting nowhere. There were other students having the same issues. Eventually the department head wondered why the advisor had so many ungraduated students working for him and demanded they complete their work and be graduated.

    In this case, the advisor focused on what he felt was the most publishable work and abandoned less publishable projects. It's the publish or perish so he published while some of his grad students perished ie some actually left the program when they couldn't see any way forward.

    Being an undergrad is different, you'll graduate no matter what as long as you've got the course credits. For your benefit though you need to pin him down to get the help you need and your questions answered.

    Do you have a course advisor that you can talk to? Or can you diplomatically talk with other profs about your questions without pissing off your current advisor? They may even suggest a course of action for you.
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