For reasons I had very little influence on, most of the projects I participated in over the course of my PhD did not produce reasonable results. I managed to get involved in small side projects and publish at least something, but those are not very novel in itself and not “on the edge of knowledge”.
The edge of knowledge I pushed is what could go wrong when you are a lone representative of a “service science” in a collaboration, who is asked for input in the beginning, but later overthrown. And in the end, we look at the data together and establish we can’t do what we wanted with it. And part of the problem is in fact that my input was not that valued by decision makers.
This take-home message is more of a meta-topic and for sure not the main result of my thesis though.

In my thesis, I will (with a heavy heart) go through those projects and discuss them. Discuss what happened, what we did and what we should have done and could have done. This writing process is a very hard piece of work to do and is taking a toll on me right now. But I am doing it and trying to detach myself from the thoughts of how these failures could end up killing my dreams of an academic career.

In my defense, I am supposed to paint a picture-perfect representation of at least one major project. I don’t have any options for this. I got caught in doing small “services” to help my collaborators and starting new projects (“we will do better this time”) which always ran into a roadblock (mostly before I even got significantly involved).

I do not want to whine about science in my defense. I do not want to explain what went wrong, to the people who did it sitting in the room with a plan to cheer me through my presentation. But what can I do?
People usually find one “example” of what they did that worked out well and then “blow this up” to be the main point of their defense, while it might only be a small part of the work they did over the years. But I cannot find a single interesting topic with nice results. They are either trivial or failed.

Has anybody done a “fully failed” PhD defense … and passed? How would one do this?

For reasons I had very little influence on, most of the projects I participated in over the course of my PhD did not produce reasonable results. I managed to get involved in small side projects and publish at least something, but those are not very novel in itself and not “on the edge of knowledge”.
The edge of knowledge I pushed is what could go wrong when you are a lone representative of a “service science” in a collaboration, who is asked for input in the beginning, but later overthrown. And in the end, we look at the data together and establish we can’t do what we wanted with it. And part of the problem is in fact that my input was not that valued by decision makers.
This take-home message is more of a meta-topic and for sure not the main result of my thesis though.

In my thesis, I will (with a heavy heart) go through those projects and discuss them. Discuss what happened, what we did and what we should have done and could have done. This writing process is a very hard piece of work to do and is taking a toll on me right now. But I am doing it and trying to detach myself from the thoughts of how these failures could end up killing my dreams of an academic career.

In my defense, I am supposed to paint a picture-perfect representation of at least one major project. I don’t have any options for this. I got caught in doing small “services” to help my collaborators and starting new projects (“we will do better this time”) which always ran into a roadblock (mostly before I even got significantly involved).

I do not want to whine about science in my defense. I do not want to explain what went wrong, to the people who did it sitting in the room with a plan to cheer me through my presentation. But what can I do?
People usually find one “example” of what they did that worked out well and then “blow this up” to be the main point of their defense, while it might only be a small part of the work they did over the years. But I cannot find a single interesting topic with nice results. They are either trivial or failed.

Has anybody done a “fully failed” PhD defense … and passed? How would one do this?

I feel that I can get into big trouble very soon. I have been working on my master’s thesis in computer science area for about 3 months(out of 6) and still haven’t achieved any meaningful result. Although I am working really hard(at least 8 hours per day + some time during weekends), I can’t see any hope how to complete this research in remaining 3 months and compile it as a thesis.

The problem is that my supervisor selected very ambitious project for me. Initially, I was a bit scared, but general idea was looking quite meaningful. He promised that “we will be the first who have done this, bla-bla-bla….”. In addition to this, he also offered quite generous funding. And I swallowed the bait)

Now, after several months of research, I can claim that the method we are developing looks a bit meaningless(that is why there are no any research on it). Maybe if we dig deeper, this will start making sense, but MS thesis is just for 6 months, I cannot afford doing this research for 1-1.5 years.

So now I am considering dropping out of the project and finding a new supervisor.
Would you recommend doing this? Or, otherwise, how to deal with MS research which yields no results? How this can affect my grade?

I have this particular situation, where I started one thesis during my master’s about X topic (which I love). I was asked to wait around 4 months while the base code was ready to work, but when the time arrived, the program was buggy and poorly coded. However, I studied all the theoretical background that they coded, and then debugged the software for around 3 months, but in the end, it never worked.

This professor was very helpful while I was debugging it, but when I decided not to continue with the project as it looked like the debugging was never going to end, he became angry and behaved as if the project failure was my fault… I was the one who should’ve been pissed off after more than half a year wasted in that project…

In any case, I graduated with another thesis and now I am looking for a PhD, in that X topic… I found a very interesting one very related to the thesis I was doing before, and I would like to include in the motivation letter, my background and the experience I got while I was debugging (in fact I learned more about the topic while debugging, than reading the theory).

What would be the best way to mention this project without backfiring at me, or being asked for a reference from that professor who will definitely not recommend me?

Thanks!

I’m currently writing a thesis. I’m simulating a problem using CFD model. The model has been validated by using it to investigate similar problem with known results. The model vs. experimental results are showing good consistency.

As for my problem, I’ve modeled it and I’ve got the results.
I’ve spent few weeks designing, building and testing the experimental equipment but I’ve concluded the experimental equipment must be rebuilt using different components and I don’t have time.

So, where in the paper do I report the failed experiment and how do I put it in words that it failed?

Here is the main structure of my paper.

1: Introduction

2: Literature Review

3: Method.

3:1 Model observation

3:2 Experimental observation

4: Results and discussion

4:1 Model validation

4:2 Problem Results (Here I was going to compare model vs. experiment)

4:3 Discussion

5: Conclusion and future work.

In our lab, we hypothesized that a technique T1 should be able to solve some problem with high performance. As per our hypothesis, we got an excellent result. We started writing a short paper to be submitted to a conference for the last date is due in four days. The paper is complete except for some proof-reading. We have not yet submitted the results.

Yesterday, just for fun, I was applying a different technique T2 to the same problem. Surprisingly it achieved an even better performance than T1.

We were wondering, is it okay to write a “failure” paper stating the hypothesis failed because of so and so [which is tough to analyze given the time constraint on deadline.]? Some of my colleague suggested to not disclose the performance of T2 until T1 is published, so that later I could do a comparative study between T1 and T2. Will it be okay?

Note: T1 and T2 are very different and it does not make any sense to write on both techniques in the same paper. Plus, rewriting the paper now is also difficult.

Update After going through answers, comments and suggestions, we are submitting T1 paper. Thank you very much all the learned academicians here on academia.SE.

There is problem P to be solved.

In our lab, we hypothesized a technique T1 that it should be able to solve the problem P with high performance. As per our hypothesis, we got an excellent result (say R1).

We started writing a short paper to be submitted to a conference for the last date is due in 4 days. The paper is almost written fully. Just some proof-reading required. We have not yet submitted the results.

Yesterday, I was experimenting with a different technique (say T2) just for fun for the same problem P. Surprisingly, T2 achieved a performance R2 which is far better than R1.

We were wondering, is it okay to write a failure paper stating the hypothesis failed because of so and so [which is tough to analyze given the time constraint on deadline.]?

Few of my colleague suggested to not disclose the performance of T2 until T1 is published so that later I could do a comparative study between T1 and T2. Will it be okay?

Note: T1 and T2 are very different and it does not make any sense to write both the technique in same paper. Plus, now rewriting the paper is also difficult.

In my undergraduate dissertation, I have used an inappropriate methodology, i.e. a part of the methodology (10% of the methodology) is not the way that the problem had to be tackled and that part of the methodology is in itself wrong. It implies that my results are not what they are supposed to be. But the results are quite interesting and I have many results. How will the dissertation be assessed? By how much % will I be penalized due to the methodology?

I am working on Informatics and I am trying to formulate a research question. The thing is I read a lot of examples where the research question has a lot in common with hypotheses, where 2 alternatives are compared. But in my topic, there is no alternative to compare. The way of achieving “task X” have no alternative for the involved actor, therefore I can not ask thinks like “is technique A better than technique B”.

The only solution I had in mind was trying to prove if the problem is really feasible. In this sense I asked myself: “is it possible for the actor to do task X?”. I run an small experiment with 8 users and they did it, in different times and achieving requirements at different levels. it was feasible. Now, I wonder if I just have to throw all this effort because I have no hypothesis, but then someone told me that “research questions may be good for new areas of inquiry” and I want to be sure that it is ok to use this question. I can not find a good reference supporting research questions like mine, nor “how”, “why” questions.

Can you help me? Thanks in advance

Gilbert Sheldon was born at Ashbourne in Derbyshire on July 19, 1598. Very little is known of his family background.

It drives me crazy to read about some historical figure that “not much is known of her early life,” or “no-one knows why she made the decision.” These seem to be a stock way to deflect anticipated criticism over a lack of detail.

Of course, the absence of information is impossible to cite or verify, unless it has itself been studied and reported on. The claims also leave unclear whether the author is reflecting the consensus of a group of scholars that the information does not exist, or in fact oblivious to information that does exist.

Is a disclaimer for missing historical background ever useful and appropriate?