I am a young aerospace enthusiast and have just completed BA in computer engineering and am currently enrolled in MD. Besides this I am working for an aerospace engineering company where I work on prototypes which requires a lot of researching and learning, especially in the physics and mathematics field. Since I am working from my student dorm in another city I need to report back to my supervisor about how many hours I've been working on the subject.

Here I'm in a dilemma whether I should count also the hours studying about the subject or just the plain programming part? I love learning new stuff but it takes more than 50% of all my time working for the company.

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    Did they know that there would be a research component? Or did you imply that you knew enough to complete the job? – pdr Nov 9 '12 at 16:56
  • Yes, they knew it has a research component. Actually most of the work is research. The problem is that I could work for 20 hours and may not have anything to show. – Primož Kralj Nov 9 '12 at 16:57
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    Is this the first time you will have reported back to your supervisor about your hours? – jcmeloni Nov 9 '12 at 17:03
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    @PrimožKralj Great! In that case, since it is the first time, this is the perfect opportunity to report all the hours you have spent (research or otherwise), and discuss your questions and concerns with your supervisor just like enderland's answer describes. – jcmeloni Nov 9 '12 at 17:11
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    If you don't know if something will work, and they don't either, then the research is necessary and valuable, and you should be paid. – kevin cline Nov 13 '12 at 18:07

In general, if you are working for a company and the job requires research, you report the research as work (because you cannot do your job without it and in some cases your work IS research).

Presumably you and your supervisor knew this would require research elements ahead of time so this would apply to you.

In your situation, talk with your supervisor ASAP about this specific question. This is for four key reasons.

  • First, if you don't report 50% of your hours, your supervisor will have no idea how much actual time it takes you to do your work, and perhaps assign you too much work. You will have a harder time the longer this goes on and your supervisor will have no idea you were working 2x or 3x your reported hours.
  • Second, your supervisor might be able to help you with that process or know information which can help you in your process.
  • Third, you get on the same page as your supervisor regarding what your actual work entails. Research work often has lots of time with minimal "visualized" results. You can discuss this specific question with him/her and make yourself feel better in reporting hours used for research. If you do report 90% research hours, without confirmation from your supervisor, you probably will always wonder, "should I have really reported these hours?" but asking and getting an answer from the source takes away that wonder.
  • Fourth, the longer you delay this conversation, the more difficult it gets to have. If you don't report research hours for weeks or months you are setting an expectation to your boss (similar to #1) which is that you are able to do the work required for 2x the time in 1/2 the time. Whereas talking on the first pay period makes this a really easy conversation, etc.

Additionally, none of us know the details of your interaction, your contract, or the specifics of the job, so it is really difficult to definitively answer. But the person who CAN answer definitively is your supervisor.

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    Thanks for this golden piece of advice. During my work in the summer, when I worked at HQ, I have been working also when I came home because I felt I wasn't producing enough results. That made me really tired after a while and I almost started to hate the segment I was working on although it was very interesting to me. I have never told my supervisor how much I actually worked. – Primož Kralj Nov 9 '12 at 17:22

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