Volume 1, Number 1, Fall 2000 (Book Review)

The Elements of Academic Research
Edited by Richard H. McCuen
ASCE Press, 1996

During my first engineering research experience, I sometimes felt like I was traveling in a fog.  Fortunately, my advisor was sympathetic and helped me steer a clear and ultimately successful course.  Still, my "foggy" experience is all too common among graduate students pursuing research for the first time.  Many of us have known a bright student who finished the required graduate coursework but left school ABD "all but dissertation" - never completing the required research project.  Such students in particular, but in fact all graduate students, would benefit from reading The Elements of Academic Research.  The book provides the motivation, inspiration, and guidance to help steer a graduate student through the research process.

The book gives a comprehensive, reader-friendly overview of key aspects of conducting and presenting research.  Targeted at the graduate student conducting research for the first time, the book addresses many practical questions that students might have, such as:

Chapters address the scientific method in research, attitudes for success in research, topic selection, conducting a literature search, and publishing in professional journals, along with a variety of others. The book’s discussion of the benefits of participating in research should be especially motivating to students.  The chapters on time management, ethical dilemmas, and analyzing data are particularly adept at applying general tenets or advice to the particular problems associated with research work.  Editor Richard H. McCuen does an artful job of integrating chapters written by various researchers into an integrated whole, which culminates in the last chapter, "A Strategy for Successful Research," that summarizes highlights from preceding chapters.

The Elements of Academic Research  is written in understandable language without technical jargon; it would thus be suitable for students in any academic field.  Cartoons related to the research process enliven the text.  The book is available from ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) Press for $30 for non-members, $22.50 for members.

In my opinion, The Elements of Academic Research should be required reading for all graduate students beginning to conduct research.  It is also suggested reading for faculty working with graduate student researchers.  My primary criticism of the book is that it should have been written a few years earlier, during my graduate student days.

Melanie Sattler, Ph.D.

Last Updated on 9/1/2005