Project Management for Research: A Guide for Graduate Students, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Project Management for Research

A Guide for Graduate Students, 1st Edition

By Adedeji B. Badiru, Christina F. Rusnock, Vhance V. Valencia

CRC Press

215 pages | 20 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2016-03-09
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Graduate research is a complicated process, which many undergraduate students aspire to undertake. The complexity of the process can lead to failures for even the most brilliant students. Success at the graduate research level requires not only a high level of intellectual ability but also a high level of project management skills. Unfortunately, many graduate students have trouble planning and implementing their research.

Project Management for Research: A Guide for Graduate Students reflects the needs of today’s graduate students. All graduate students need mentoring and management guidance that has little to do with their actual classroom performance. Graduate students do a better job with their research programs if a self-paced guide is available to them. This book provides such a guide. It covers topics ranging from how to select an appropriate research problem to how to schedule and execute research tasks. The authors take a project management approach to planning and implementing graduate research in any discipline. They use a conversational tone to address the individual graduate student.

This book helps graduate students and advisors answer most of the basic questions of conducting and presenting graduate research, thereby alleviating frustration on the part of both student and advisor. It presents specific guidelines and examples throughout the text along with more detailed examples in reader-friendly appendices at the end. By being more organized and prepared to handle basic research management functions, graduate students, along with their advisors, will have more time for actual intellectual mentoring and knowledge transfer, resulting in a more rewarding research experience.


"I have seen nothing like this book. The authors cover lessons that I wish I had known prior to embarking on my own doctoral studies many years ago. Their advice covers questions pertaining to research techniques but also so much more: How students can use project management principles to plan a research project, how they can select the right graduate program, or even how they can determine whether to pursue a graduate education at all."

—Dr. Bud Baker, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio

"This is easily the most engaging book on project management from a research student perspective and should be mandatory reading for anybody in graduate school. One of the biggest challenges for graduate students is reaching milestones and completing their research. This book is the map that tells students exactly how to reach their goals. Very practical with many tangible tips!"

—John J. Elshaw, PhD, Air Force Institute of Technology, Ohio

Table of Contents


Defining project management for research


Types of research

PM defined

PM knowledge areas applied to research

Applicability of PM to graduate research management

Project closeout and lessons learned



Personal aspects of graduate education

What is graduate education?

Grad school is just undergrad version 2.0, right?

So, the thesis/dissertation is just a big paper, right?

Is graduate education the right fit for you?

Career goals

Current job market

Level of experience

What should I look for in a graduate program?

Create variety in your education

Industry path

Academic path

Which school/program do I choose?


Choosing your research topic

How do I find a research topic?

How do I identify a research gap?

Additional considerations when selecting a research topic

Defining your research question: What is the right scope?

How can I make the most of my coursework?

Choosing your advisor and committee

How do I select a research advisor?

How do I select the committee members?

Research question

What is a research question?

Operationalizing variables

What are investigative questions?

What are pseudo-investigative questions?

Using investigative questions and pseudo-investigative questions to create a research plan



Why schedule?

But, before you begin

Two types of scheduling: Forward or backward?

Consider scale

Milestone schedules and the work breakdown structure

Milestone scheduling

Work breakdown structure

Graphically charting your schedule

Gantt chart

The critical path

Network diagramming


Organize what and organize how?

The research itself

Literature search articles

Citations: Organizing information about information

Organizing your spaces: Virtual space and physical space

Physical space

Virtual space


Time management

How is time management different for a graduate student?

If everything is important, then nothing is important

Keep your focus on Quadrant II: Important, but not urgent tasks

A strategy for your time management

Evaluate your current time management

Develop a comprehensive calendar/personal organizational system

Make time to manage your time: The 30/10 rule

Identify and eliminate your major time wasters

Need to spend time at meetings?

First things first

Odds and ends to contribute to your time management strategy


On the personal aspects of research

Student typology

An orientation toward classwork: The classwork types

An orientation toward research: The research types

Classwork types versus research types: Leveraging strengths and avoiding pitfalls

Leveraging strengths

The pitfalls and how to avoid them

Personal skills and qualities

Dealing with the stress of research

Dealing with failure

Managing your research advisor

Effective student-advisor consultation

Resolving conflicts

My advisor’s instructions are too vague. How do I deal with this?

How do I manage my advisor’s expectations of me?

What should I expect from my advisor? How do I communicate my expectations?

My advisor is really busy. What do I do if my advisor doesn’t have enough time for me?

What do I do if I am not getting timely feedbacks?

What do I do if the feedback I am getting is not sufficient?

Is my research topic growing? How do I fend off new requirements?

What do I do if my advisor keeps changing my topic?

How do I tell my advisor that I can’t finish my work on the current schedule?

What do I do if my advisor is causing delays in my schedule?

How do I ask for resources?

How do I manage conflicts between committee members and/or my advisor?

When do I need to find a new advisor?



Communicating your work

Ordinary report versus technical paper

Guidelines for technical reports

Suggested report format

Stages of the report

Progress report

Use of figures and tables

Use of appendices

Use of computer materials

Miscellaneous report attributes

Writing diagnostics

Guidelines for technical review

Selling your research (figuratively)

Participative approach

Effective use of time

Major components of technical communication

Presentation style

Presentation management

Management of group presentations

Communication through publishing

Managing poster presentations

Importance of publishing your work




50 ways to improve your research project

How to get topic approval

Research proposal evaluation checklist

Benefits of industry-sponsored research

Sample three-semester master’s thesis schedule

Sample work breakdown structure

Sample thesis outline

Tips for literature review

Research methodologies and strategies

Sample methodology phasing

Sample methodology section of research proposal presentation

Guidelines for creating an academic poster

Project-relevant quotes

Conversion factors and expressions

Glossary of project management terms

About the Authors

Adedeji B. Badiru, PhD, is dean of the Graduate School of Engineering and Management at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT). He previously was professor and head of Systems Engineering and Management at the AFIT, professor and department head of Industrial & Information Engineering at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and professor of Industrial Engineering and dean of University College at the University of Oklahoma, Norman. He is a registered professional engineer (PE), a certified project management professional (PMP), a fellow of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, and a fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering.

Major Christina F. Rusnock, PhD, is an assistant professor of Systems Engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), a faculty research fellow for AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management, and program chair of the Systems Engineering Distance Learning Program. She is a member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, and the Association of Military Industrial Engineers. She earned her BA in economics-government from Claremont McKenna College, an MS in research and development management from AFIT, and an MS and a PhD in industrial engineering from the University of Central Florida.

Major Vhance V. Valencia, PhD, is an assistant professor of Systems Engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT). He currently is a faculty research fellow for AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management, director of the Graduate Engineering Management program, a registered professional engineer (PE), and a member of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME). He earned his BS in mechanical engineering from San Diego State University and then pursued his graduate studies at AFIT, earning his MS in engineering management and PhD in systems engineering.

About the Series

Systems Innovation Book Series

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Project Management
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Engineering (General)
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Industrial Engineering