Project Management for Research : A Guide for Graduate Students book cover
1st Edition

Project Management for Research
A Guide for Graduate Students

ISBN 9781482299113
Published March 9, 2016 by CRC Press
233 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

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.

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

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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.


"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