Book by Stephen Potter
Review by Cheryl Blake Price
Florida State University
Students entering graduate school are often overwhelmed by the thought of undertaking a large research-based thesis or dissertation. Stephen Potter's Doing Postgraduate Research attempts to be a guidebook for the complete graduate research experience: from making the decision to undertake a research degree, to the organization of writing, to finding employment once the degree has been completed. Here authors take a holistic approach to writing large research papers focusing beyond research to include information on working with supervisors, organizing resources, and setting attainable goals.
Authors are realistic, yet encouraging about the graduate experience; they are honest about the pitfalls some students experience in graduate programs. However it must be noted upfront that this book is designed as a guide for graduate students in the United Kingdom thus a majority of the text would not be appropriate for students studying in the United States or Canada. The book often references rules, guidelines, resources, and expectations for graduate degrees, which are not applicable outside the UK and potentially confusing for students studying elsewhere.
Doing Postgraduate Research is not intended as a quick reference guide, but as a resource book that students will continually use throughout the research process. The chapters are organized with activities so students can not only read about the research process, but complete it at the same time. However, the ambitiousness of the project is sometimes its drawback; for example, a reader would need over 100 hours to complete of all included activities. In addition, the attempt to cover every feature of graduate research results in trivializing some important topics, while some areas that seem unimportant (“how to make your home a safe work environment”) are discussed.
I was disappointed that the entire writing process was relegated to but a single chapter that either excluded or superficially discussed many important features of quality academic writing, e.g., style, voice, grammar, and different citation styles. In addition, much information is presented without distinction between different fields of study, thus leaving students to sift through the information to identify what is appropriate for their fields.
The strength of this book lies in the last few chapters on research presentation, the dissertation defense, and career development. The authors outline these processes as they address the real stress and fears that can accompany presenting research and searching for post-graduate work. What to expect during these phases of the research degree is explored as the authors provide pointers on how to make the process smoother. The accompanying DVD includes mock presentation sessions that allow students opportunities to see a "good" and "bad" presentation. Advisors will appreciate that the authors take a "crazy paving" approach to career development, recognizing that the career path is not a straightforward process but can take many twists and turns, starts and restarts.
Students planning on graduate research in the UK (and those who advise them) will find this book a good resource to anticipate the differences in the UK educational system and how those differences will affect their graduate studies. However, advisors also should send students off with a good reference book on graduate level writing and research methods in their specific fields.
Doing Postgraduate Research (Second Edition). (2006) Book by Stephen Potter (ed.). Review by Cheryl Blake Price. Thousands Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. 320 pp., $39.95, (paperback w/CD), ISBN # 1412924057