Book by Fred C. Lunenburg and Beverly J. Irby
Review by Monica Kempland
Academic Advisor, Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology
Saint Louis University

Perhaps the only book to become as dog-eared in my reference library as my APA Manual, may soon be Writing a successful thesis or dissertation: Tips and strategies for students in the social and behavioral sciences. Authors, Fred C. Lunenburg and Beverly J. Irby, share a combined 40+ years of experience in supervising dissertations; now Lunenburg and Irby offer strategies and advice to those who are in various stages of thesis or dissertation preparation.

Though writers of all levels will find this book a useful resource, graduate students in the social or behavioral sciences may find the most benefit from this book, due to its extensive use of clear examples from completed projects. Certainly, the advisor who wishes to pursue research for publication will find much appropriate guidance from this book. Multiple recent and relevant resources related to higher education and counseling are cited by the authors as a means of clarification and explanation. Alternately, Writing a successful thesis or dissertation would also prove to be an excellent textbook for a research methods course.

One of the strengths of this work is its ability to be utilized as both a writing manual, and as a readable book, filled with tips and strategies. Its well-organized format guides readers (as writers) through the creative process from Part I, Chapter I, “Selecting a suitable topic,” through Appendices covering research and publication. Often overlooked in writing publications, Part II of Writing a successful thesis or dissertation, emphasizes the importance of a positive attitude toward the process, and encourages readers to view themselves as writers and researchers rather than as graduate students (p. 28). Occasionally, graduate students may feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the prospect of designing a research study. Lunenburg and Irby present a practical overview of various qualitative and quantitative methods in a clear, concise manner. Multiple examples from previous dissertations and abstracts are included to assist writers in refining their topics and selecting the most appropriate research methodology.

Numerous practical concerns are also addressed, such as advice on selecting and collaborating with dissertation committee members. Recommendations on structuring one’s research questions and hypotheses may save time and frustration, while practical hints, such as the author’s suggestion to begin work on the literature review prior to one’s introductory chapter, are invaluable. Advisors who are interested in publishing will definitely find the overview of abstracting and indexing services, as well as the lists of annual reviews, priceless.

Graduate students in the social and behavioral sciences and those interested in publishing their work will appreciate the efforts of Lunenburg and Irby that make the process more manageable and less daunting.  Some may see a dissertation journey as a thousand miles, while the authors help the writer see the process one step at a time.

Writing a successful thesis or dissertation: Tips and strategies for students in the social and behavioral sciences. (2007). Book by Fred C. Lunenburg and Beverly J. Irby. Review by Monica Kempland. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press (SAGE Publications), 352 pp. $31.95, (paperback), ISBN # 9781412942256
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