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Exploring Academic Factors Affecting Engineering Graduate Student Research Proficiency

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Mentoring Graduate Students

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.722.1 - 12.722.18



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Paper Authors


Scott Rogers Georgia Institute of Technology

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Ph.D. Candidate in Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology (GT-EnvE) in Atlanta, Georgia. Served on the GT AEES Dialogue for Academic Excellence Committee (DAEC) as Assessment Subcommittee Chair from August 2004 to June 2005, Committee Chair from June 2005 to August 2006, and Past Committee Chair from August 2006 to present.

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Recep Goktas Georgia Institute of Technology

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Ph.D. Candidate in GT-EnvE. Served on DAEC as Committee Secretary from August 2005 to August 2006.

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Ulas Tezel Georgia Institute of Technology

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Ph.D. Candidate in GT-EnvE. Served on DAEC as a member of the Assessment Subcommittee from August 2004 to June 2005 and as Activities Subcommittee Chair from June 2005 to June 2006.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Exploring Academic Factors Affecting Engineering Graduate Student Research Proficiency


It is paramount that engineering graduate students are proficient in research for research is the centerpiece of graduate-level engineering education. In order for graduate student research deficiencies to be resolved, factors affecting research proficiency for various types of graduate students must be understood. Unfortunately, graduate-level research deficiencies are cited sporadically in literature and are often studied using anecdotal data, so many deficiencies existing globally have not been resolved definitively. Despite the lack of documented findings, we discovered much about student research proficiency in our environmental engineering graduate program through sustained student assessment.

Academic preparation to perform research, organization in executing research, and research progress are general metrics we used to quantify research proficiency in two assessment studies. Analysis of more-specific variables indicated significant research deficiencies for a large number of students assessed. Variances in assessed proficiency were correlated to factors such as graduate degree program, length of graduate study tenure, academic background, and student- advisor communication.

Student motivations for study are tied to research proficiency. We assessed student perceptions of research success criteria that included learning achieved, professional development, progress toward graduation, and number of papers published; we learned that students overall value personal advancement/enrichment criteria over paper-publishing criteria that some faculty members consider to be very important metrics for research success. However, we found variances in perceptions of importance correlated to the demographic factors degree program and length of study tenure.

In our program, assessment studies isolated potential causes of and conditions associated with graduate student research deficiency. With collected data, students and faculty members in our program are seeking to provide better guidance for graduate students in research. Deficiencies we discovered are common on the global scale, but sustained student assessment shows promise in being the first step towards definitive solutions.


Graduates of advanced-degree engineering programs are responsible for the future of engineering as expert industrial practitioners, researchers who develop innovative technologies, and academic instructors of future engineers. The importance of the engineering graduate degree is being recognized increasingly. For instance, the National Academy of Engineering report Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century 1 states that the typical engineering baccalaureate degree program cannot accommodate the academic development needed now for professional engineers and recommends that the master’s degree be considered the first professional engineering degree. Research is the centerpiece of graduate-level engineering

Rogers, S., & Goktas, R., & Tezel, U. (2007, June), Exploring Academic Factors Affecting Engineering Graduate Student Research Proficiency Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1615

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