I’m not going to get topical on you and list my favorite books on comm tech, which are for another day. These are the books that I find indispensable for graduate students in Communication. I’ll note that these are skewed toward my own practices and experiences (submitting predominantly to social scientific journals and using both quantitative and qualitative methods) but several will be useful for any graduate student in the social sciences.
Guide to Publishing in Psychology Journals edited by Robert J. Sternberg
My amazing faculty mentor, Dr. Brad Bushman, gave me this book when I asked some questions about feedback I had received on a rejected journal article. I devoured the whole book in two days, and in the end I was picking skull bits out of my ceiling because my brain had exploded. WHAT??? was my reaction to many of the chapters. I realized that, in six years of grad school, I had never really been taught how to write an article for publication. In grad school you get a lot of feedback on how to write lit reviews and front ends of papers in class, but often there’s not enough focus on the practical aspects of writing for journals. Highly, highly recommended for quantitative scholars.
The Compleat Academic: A Career Guide (2nd ed.) edited by John M. Darley, Mark P. Zanna, & Henry L. Roediger III
This book was another gift from my faculty mentor. Although this is mostly aimed at young faculty, this is a very useful text for grads as well with chapters on job searching, giving job talks, teaching, setting up a lab, grant writing, and managing department hierarchies and politics. It also has the same general chapter by Daryl Bem as the book above that has very useful points for writing empirical articles.
You can substitute whatever your area’s formatting tome of choice is here. Make sure you have the most current edition. I like APA because they provide advice on clear writing as well (and they endorse the Oxford comma as all rational people should.) Beyond that, you need to be familiar with the major format of your area because violating it can have consequences. Of course, if you don’t mind getting your papers desk rejected or held up for weeks because you don’t feel like learning the rules, then there’s no need to worry about a silly thing like formatting. Is it annoying that something as trivial as how you punctuated a reference can hold up science? Of course, but that’s the way it goes.
On a related note, if you’re on the academic path for a while, suck it up and buy the actual manual. Online resources are incomplete and often outdated, and you put yourself at risk of really annoying your teacher/advisor/research collaborator/first author when they task you with the formatting and you can’t seem to follow basic directions. (On the plus side, one day you too may be able to pass the formatting buck to a co-author.)
The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
I was raised by an English teacher. I have a degree in English with a focus on writing. I taught English and writing in several contexts. I have had several professional writing jobs. As you can probably tell from reading this blog, my PsychToday blog, or even this post, I am still far from a perfect writer. This slim volume will remind you how many awful habits you need to break. Best of all, Strunk and White (yes, the guy who wrote Charlotte’s Web) have peppered it with plenty o’ snark.
If you’re the grammar/style policing type, you will learn new things that will make your hair stand on end. I mention this before presenting you with the following rant: in the name of Strunk and White and all things holy, I implore you to stop using the word “utilize.” Face it: you learned that word in middle school and started inserting it into every social studies report and English paper thinking it made you sound smarter. BARF. You’re an adult now. Stop it.
Dr. Field and I share a love for ruh-ruh-ruh metal and bizarre data examples, so I was warm to this book from the very beginning. It is the book I wish I knew existed when I was first learning SPSS. This won’t be the only stats book you need, but it is an incredibly useful synthesis of statistical tests and reasoning and using SPSS to execute said tests. Great screenshots and supplementary materials (sample datasets, syntax, and elaborations on the accompanying website). Even as a seasoned user I learned a lot of tips and tricks for using SPSS more efficiently. It also delves into the very necessary PROCESS functions (see below.) Make sure you get the latest edition as the SPSS interface has changed over the years, and older versions of the book don’t discuss PROCESS.
Speaking of PROCESS, if you are a quantitative researcher, you can’t live without it. Dr. Hayes’s book delves much more into the mathematical reasoning and equations behind these processes, so I recommend warming up with Field’s chapter on basic moderation & mediation so you have a good overview. Make sure you also have the downloaded materials that come with the PROCESS package handy as there are a lot of models there that are not illustrated in the book.
Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory (3rd ed.) by Juliet Corbin & Anselm Strauss
The Strauss lineage of books is a great place to start with qualitative research. I recommend the later editions as they delve more into the use of technologically-mediated sites for research and computer programs for analysis. Note: there is a 4th edition set to come out in fall 2014.
Qualitative Communication Research Methods by Thomas R. Lindolf & Bryan C. Taylor
Yes, I’m partial to this book in part because Dr. Lindolf is affiliated with the University of Kentucky and I get to see examples from all my former profs in here. This book is also a useful addition to the Corbin & Strauss volume because it is very helpful to see how qualitative methods are incorporated specifically in communication research. Occasionally I have trouble identifying with and extrapolating from examples from other fields, so it’s helpful to have a good in-house text. I also find the writing very lucid, which is refreshing when many methods books (both qual and quant) are unnecessarily obtuse.
This is a work in progress, so if you have any other suggestions, I’d be happy to hear them.