I work in a lab on a variety of projects using a variety of techniques. For a recent project I was thinking we are probably going to use fancy machine learning method X which I am vaguely, but not intimately familiar with.

I have no doubt that there is a plenty of information about X online and that there are no shortage of free resources via a variety of means. However, there is also a new text which covers X among other topics that I was going to buy anyway. Is it appropriate to bring up the new relevant text with the professor with the hope of getting a copy from the research budget seeing that it is relevant to our recent project? Or is it better for me to just buy my personal copy out of pocket?

  • 11
    I'd really recommend checking with your library before talking to the professor, since this kind of issue is their forte.
    – Allure
    Aug 12, 2021 at 1:55
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    I am not sure sure of the comment above if not for avoiding to buy a book that is already there. Otherwise research groups can and do buy books. Tell the supervisor you are interested in that book. S/he could buy it or propose it to the library.
    – Alchimista
    Aug 12, 2021 at 6:06

3 Answers 3


Yes, it is appropriate to ask to buy books relevant to research with research funds. Professors often do so for their own use. It's certainly possible your professor would prefer to save the funds and rely on other resources available freely or through the university's library, but that's not a reason to avoid asking.

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    The book will probably be the property of the lab in this case though, rather than "belonging" to the student. This will probably make very little difference until such time as the student moves on though. Aug 12, 2021 at 8:50
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    Purchasing a book should be in the possibilities of a budget in any first world university's research group. Aug 19, 2021 at 12:34

I would say yes. However you may want to check your (university) library as well. They regularly buy books that are in need of researches and they may have a procedure for that.


I would check with the library first, also check how long you can use the book if they do buy it for you. The book will become the property of the library, so you need to hand it in afterward. If that doesn't pan out just ask the professor what the procedure for books you use in your research is. The answer will let you know if it is customary to buy it for you, or if you have to buy it yourself. Also ask if you have to return the book after using it, just to be sure. Before all that, find out if this is interesting for others in your team. You might be able to study it together, to stay motivated and to inspire each other.

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