Thinking Like an Engineer, 5th edition

Published by Pearson (March 9, 2021) © 2022

  • Elizabeth A. Stephan
  • David R. Bowman
  • William J. Park
  • William David Martin
  • Matthew W. Ohland


per month

  • Anytime, anywhere learning with the Pearson+ app
  • Easy-to-use search, navigation and notebook
  • Simpler studying with flashcards

  • Hardcover, paperback or looseleaf edition
  • Affordable rental option for select titles
  • Free shipping on looseleafs and traditional textbooks



  • Reach every student with personalized support
  • Customize courses with ease
  • Optimize learning with dynamic study tools

For first-year engineering courses.

An active learning approach

Thinking Like an Engineer provides the essential foundation of skills new engineering students need to prepare for upper-level courses. An emphasis on reading, self-guided inquiry and practice before class helps students get ready for in-class activities. Students arrive prepared for class, allowing instructors to spend that time focusing on learning through collaborative problem solving, computer-based activities, and hands-on experiments.

The 5th Edition incorporates current software releases, including Microsoft® Office 2019®, Office 365®, Excel® Online, and MATLAB® 2020a.

Hallmark features of this title

  • Presented topically rather than sequentially, the balance of flexibility and structure provides each student with the scaffolding they need to be successful.
  • Scripted examples accompany skills in sections that are difficult to lecture. When a skill is presented, students are expected to work through the examples, not just read them.
  • Comprehension Checks within the reading let students evaluate their understanding before class, encouraging them to become self-directed learners.
  • Review Sections provide additional questions to help students reach the next level of understanding.

New and updated features of this title

  • UPDATED: In-Class Activities (ICA) provide a set of worked-out problems for students to solve, using their own logic, before they are asked to tackle more difficult problems. The ICA stimulate active conversation within pairs and groups of students working through the material. Part 2 includes both new and updated ICA.
  • UPDATED: Umbrella Projects, accessible online or in the Pearson eText, allow students to apply skills that they have mastered in the unit to larger-scope problems. Updated Umbrella Projects are separated into individual projects to allow for easier customization of the projects for each class.
  • UPDATED: Video lecture slides accompany each section within the chapter and present sample solutions using voiceover. Approximately 25% of the video lecture slides are new to this edition to provide a set of sample solutions in addition to and different from those in the text.
  • UPDATED: Part 3, Spectacular Spreadsheets, is revised to be consistent with the appearance and operation of Microsoft Excel 2019, Microsoft Office 365®, and Microsoft Excel Online.
  • UPDATED: Part 4, Programming Prowess, includes new sections describing character arrays and string arrays and how they function differently. Part 4 is also revised to be consistent with the appearance and operation of MATLAB 2020a.

Features of MyLab Engineering for the 5th Edition

  • NEW: Edition-specific automated assessment of MATLAB code submissions with real-time feedback and integration within the MyLab Engineering gradebook helps students practice essential coding skills without creating extra review work for you.
  • Auto-graded Excel Projects allow you to seamlessly integrate Excel content into your course without manually grading spreadsheets. Students simply download a spreadsheet, complete the project in Excel, and then upload that file back into MyLab Engineering, where they receive reports on their work that provide personalized, detailed feedback.
  • Homework and practice questions are correlated to the textbook and many regenerate algorithmically to give students unlimited opportunity for practice and mastery.
  • Exercises provide step-by-step instruction, input-specific feedback, hints, videos, links to spreadsheets, or sample problems.
  • Videos help students understand chapter concepts or to walk them through example exercises that may be difficult to explain on paper. Topics include engineering ethics, functions in Excel, an introduction to MATLAB, and conditional statements.

Features of Pearson eText for the 5th Edition

  • NEW: Starting worksheets and code for Excel and MATLAB are provided for students to work through examples.
  • Videos help students understand chapter concepts or to walk them through example exercises that may be difficult to explain on paper. Topics include engineering ethics, functions in Excel, an introduction to MATLAB, and conditional statements.

Part 1: Engineering Essentials

Engineering is an . . . Itch!

  1. Everyday Engineering
    • 1.1 Choosing a Career
    • 1.2 Choosing Engineering as a Career
    • 1.3 NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering
    • 1.4 Choosing a Specific Engineering Field
    • 1.5 Engineering Technology—A Related Field
    • 1.6 Gathering Information
    • 1.7 Pursuing Student Opportunities
    • Review Questions
  2. Ethics
    • 2.1 Ethical Decision Making
    • 2.2 Plagiarism
    • 2.3 Engineering Creed
    • 2.4 Social Responsibility
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions
  3. Design, Teamwork, and Project Management
    • 3.1 Design Processes
    • 3.2 Defining the Problem or Need
    • 3.3 Criteria: Defining What Is Important
    • 3.4 Generating Ideas
    • 3.5 Comparing Designs and Making Decisions
    • 3.6 Prototyping and Testing
    • 3.7 Sustainability—A Special Design Criterion
    • 3.8 Working in Teams
    • 3.9 Experimental Design: PERIOD Analysis
    • 3.10 Project Timeline
    • 3.11 Modern Project Management
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions
    • Mini Design Projects
  4. Engineering Communication
    • 4.1 Basic Presentation Skills
    • 4.2 Sample Presentations
    • 4.3 Basic Technical Writing Skills
    • 4.4 Common Technical Communication Formats
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions
  5. Estimation
    • 5.1 General Hints for Estimation
    • 5.2 Estimation by Analogy
    • 5.3 Estimation by Aggregation
    • 5.4 Estimation by Upper and Lower Bounds
    • 5.5 Estimation Using Modeling
    • 5.6 Significant Figures
    • 5.7 Reasonableness
    • 5.8 Notation
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions
  6. Solving Problems
    • 6.1 Problem Types
    • 6.2 SOLVEM—One Approach to Solving Problems
    • 6.3 Representing Final Results
    • 6.4 Avoiding Common Mistakes
    • 6.5 Examples of SOLVEM
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions

Part 2: Ubiquitous Units

  1. Fundamental Dimensions and Base Units
    • 7.1 The Metric System
    • 7.2 Other Unit Systems
    • 7.3 Conversion Procedure for Units
    • 7.4 Conversions Involving Multiple Steps
    • 7.5 Conversions Involving “New” Units
    • 7.6 Derived Dimensions and Units
    • 7.7 Equation Laws
    • 7.8 Conversion Involving Equations
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions
  2. Universal Units
    • 8.1 Force
    • 8.2 Weight
    • 8.3 Density
    • 8.4 Amount
    • 8.5 Temperature
    • 8.6 Pressure
    • 8.7 Gas Pressure
    • 8.8 Energy
    • 8.9 Power
    • 8.10 Efficiency
    • 8.11 Electrical Concepts
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions
  3. Dimensionless Numbers
    • 9.1 Constants with Units
    • 9.2 Common Dimensionless Numbers
    • 9.3 Dimensional Analysis
    • 9.4 Rayleigh’s Method
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions

Part 3: Spectacular Spreadsheets

  1. Excel Workbooks
    • 10.1 Cell References
    • 10.2 Functions in Excel
    • 10.3 Logic and Conditionals
    • 10.4 Lookup and Data Validation
    • 10.5 Conditional Formatting
    • 10.6 Sorting and Filters
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions
  2. Graphical Solutions
    • 11.1 Graphing Terminology
    • 11.2 Proper Plots
    • 11.3 Available Graph Types in Excel
    • 11.4 Graph Interpretation
    • 11.5 Meaning of Line Shapes
    • 11.6 Graphical Solutions
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions
  3. Models and Systems
    • 12.1 Proper Plot Rules for Trendlines
    • 12.2 Linear Functions
    • 12.3 Linear Relationships
    • 12.4 Combinations of Linear Relationships
    • 12.5 Power Functions
    • 12.6 Exponential Functions
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions
  4. Mathematical Models
    • 13.1 Selecting a Trendline Type
    • 13.2 Interpreting Logarithmic Graphs
    • 13.3 Proper Plot Rules for Log Plots
    • 13.4 Converting Scales to Log in Excel
    • 13.5 Dealing with Limitations of Excel
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions
  5. Statistics
    • 14.1 Histograms
    • 14.2 Statistical Behavior
    • 14.3 Distributions
    • 14.4 Cumulative Distribution Functions
    • 14.5 Statistical Process Control (SPC)
    • 14.6 Statistics in Excel
    • 14.7 Statistics in MATLAB
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions

Part 4: Programming Prowess

  1. MATLAB Basics
    • 15.1 Variable Basics
    • 15.2 Numeric Types and Scalars
    • 15.3 Vectors
    • 15.4 Matrices 572
    • 15.5 Character Arrays
    • 15.6 String Arrays
    • 15.7 Cell Arrays
    • 15.8 Structure Arrays
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions
  2. Algorithms, Programs, and Functions
    • 16.1 Algorithms
    • 16.2 Programs
    • 16.3 Functions
    • 16.4 Deriving Mathematical Models
    • 16.5 Debugging MATLAB Code
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions
  3. Input/Output in MATLAB
    • 17.1 Input
    • 17.2 Output
    • 17.3 Plotting
    • 17.4 Trendlines
    • 17.5 Microsoft Excel I/O
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions
  4. Logic and Conditionals
    • 18.1 Algorithms Revisited—Representing Decisions
    • 18.2 Relational and Logical Operators
    • 18.3 Logical Variables
    • 18.4 Conditional Statements in MATLAB
    • 18.5 Application: Classification Diagrams
    • 18.6 switch Statements
    • 18.7 Errors and Warnings
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions
  5. Looping Structures
    • 19.1 Algorithms Revisited—Loops
    • 19.2 while Loops
    • 19.3 for Loops
    • In-Class Activities
    • Review Questions

Comprehension Check Answers


Equation Tables

MATLAB Graphing Properties


  • A. Basic Engineering Math—Online
  • B. Basic Workbooks—Online
  • C. Basic Excel Graphs—Online
  • D. Basic Excel Trendlines—Online

About our authors

Elizabeth A. Stephan is the Director of Academics for the General Engineering Program at Clemson University. She earned a BS in Chemical Engineering from The University of Akron. During her undergraduate work, she completed a cooperative education experience with Dow Chemical in Midland, MI, conducted research on coal purification methods and was named the College of Engineering Outstanding Senior. After graduation, she was employed by Boride, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical in Traverse City, MI, specializing in high-performance ceramics. She returned to The University of Akron on a College of Engineering Fellowship, earning her PhD in Chemical Engineering focusing on multiphase transport processes. She has taught at The University of Akron and Wayne College and served in several postdoctoral positions. She joined the faculty at Clemson in January 2002 in the General Engineering Program. Beth served as a national official as a district director in Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, from 1996 to 2014. She served as the chief advisor for the South Carolina Alpha Chapter of Tau Beta Pi for 10 years and was awarded the National Outstanding Advisor in 2015.

David R. Bowman is a Principal Systems Architect and Software Developer in Advanced Analytics and Machine Learning at The Boeing Company. He earned a BS and MS in Computer Engineering with emphasis in software engineering and digital signal processing from Clemson University and a Graduate Certificate in Systems Architecture and Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At The Boeing Company, David is a Boeing Designated Expert in MATLAB software development and graph network analytics, with responsibilities for teaching and mentoring early and mid-career software developers and engineers within the enterprise working on MATLAB based solutions supporting multiple commercial and defense products. As a recognized innovation leader at Boeing, he has led publication of numerous trade secrets and patents in the domains of production control, machine learning, systems engineering, and cybersecurity. Prior to working at Boeing, he led mobile product development at Jobscope Corporation, broadening their core product line by adding embedded mobile applications for shop floor system integrations, data/labor collection, intelligent supply chain visibility and on-the-fly instructional work training and certification. David started his career teaching in the General Engineering Program at Clemson University, teaching first-year engineering courses and led the design and development of software tools for conducting engineering education research and pedagogy.

William J. Park is Associate Professor Emeritus of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University. Following a few years as a cattle farmer, he completed three degrees at Clemson University: a BS in Ornamental Horticulture with emphases on xerophytic plants and organic methods, an MS in Electrical Engineering focusing on electronic music synthesis and a PhD in Electrical Engineering conducting research in electronic counter-countermeasures. While a faculty member at Clemson, William was faculty advisor for student teams renovating a large electronic organ and investigating techniques of analog music synthesis. After retiring from Clemson and relocating in 2016, he began familiarizing himself with the local flora and fauna in his new location (coastal SC). As a moderately accomplished classical pianist, he also began work on his major retirement project, the design and construction of a large music synthesis system which will be used to create electronic realizations of some of his favorite compositions including the 24 Preludes and Fugues of Shostakovich and The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky.

William D. Martin is a senior lecturer in the General Engineering Program at Clemson University and has been teaching since 2013. He earned his 3 degrees at Clemson University in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in water resources. Will advises multiple undergraduate research teams as part of Clemson's Creative Inquiry program. He also is the Faculty Director for the Residents in Science and Engineering (RISE) Living Learning Community where he hosts activities focused on a range of technical skills from water quality sampling to soldering.

Matthew W. Ohland is the Dale and Suzi Gallagher Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. He earned a BS in Engineering and a BA in Religion from Swarthmore College, MS degrees in both Mechanical Engineering and Materials Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida. Matt was an NSF postdoctoral fellow for science, mathematics, engineering and technology education and joined the faculty of General Engineering at Clemson University in 2000. In 2006, he joined the faculty at Purdue University. He was the 2002 to 2006 National President of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society and has held national offices in the American Society for Engineering Education and IEEE. He is an ABET Program Evaluator for the American Society of Engineering Education. With his research colleagues, he has been recognized for the best paper published in the Journal of Engineering Education in 2008, 2011 and 2019 and from the IEEE Transactions on Education in 2011 and 2015.

Need help? Get in touch


Customize your course to teach your way. MyLab® is a flexible platform merging world-class content with dynamic study tools. It takes a personalized approach designed to ignite each student's unique potential. And, with the freedom it affords to adapt your pedagogy, you can reinforce select concepts and guide students to real results.


All in one place. Pearson+ offers instant access to eTextbooks, videos and study tools in one intuitive interface. Students choose how they learn best with enhanced search, audio and flashcards. The Pearson+ app lets them read where life takes them, no wi-fi needed. Students can access Pearson+ through a subscription or their MyLab or Mastering course.

Privacy and cookies
By watching, you agree Pearson can share your viewership data for marketing and analytics for one year, revocable by deleting your cookies.

Empower your students, in class and beyond

Meet students where they are with MyLab®, and capture their attention in every lecture, activity, and assignment using immersive content, customized tools, and interactive learning experiences in your discipline.