Planning your research project

Why plan?

Comprehensive planning early in your research degree will pay dividends. Studies of completion rates for doctorates have shown that the eventual result is shaped by decisions made in the first few months. However, you will also find that it is difficult to say definitively where the research will lead; you will need to be flexible and ready to adapt your plans as your research progresses.

 Your doctoral project may be part of an existing research project or a large, multi-researcher with a pre-determined research plan. You will need to know your role in this and what the milestones are, but you will not be expected to plan independently.

 However, in general, particularly in social sciences, arts and humanities, from the outset of your doctoral project, you will need to:

  • plan your research route
  • plan how you will get there
  • plan the milestones and places you will visit on the way to your destination
  • decide whether you will need stopping off points
  • find out where the signposts are located
  • work out how to find and use the experience and guidance of others to arrive at your destination.

Practical tips: on planning your doctoral research project.

Set realistic objectives: an important part of managing your research project, this will help you focus on the crucial aspects of your project.

Manage your own time: undertaking a research provides a lot of independence, which is a positive of a research career but can be stressful if you fail to manage your time effectively, so take time to work on time management early in your doctorate.

Manage the project itself: you will need to plan your competing research projects to make the most of your time and research opportunities, and revise this plan with time to quickly identify if you drop behind your targets. As a doctoral researcher you may want to refer to the typical milestones of a doctorate.