In the last blog post, I introduced a series of posts that deal with project planning in the research context. This post thus forms part of a larger set of posts and should ideally be read in conjunction with them. This is the second post of the series, and in the first post, I wrote about the vision and objectives of your research project. It is important that this conceptual step is not skipped in a research project, otherwise, you will be on your way to nowhere slowly.
In this post, I will touch on the resources which are needed to successfully see the project through to the end. This is very important to consider in a research project as it often touches on the feasibility of the project. Without the necessary resources, you are unlikely to finish your project in good time or at all. These may come in a number of different forms, but the 6 which were highlighted by Dr Rob Drennan, whose workshop I draw these insights from were: (1) people, (2) money, (3) equipment, (4) utilities, (5) consumables, and (6) space. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
As a researcher, ‘people’ includes you! To know what type of human capacity you will need to complete your project, you need to go back to your vision and objectives, so if you haven’t done that part, you won’t be able to move forward. What types of methods have you proposed? Do you have the skills? Do you need extra human power to carry out the project?
For instance, if you are going to do data collection, will you be able to do it alone or will you need an assistant to help you? Perhaps you are doing research as an outsider and you need someone to accompany you as a translator.
Maybe you have proposed a method that requires you to have a certain skill set, like a complex statistical procedure. Can you up-skill yourself by attending a training course, is it (ethically) possible to outsource this part of the work to someone else, or do you need to bring a co-author onboard who can assist with that part of the analysis?
When thinking about people, you are really thinking of the skill sets and ‘hands-on-deck’ you will need to finish the project. But you would also want to think about the extent to which you can draw on someone else’s time and skills. The restrictions on this would be different if you’re writing a master’s dissertation versus when you’re writing a journal article, as the rules which govern the production of these documents differ.
Unless you have a generous spouse, cousin, or friend, whose gonna help you, you would need money to pay for any assistance you’re going to need on the project – do you have money? Some research projects don’t just require people, they also have other expenses. For instance, if you’re gonna run a large scale survey through SurveyMonkey or a similar platform, do you have money to pay for that? If not, how will you finish your project?
It’s good practice to draw up a project budget at the time of writing the proposal in order to get a sense of what types of resources will be necessary. Another good reason to do this is if you do spot a call for grant applications, you will already have your budget drawn up, know how much money you need, and simply adjust your costs to cover the requirements set out by the funder.
Equipment & Utilities
Equipment and utilities are largely applicable to researchers in the natural sciences who need lab equipment and the items which allow them to perform their experiments. If you as a social sciences researcher and you are doing an experimental design or need special software (such as statistical programmes) to do your analysis, you will need to budget for this as part of your equipment and/or utilities. It is thus important, at the proposal stage, to gather as much information as possible in relation to what carrying out your project will cost you. Collect quotes and make phone calls if you must. The worst outcome would be learning that you need expensive materials too late and not having raised funds for them.
Consumables will be present on every project budget. These are items you need to carry out your project, but which do not represent something that is a long-term investment, as they will get used up in the course of the project. These could include office stationery, money for photocopying, and other office supplies. It is often difficult to pinpoint exactly how many consumables you will need, but it’s good to take a guess and prepare for some consumables up front.
Lastly, you would want to think about space. Where will you carry out your work? What type of space do you need? Will you need space to conduct interviews or keep lab equipment? This is an important aspect of your project, specifically if you will be conducting your research away from home or your home institution. Perhaps you will collect data in another country or another city. Maybe you need to write up your work and your institution does not offer dedicated research areas. This would significantly impact your productivity and your ability to finish your project in good time. So think about this ahead of time if you can.