Productivity,  Research

Timelines for research project planning

3 Minute Read -

Project planning is vital in the research context. Without a plan, you will likely fail, as the old saying suggests. This blog post is the last in a series of blog posts in which I outline the points presented in a workshop on research project planning.

In this workshop, I was introduced to 5 critical points which come into play when planning a research project. The first blog post considered the vision and objectives of your project, without which you cannot move forward, while the second delved into making sure you have the right resources to get your project off the ground. The third post introduced risks, which may present themselves as the project moves along, while the fourth introduced a method which you can use to break your project into manageable parts. This post is the last in this series, and will deal with timelines.

It is important to note that if you have not worked through the four previous planning steps, that any timeline planning you may do is likely to fail. You must know what you want to achieve with your project, what you will need to complete it successfully, troubleshoot and plan for anything that may go wrong, and break down your project into manageable parts before setting out timelines.

Timeline planning is thus really the last part in considering how your project may become a reality. It is also good to include, even a rough version, of a timeline towards the end of your methodology section in your proposal to show your proposal committee that you have considered the timelines which may be required to move your project to completion.

Plan with the end in mind

A timeline in a research proposal requires that you have a start and end date for your project. If you are in the middle of developing your proposal, you have likely passed the start date, and your end date should be certain. Depending on your institution, your would be able to establish which date you need to submit your final report, dissertation, or thesis. Once you have this, you can work your way back.

Note dependencies and prerequisites

Each student’s timeline will be different, especially given differences in methodology, but a few principles remain the same. The first is that some tasks are prerequisites for others. Knowing what these are will help you prioritise your task list. You cannot, for instance, have a first draft of your report ready before having drafted a literature review chapter. Neither can you start data analysis without getting a hold of your data first – whether it be collected first hand or whether you are using secondary data.

Leave buffer time

Another is to leave buffer time after high risk activities. If you have read the post on risks and you have operationalised the points in that post, you will be well aware of the risk levels which may be present at each stage of your project.

Identify concurrent items

The last is to remember that not all tasks depend on the completion of another, so you can engage in simultaneous activities. If you are collecting primary data, you may need to wait for your ethics clearance before starting your data collection, but that doesn’t mean you cannot work on your literature review chapter while waiting for an outcome on your application.

Thinking through your project systematically will help you establish a timeline which could get your project to completion in good time.

Use tools!

It is also helpful to use tools to help you plan. Gantt charts are a really useful way to pan out your timeline, although a variety of productivity and project management tools are also available. These include Microsoft Projects, Microsoft Excel, for Gantt charts, Asana, Notion, Trello, and a whole lot more.

If you already use some of these tolls, let us know in the comments below!

I hope this series of posts were useful and that it helps you get one step closer to the graduation stage! 🎓

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