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Researcher Development

Researcher Development

Mapping and breaking down your project

We may have identified the overall shape of the research degree journey and some specific milestones, but that does not get at the detail of what needs to be done, by when and how to track and monitor your progress. This section will help you to break down the different stages of your research degree project, the tasks you need to complete and introduce you to a range of tools to plan and manage your time.

The first thing you need to do is map your project. You can use the research degree journey as a starting point to write down the various tasks you need to complete, key milestones and when they should occur.

Create a mind map of everything you will need to do to complete your project and research degree. Do not worry about how this is organised for now, or it is chronological. Try to get down on paper (or using a mind mapping tool such as FreeMind or MindNode) everything you think you will need to do to complete your research degree.

You might want to do this with a peer, or show it to your supervisors as part of the process.

Next, create a master task list that you can move around. You can do this in a number of ways –  use post it notes or index cards with a task per note/card, or create a powerpoint document with a task per slide. Look at all the tasks you have identified and begin to group them together chronoloigcally – you might want to think of this in terms of year of study, or phases of your research (literature review, data collection, analysis, write up etc.) Some tasks may sit alongside each other rather than being in a simple sequence – that’s ok. When you have decided on the order of your tasks, type up a numbered list. You now have an overview plan of your research project!

Next, you need to break down the tasks or milestones you have identified into smaller, more manageable ‘packets’ of work which are easier to organise. For example, you might break the task ‘do literature review’ down as follows, based on the Starting your thesis: preparing for your literature review resource:

Identify your search terms, and search the relevant databases
Read key results and make notes
Organise your notes/material
Decide on a structure for your literature review
Write a plan
Write a first draft
Get feedback from your supervisors

For each task or milestone on your master list, create a list of the different activites/stages of completing it. At this stage as you break down the larger tasks on your master list, start to make notes about how long you think different activities will take. You may need to do some research – talk to your supervisors, your peers or access more of our resources – to fully complete your drill down.

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