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Research projects don't just happen; they need to be planned. The University requires you to enter into a Candidature Agreement , and requires you to submit a plan of the whole HDR process. You are also required to review your progress on an annual basis. The plan is usually in the form of a timeline based on the length of your candidature - usually three to four years for a full-time PhD and double this time for part-time students. You should use this plan for your own purposes and not just think of it as a university requirement. A schedule can be a valuable tool for the research student and can become, in effect, a timeline for your project.
You are asked to prepare a plan in the first few months of candidature, and include it with your Candidature Agreement. Students who carefully plan their project and continue to monitor and update this plan have a better chance of success, and a better chance of completing within the time limits. It is difficult to look several years ahead when planning, but it does pay off. You will find it can be a tool to keep you on track in a complex and drawn-out process. Whatever your discipline, planning the overall process is essential.
Some research projects involve a practical component of experimentation (or field work or research in libraries) which includes designing the methodology, then analysing and reporting on the findings in the thesis document. Your plans would need to cover getting ethics approval, undertaking your research study, analysing results, writing a preliminary paper on the project, doing further research with further analysis and publication, writing and submitting the thesis, and so on. These are important stages but you should also be thinking further ahead. It is important to keep in mind the final thesis structure and the timeline for completing individual chapters.
A lot of students get a shock when they realise how difficult it is to draw everything together into a coherent document. They often find it takes them a lot longer than they expected. Even if you have several refereed publications behind you, remember that you still need to weave all your components together so that your thesis 'tells a good story'. That is why you should start putting chapters together as soon as possible. The early writing isn't likely to survive unchanged in the final thesis, but it is important to start the process of writing and reviewing.
Some suggest it is a good idea to become a journal writer; it can help get you over writer's block.
It can be hard to stay on track when you're doing a research degree. It is important to:
This is a sample thesis schedule for a full-time student (four years full time). You would need to extend the timeline if you are a part-time student (for example eight years or longer depending on the situation).
|Sample schedule: a starting point only|
|Commencement: 1 February 2012
Produce a project proposal: 1 April 2012
Ethics application: 1 May 2012
Literature review and essential chapters for colloquium: December 2012
Colloquium: 1 February 2013 (confirms candidature)
Carry out research/field work/experiments: throughout 2013
Draft and revise chapters: one every 2 months from Feb to Dec 2014
Chapter 2: due end of February 2015
Chapter 3: due end of April 2015
Chapter 4: due end of June 2015
Chapter 5: due end of August 2015
Conclusion: due end of September 2015
Introduction: due end of October 2015
Revisions: November to December 2015
Final editing and proofreading: January 2016
Submit thesis for examination: 1 February 2016
Remember that your plans are not set in stone. They can and should be reviewed regularly, and will certainly have to be re-examined at least once a year when you complete the annual review. Reviewing the plan is a natural part of the learning process. You will find that circumstances change, some things take longer than anticipated, and some are quicker. At times, parts of a project can run into a dead end, equipment can fail, exciting and unanticipated new avenues can open up. All sorts of things can happen to make it necessary to review the plan. So you should not feel absolutely constrained by the original plan.
That's not to say that you should disregard all your deadlines, of course. But it is important to be realistic in the initial planning. For example, many students allow only a few months at the end for writing up and then find that it usually takes a lot more time than that. Remember to start writing early so that you can avoid, or at least minimise, the major crunch at the end.
Students also find a weekly planner (60 KB) helps keep tasks on track.