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How to do your research project

Planning your research

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First things first: before you start working on your dissertation or project, you need a plan. A project is usually an extended piece of work that will run over many weeks or months, and to avoid being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task, you will need to get organised early and plan your work.

At this early stage, you may find it useful to create a filing or folder system to organise all the notes and papers you will accumulate while doing your research - there'll be plenty.

Self-management and time management are two of the most useful and important transferable skills which you can gain from doing a research project. Taking the time to devise a plan of work will help you to keep on track - and provide useful evidence of your self-management and time management skills to discuss at interview.

Activity: planning your research project - 10 minutes

1. Invest in a wall planner, large piece of paper or timetable template (you can find these on the internet).

2. Create a timetable with a box or space for everyday between now and your deadline. If your project will run over a few months, you might like to make monthly timetables.

3. Decide on interim deadlines; for example, finish literature review, finish research, finish data analysis.

Hint: It will take longer than you think to write up your project.

4. Using these interim deadlines, fill in tasks for each day.

5. Ask your supervisor to check your timetable is realistic and to make sure you've timetabled all the tasks involved in dissertation writing.

6. Keep a copy of your timetable in a safe place, and use it to keep you on track.

On the next page, we explore the basics of choosing research methods.

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