Dissertations are large and complex projects, so organisation and time management are crucial. Having a detailed research plan will help you to keep on schedule.

To create a research plan, work out how long you have to complete the project. Divide this period into weeks. For each week write down what you will be doing. To start, you will need to think about the main tasks that you are facing and how long they will take. These include:

  • Literature review. This will involve an intense period of reading; it is important to get this done as quickly as possible. Careful note-taking will save a lot of time later.
  • Empirical research/data collection. This is perhaps the most difficult task to predict in terms of timing, as it may be dependent on factors outside of your control. For instance, you may be conducting interviews, and so depend on the availability of others. Make sure you allow plenty of time for unforeseen delays.
  • Data analysis.
  • Writing first draft.
  • Revisions/second draft (in response to comments from your supervisors).
  • Editing and correcting.

You may want to use an organisational tool such as a Gantt chart which allows you to compare your progress against your goals for each task.

Be realistic about your research plan. For instance, it is important to allow time in the plan for other things that you will be doing (such as holidays, for example), and to leave enough time for revisions. Remember that you will encounter some problems along the way, so build in some leeway in the plan for this.

Once you have completed a draft research plan, discuss it with your supervisor. Together, work out a schedule of meetings where you can review your progress.

Useful links on planning a dissertation can be found here and here.