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Planning your research project

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A common reason why students experience difficulty in executing their research is down to lack of planning.

Time is a key resource in your research and as such has to be managed wisely. For less time and resources, the greater the need for careful planning.

Planning not only enables you to check progress against set objectives but also helps early recognition of when a project is running into trouble. Planning for research is a useful process through which desirable courses of action are identified, and potential pitfalls are anticipated.

Planning in research involves a comprehensively analysed schedule of activities against which research progress may be assessed. The purpose of planning in research, as documented by Howard and Sharp (2002), is as follows:

  • To clarify the aims and objectives of the researcher

  • To define the activities required to attain these aims and the order in which they take place

  • To identify various critical points or milestones in the research at which progress can be reviewed and the research plan reassessed

  • To produce estimates of times at which the various milestones will be reached so that progress can be clearly measured

  • To ensure that effective use is made of key resources, particularly the researcher

  • To define priorities once the research is underway

  • To serve as a guide for increasing the likelihood of successful completion on time

It is therefore important to consider the feasibility of any proposed research. Some factors to be considered are as follows:

  • The availability of and the access to data and information

  • The feasibility of pursuing a particular research design

  • The availability of time that will be required to complete the research

  • The technical skill required for the particular research

  • The available funding or financial support

  • The awareness of the total risk involved throughout the duration of the research

It is also important to take into account any ethical considerations for your research as you check its feasibility. This will include making plans to get informed consent from participants, consideration of confidentiality of data, anonymity of data subjects, and analysing the risks to safety of both the researcher and the data subject.

Self-regulation is an important quality to possess in preparing and executing research. When self-regulation is effectively used:

‘… it increases the likelihood of students’ performance on a specific task. It involves planning, goal setting, organising and self-consequence, seeking help and information and environmental structuring.’

(Lajom and Magno 2010: 28)

If you begin your research process with an end in mind, have clear goals and know what you want to achieve in your study, it will be easier to write a clear purpose of what you want to investigate, the significance of your study and the methods used to arrive at the purpose.

An example of a research plan might look like this:

  • Determine the research objectives
  • Identify the activities that needs to be carried out in your study
  • Order the activities in a manner and sequence of flow
  • Draw network path
  • Estimate the time needed for the completion each activity and ultimately, your study.
  • Analyse the network using the completion times.
  • Check your resources and draw up a schedule
  • Replan as necessary

Your task

Time management is an important part of research.

What would you propose as a strategy to better manage your time?


Sharp, J., Howard, K., Peters, J., Open University. (2002) The Management of a Student Research Project. 3rd edn. Aldershot: Gower Publishing

Lajom, J. A., Magno, C. (2010) ‘Writing your Winning Thesis’. International Journal of Research and Review 4

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This article is from the free online course:

Researching Risk, Disasters and Emergencies

Coventry University