Project Management

It's recognised that students who consistently approach their DPhil as a project they are actively and consciously managing tend to complete in less time than students who don't. This doesn't mean creating a rigid plan at the start of Year 1 and never changing it, but rather that having a strong sense of:

1) what needs to be achieved
2) what achieving that entails, and 
3) the time available in which to do so

This creates a robust practical framework within which you can make informed decisions about your project as it develops. It can be easy to lose sight of these factors and end up feeling adrift in a piece work of indeterminate shape and duration, but it's a relatively straightforward to take stock and bring the end goal back into sight again.

Key challenges

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Even in this very digital age, many students find some sort of visual (and often hard copy) overview of their work and commitments useful. The Project Plan (right) is an A3 week-by-week document which covers the academic year 2019/20, labelled with terms and vacations. It has rows for different types of activity, some of these pre-labelled with common categories, others left blank for your personalisation. If you want to know whether this might be a useful tool for you, we suggest downloading it and entering any remaining milestone dates – transfer, confirmation, final submission (if in doubt, check with your department), and funding deadlines, any known fieldwork or holidays, and then have a look through the Plan, take stock and see how you feel about the DPhil now. Everything ok? On top of things? If this initial exercise has made you feel anxious or concerned, it might be worth spending a little more time plotting in future commitments you know about, and reflecting on what needs to be done in the available time, and then discussing with your supervisor(s).

If you’ve been intensively collecting data, perhaps on fieldwork or in archives, and are now wondering where to start and how to manage it (possibly even feeling swamped or overwhelmed), the Reflecting on your Data worksheet (right) can help you think through, in a structured fashion, your current and ideal states, and work out what you need to do to get from A to B. This can be useful pre-thinking for practical discussions with your supervisor.

The Pomodoro technique, of setting small blocks of time for concentrated work, followed by set blocks of break time, can be useful to help get into something new, or broach a piece of writing to which you feel yourself resistant. You can read about the basic principles here (n.b. there are paid-for options on this site but the basic information is free), then either use your own timer or one of the many free online ones to apply the technique.

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