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Action Planning

Managing your dissertation/project

Any lengthy project or piece of writing requires careful planning if it is to be completed successfully within the timescale. It is all too easy to allow the distant deadline to give a false sense of security and to allow precious time to slip by – without a plan and self-imposed targets, it is likely little will happen!

The actual writing up of the topic material is only a small part of a project – at least as much time needs to be allowed for:

  1. Exploring ideas and deciding on a topic and your overall approach:

    • What are the issues and questions you plan to address?
    • Where and how will I gather material and a rage of differing views on this topic?
    • What methods, formats, and sources are appropriate?

  2. Producing an overall first plan, with realistic time schedule – see  chart

  3. In-depth research, analysis and organization of the material:

    • How will I select and present relevant data?
    • How will I organize my arguments?

  4. Final stages: refining the text, organizing references

Tips on managing a study project/dissertation

  • Split project into its component tasks and list them. It may be easier to work backwards from the deadline for the completed project.

  • Decide on the order and allocate a length of time with a start & finish date for each (be generous!)

Note: Starting some tasks will depend on the completion of others (e.g. before composing questions for a survey, you need to decide what you want to find out and how you will use & analyse the results) Other tasks are likely to overlap.

  • Pay attention to the core research and writing tasks – if possible break them down further; remember that refining the product towards the end and producing it in presentable format can take a surprisingly long time!

  • Anticipate likely obstacles, especially delays in accessing other people and resources/equipment. Make allowances for other commitments.

  • Brainstorm and make a list of sources – people, organizations, electronic, books

Documents for completion:

Document to complete Project management chart


Document to completeDissertation progress sheet


Document to completePersonal Learning Diary


Further help on dissertation planning and writing are available from the Centre for Academic Practice

  Managing your dissertation/project

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