Learning outcome: Completing this screen will introduce you to the contents and purpose of this course.

This course is designed to help you organise your approach to undertaking, leading or helping to lead a research project.

The lessons are particularly relevant for doctoral researchers in all disciplines. Whether you are undertaking a project which is part of a wider research programme carried out by a group, or embarking on more independent and self-directed research, doctoral research will involve a project which you will need to plan for, and manage, over the course of several years. For the sake of simplicity, the course will generally refer to Ph.D. projects, but the broad techniques and terminology taught throughout the course may also be applicable to other forms of doctorate.

The approach of this course is to demonstrate how you can use established 'project management' techniques to help you successfully carry out your research. You will be introduced to a broad range of considerations relevant to academic research, and a variety of planning and problem-solving techniques to help you work out the best approach for your particular project.

The course reflects best-practice management principles used by formal methodologies such as Prince 2 and PMBOK (Project Management Institute, 2013), in addition to the experiences of professional research project managers (for example, Warr et al., 2007).

Topics covered by the course include:

  • The roles of individuals, groups and organisations you might interact with over the course of your project
  • Early preparation for your research project
  • The different stages and elements of a project, and how to plan for each of them
  • Practical advice on how to manage your time and activities whilst you are carrying out your project
  • What to do and where to turn if things go wrong.

In addition to relatively contained doctoral research projects, the course is also applicable to the much larger, perhaps multidisciplinary, commercially-funded and/or international research projects which are increasingly encountered by postdoctoral academics. Such projects may require the ability to manage a far wider range of tasks and people.

In providing a solid foundation in universal project management theories, techniques and terminology, even participants who don't intend to continue their research beyond doctoral level will benefit from the course, gaining essential project management knowledge and skills relevant to a variety of commercial contexts.

For example:

  • Media production (e.g. planning, developing and publishing a website, radio script, book, TV programme, ad campaign)
  • Product development (product concept, market research, refinement, production and marketing)
  • Writing reports or policy papers for government, think-tanks or companies
  • Entrepreneurship (starting your own restaurant, shop or service; freelance writing or research)
  • Event management (planning, organising, advertising and running concerts, VIP events, conferences)
  • Managerial roles in a research-based company (spin-off company, pharmaceutical research)
  • Programme manager roles in charities, networking organisations or political lobbies.

You might also wish to manage (rather than do research for) large-scale research projects in your field: either by choice, or to fill a short-term gap in your research funding.

Portfolio activities Portfolio activities

Additional activities are provided throughout the course in 'Portfolio activity' pods. They are designed to help you reflect, apply your learning to your own context, and develop skills and practical plans at key points of the course.

You can record the outputs of these activities in the individual documents provided in each 'Portfolio activity' pod, or you may wish to download the Research Skills portfolio provided with this course. This provides space to record your responses to all 'Portfolio activities', and incorporates all the downloadable supplementary documents, for each of the three courses on 'Transferable skills' available in the Research Skills programme. The portfolio will form a record of your work, and a tool to assist you in key areas of your research.

The 'Portfolio icon' is used throughout the course to indicate when to refer to, or add something to, your portfolio.

Large projects Large projects

Although it is anticipated that this course will be used mostly by Ph.D. research students, the project management principles described are also applicable to the larger-scale and more complex projects which postdoctoral and more senior researchers are likely to be involved in. In some disciplines, even Ph.D. students may be involved in such projects. Throughout the course, 'Large projects' pods will be used to indicate how the technique or principle in that particular section might apply to a large-scale project.