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Physician Associates research project guidance: Project management

Resources and links to guide you through your research project.

Doing your research project will give you experience of many aspects of project management, including:

  • working with a supervisor, and potentially other members of a research team
  • time management - planning all the tasks involved in a project to deliver the end result on time

Working with your supervisor

Your supervisor is a valuable resource when working on your research project but they won’t tell you how to do your project. You need to take charge and ‘own’ your project as you will be the one who has to stand by it and will receive the marks for it. Owning your project means being pro-active and thinking of the ideas and direction of the project yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone as your supervisor can give valuable advice and act as a sounding board for your ideas. Consider your supervisor’s advice carefully as they have the experience to know what is likely to work and not work in a research project. If working on an Audit, you will have been given and Audit title, but your project will need to frame this into wider context and your supervisor can help you with this.

Working with your supervisor is a partnership and you need to negotiate a way to work that suits both of you. Things to find out are:

  • Agree frequency and timing of meetings – we expect these to be fortnightly. It is your responsibility to make sure these are in diaries and maintained.
  • What are the best methods of communicating with your supervisor – e.g., are they willing to give feedback by email
  • How will you gain advice and feedback on your work?
  • Any times they will be away and out of contact

The kinds of things that your supervisor can advise on:

  • Whether your project is manageable in the time you have
  • If you need to have a more focused title or question
  • Whether your project outline is reasonable / workable
  • Suggestions for books and resources to get you started
  • Design of the research protocol
  • The data collection process
  • Analysis of the results
  • Advice on the structure and plan of your project and report
  • Feedback on how you present your data and formal feedback on written work
Meeting with your supervisor

You should go to meetings prepared with questions, results to look at or final figures and tables to discuss. In times where you have not progressed you should not cancel meetings. Instead, talk about what is preventing you from making any progress and seek advice and help on how to move forward. Your supervisor is there to support you at all stages of your project and to help you manage your time.

Time management

Whilst you can seek guidance from your supervisor the organisation of your project time is your responsibility. The pattern of work may be irregular. For example, you may have a very intensive period of data collection, followed by a longer period of processing and analysing it. You will need to be flexible in your approach and show a greater degree of time management.

Gantt charts

To help you manage your time, you are advised to create a timeline or Gantt Chart to identify the actions/objectives that you will need to complete to meet the research aim of your identified preliminary research. You can link your timeline to these specific actions/research objectives.

The Gantt chart will:

  • show the time allocated to each task and the dependency between tasks;
  • establish the feasibility of your plan and as a baseline against which to measure progress;

The chart may need to be revised at each project planning meeting, in consultation with your supervisor.

Some possible steps you will need to map for a critical review project:

  1. Search the literature to identify appropriate search terms for my review
  2. Search the literature with these search terms and identify inclusion/exclusion criteria
  3. Review selected papers against inclusion/exclusion criteria
  4. Code data from selected papers into a spreadsheet
  5. Carry out analysis of data and create Figures
  6. Write up report and submit draft

Even though you've got several months in which to do your project, the time will soon go. Find tips on making the most of your time in this video from our Study Advice Team:

Useful books on project management