How do I plan and manage my thesis workload?

Rights and responsibilities

Before beginning work on your thesis, your first task is to ensure that you are well acquainted with the regulations that govern your candidature. These include such aspects as attendance, facilities, supervision, time limits, satisfactory progress, resolution of problems, intellectual property, authorship (including co-authorship of publications during your candidature), ethics approval, the examination process, outcomes, and appeals.

Preliminary planning

You need to think about your research in different ways:

  • Are you engaged in theory construction or theory testing?
  • Does your discipline have a particular approach to research (e.g. expanding knowledge in the discipline or improving professional practice)?
  • What research methods are required?

Managing your time

Planning and managing your time involves working out what your workload is and distributing that load over the time available. You will need to create a timetable for the major steps in involved in the research process:

  • choosing/getting a supervisor
  • choosing your topic
  • compiling an early reading list
  • writing a research proposal
  • seeking ethics approval
  • submitting your proposal for approval
  • beginning your thesis study
  • writing the thesis outline
  • compiling references
  • researching and/or reading
  • drafting chapters 1 - n
  • approval of corrections
  • preparing thesis in correct style and format
  • writing final draft
  • writing abstract, key words, table of contents & figures, acknowledgements, reference list, appendices ...
  • getting supervisor's final OK
  • editing and proofreading (check grammar and spelling)
    printing and binding thesis
  • submitting thesis

You will also need to work out a schedule for meeting your supervisor, recognising that the frequency of meetings will vary according to the stage you are at with your thesis.

Many students find that having a ‘study buddy’ can help them stay accountable to using their time. You could have daily or weekly ‘check-in’ meetings via phone, email or face to face. These meetings work best if they are short and purposeful: share what you’ve done since you last spoke, and then list your top 3 priorities for the day (or week).

Planning for reading

When reading, it is essential to be systematic. You could choose to use a Synthesis Grid (you can download one from the link at right) to give you a ‘big picture overview’ of the readings you’re doing. Keep track of what you read with basic bibliographic information and brief notes. Consider dividing your readings into a) core works, b) directly related non-core readings, and c) non-core reading that are indirectly related. Build up a more comprehensive reference list (e.g. using Endnote). Remember that there is support (workshops and individual help) available at Fisher Library to assist you with your search.

For more help on this topic, see the links on the right..