Planning and resources
Practical issues such as the timetable or project schedule, defining who will be carrying out various tasks, what equipment or materials might be required and the project budget all need to be agreed before the research begins. One of the tasks of the researcher, working with either a research team or supervisor, is to develop milestones once the research has been designed. This type of project planning is always necessary if you are seeking a grant, and involves breaking down the whole research project into very small steps with a timetable for each one. If you are applying for grant funding then this will need to be included in your proposal, often in great detail.
For all research studies, a project plan should be made as each of the small steps – appointing staff, searching the literature, agreeing measures, etc. – often involves much more work than people think, and so it is rewarding to see them set out and achieved rather than simply as background to the main task of gathering and analysing data. Having clear milestones helps the researcher and supervisor to assess progress and identify slippage and problems early. Software packages such as Microsoft Excel or Project Manager are useful tools to help in planning projects that are very complex, as well as for recording data.
A project initiation document (PID) is very helpful in setting out all the aspects of the project for all stakeholders. It is a useful aide memoire as you progress through the project, particularly if you hit snags or the research takes an unexpected turn. The JISC InfoNet site provides many project planning resources including a PID, which they suggest should provide this information:
- Details of project goals and objectives and the critical success factors by which achievement of the objectives will be judged.
- Details of the project scope in relation to the organisation, functional areas and time as well as a statement about any related areas that are considered to be out of scope.
- Details of identified risks and any constraints affecting the project.
- Details of any assumptions made about the project. These might be assumptions that you are making about what support you will receive from other parts of the institution or, if you are working with other organisations/individuals, assumptions about what they will deliver.