New year, new lockdown

Happy New Year! This isn’t where we’d hope to be at the start of a new year, but there is relief in having got through 2020 and in knowing that vaccines are on their way. While we wait, 2021 will have to be about being kind to ourselves, leveraging the self-knowledge we have gained in 2020 to cope with local restrictions, protecting our mental health, and taking steps forward with our work.

A family in a house cradled between hands, surrounded by coronavirusEngland is in the process of entering a third national lockdown. Those of us living on or near campus must stay at home except where necessary (necessary activities include work, grocery shopping and exercise). We’ve done this before, and the familiar rhythms of daily exercise, meal planning and Zoom calls are already established. Think about what worked and what didn’t work for you during previous periods of restrictions and use that knowledge to get through this one as best you can. If you’re not in England, check your local restrictions.

Continue reading “New year, new lockdown”

Spotlight on the RDF: “Project planning and delivery”

In one of our occasional series of spotlights, we take a closer look at a specific descriptor from the RDF.

In this series of “Spotlight on…” posts, we’ll be delving into the detail of the descriptors in Vitae‘s Researcher Development Framework (RDF).  Each one of the sixty-three descriptors is a characteristic of an excellent researcher, and we’ll be looking at how UoB PGRs can develop these characteristics.

project planningEffective project planning and delivery involves a wide range of skills and strategies which underpin a multitude of research activities.  In research, projects can vary from small-scale activities (such as a pilot study or organising a research-related event) to very large-scale, multi-team endeavours (such as clinical trials).  While smaller projects can be successfully delivered with ad hoc planning, larger projects require a more rigorous approach.  Continue reading “Spotlight on the RDF: “Project planning and delivery””

Mapping your ideas for planning, writing and more

When you are faced with a blank page, consider creating a mind map.

Mind map showing some of the benefits/uses of mind maps
Photo credit: Fernandosca

A mind map is a visual way to capture thoughts and ideas as they occur to you, and to indicate relationships between those ideas.  Because they do not need to be created sequentially, they are ideal when you are just getting started and your brain is full of stuff.  Examples of when you might find a mind map particularly useful include: writing a new chapter/article; project planning an activity for your research; and creating your to-do list.  There are many more examples of PhD researchers using mind maps on Twitter. Continue reading “Mapping your ideas for planning, writing and more”

Visualising your PhD: the big picture

CaptureWe’ve talked before on this blog about the value of proper project planning to complete specific (writing) tasks and how to create a Gantt chart to manage a project, but detailed project plans can be tricky to create for your whole PhD.  Although it’s possible to create plans despite uncertainty (e.g. around research methods or likely results), it can be time consuming.  What’s needed is more of an overview. Continue reading “Visualising your PhD: the big picture”

Approaching writing as a project

Today, I attended the Journal article writing course offered by UoB’s People and Organisational Development (POD) and facilitated by Dr Sandy Williams from Scriptoria.  If you are a member of UoB staff (including PGRs who teach), then you can register to attend this course yourself or rest assured that what I learned will trickle down to enhance the PGR development workshops on writing (Starting to write for your PhD, Writing clearly and concisely, Structuring your thesis) and through this blog!

One key point that I wanted to pick up on immediately was Sandy’s emphasis on managing the process of writing a journal article as a project, with only a part of that project being to draft the manuscript itself.  Continue reading “Approaching writing as a project”

Visualising your PhD using a Gantt chart

Any project, whether it’s a substantial project such as your PhD thesis or a smaller-scale project like organising an event, will benefit from proper planning.  Project planning is a big topic, but here we will look at one planning tool that you use to help you understand and visualise the relationships between the component activities of your project and time:  a Gantt chart.  Gantt charts are named after Henry Gantt, a mechanical engineer and management consultant who developed the charts in the 1910s, and are very widely used for simple and complex projects, to communicate visually the timescale for a project and to monitor progress against that timescale. Continue reading “Visualising your PhD using a Gantt chart”