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Dissertation Preparation

Creating a Research Plan

A dissertation is an extended project that asks you to manage your time and undertake a variety of tasks. Some courses schedule the dissertation at the end, while others have it running along concurrently with other modules. Whichever way your course is organized, it is essential that you create a plan that helps you allocate enough time to each task you have to complete.

It is useful to work out how many weeks you have until you need to submit your completed dissertation and draw a chart showing these weeks. Block out the weeks when you know you will be unable to work, and mark in other main commitments you have that will take time during this period. Then allocate research tasks to the remaining time. Here is an example plan for three months:

Month  Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week4
January Write research proposal  Literature review Complete literature review Conduct pilot study
February Main data collection Complete data collection Analyze data Analyze data
March Write dissertation plan & first draft Discuss draft with supervisor & second draft Second draft Proofing & Checking

It is very important to be realistic about how long each task is likely to take. Some focused thought at the beginning, then at the planning stage of each phase, could save hours later on.  Write down the resources needed for each stage. It could be the time in the library, the resource of your working hours, or the use of equipment or room space that needs to be booked in advance.


Some people find that they procrastinate more than they would like. This is a common problem, so it is probably best to be well-prepared to identify it and deal with it if it does start to happen. People procrastinate for various reasons for example:

  • poor time management
  • daunted by the scale of the task
  • negative beliefs 
  • loss of motivation
  • perfectionism
  • difficulty concentrating
  • need to feel under pressure
  • personal problems

Early identification of the signs of procrastination will give you the best chance of minimizing any negative effects. Once you suspect that you are procrastinating, it can be helpful to review what you are expecting of yourself and check that those expectations are realistic. This is where planning is vital.

Realistic Planning

To improve the prospect of completing on time, and avoiding procrastination, you need to:

  • be realistic about when you can/will start
  • devote time to planning and revising your plan
  • try to work out if any of your research will take a set amount of time to complete
  • allocate appropriate time for any traveling you need to do for your research
  • include other (non-dissertation-related) things that you have to do between now and then
  • have clear and achievable objectives for each week
  • focus on one thing at a time
  • leave time for editing and correcting
  • reward yourself when you complete objectives that you have timetabled
  • if you fall behind make sure you spend time reworking your plan

Your research plan should also include information about what equipment you will need to complete your project, and any travel costs or other expenses that you are likely to incur through the pursuit of your research. You should also think about whether you are dependent on anyone else to complete your project, and think about what you are going to do if they are unable to help you.

Once you have created your plan it is a good idea to show it to someone else. Ideally, you will be able to show it to a member of the academic staff or bring it to Learning Development, but talking it over with a friend may also help you to spot anything that you have forgotten or anywhere that you have been unrealistic in your planning.


Although a dissertation is an opportunity for you to work independently, you will usually be allocated a member of the academic staff as a supervisor. Supervisors are there to help you shape your ideas and give you advice on how to conduct the research for your dissertation. They are not there to teach you the topic you have chosen to investigate: this is your project. They are, however, one of the resources that you can call on during your research.

Academics are busy people, so to get the most out of your supervisor you will need to be organized and to take responsibility for the relationship. It is not your supervisor’s job to chase you into completing your dissertation or to tell you how to manage the different stages of the project. To ensure that you get the most out of your supervisor you need to:

  • agree on a timetable of meetings at the start of your project and stick to it
  • make sure that each meeting has a focus (e.g. “setting a research problem”, “analyzing the data”)
  • send something that can form the basis of a discussion about your progress to your supervisor before each meeting, this could include your research plan, early results of your data collection or draft chapters
  • turn up on time for each meeting you have arranged. Do not assume that your supervisor is available at all times to see you
  • at the end of each supervision agree on some action points for you to focus on before the next time you meet, and keep a record of what you decide in supervision sessions.

If you are not happy with the way you are being supervised, explain why to your supervisor or discuss the issue with your personal tutor.


sj88. (n.d.). Planning and conducting a dissertation research project — University of Leicester [Page]. Retrieved September 3, 2019, from