3.4 Planning a Work Scheme for your PhD Thesis

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It is vital that you establish a realistic scheme of work, in consultation with your supervisor, before you begin the thesis proper. You need to organise a scheme of work to which you know you can keep, even if you have to alter it from time to time. In fact, it is a good idea from the outset to allow for the unexpected as over a long period of work such as this you are bound to have unforeseen interruptions.

Most Ph.D.s will take between two to four years to complete, though this varies according to the subject and academic institution and, of course, whether you are full-time or part-time. In addition, most colleges and/or universities allow ‘writing-up time’ at the end, if you need it, after your research is officially completed.

However, if you need to take time out of your official allocated research period, you will need to request this from the academic institution where you are conducting your research. Most colleges and/or universities are sympathetic to a genuine crisis but you do need to keep everyone advised and you may need to provide proof of illness, for example, if you are requesting an extended suspension of studies.

You need to plan your work scheme in consultation with your supervisor as appointments to meet will form an essential part of the structure of you Ph.D. planning. When you begin to think about your plan, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many hours per week can I realistically spend studying?
  • What is my provisional timetable for submission of drafts of each stage?
  • How much time will I need to give to further reading?
  • How much time will I need for writing each chapter and revising it?
  • How often will I need to see my supervisor? (This will change as your research progresses and at different times of year e.g. some students need more time with supervisors at the beginning of their research, some at the end.)
  • Are there any difficulties that I foresee at this stage or in the future for which I can plan ahead?

"If you have this list of questions in mind with brief responses your initial planning meeting with your supervisor should be a great deal easier and more productive, ensuring that you get your working relationship off to a good start and that your thesis begins to build on a solid foundation with both of you secure in your roles."

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