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Planning Your PhD: Timelines and Deadlines

At the start of a PhD, three years can seem like a long time and when you have no pressure to complete something it is easy to put the work off until another day. While three years provides a reasonable buffer, a good rule of thumb is that everything will always take you at least twice as long as you think it will and life has a habit of getting in the way. It is, therefore, very easy to let time slip away and to fall behind. Your supervisor may prompt or nudge you to produce work, but most supervision at PhD level is fairly light touch.

It is not until the upgrade report that you will have any real external pressure and this only arises a year to eighteen months in to your PhD. It should be fairly straightforward, but only if you have been working steadily and you can save yourself a lot of anxiety through solid groundwork. Planning and self-imposed deadlines are the key to a smooth transition through the upgrade process and the work needed for upgrade report should be included in your schedule.

It is important to set yourself a timetable with deadlines that will prevent you from falling behind, particularly where your research involves empirical work. Indeed, you will find that such a timetable is usually a requirement of the upgrade report. Setting out a schedule should be one of the first things you do when you begin your studies. It should certainly be discussed and agreed with your supervisor at your first meeting.

You will find it helpful to produce a hard copy of your PhD timetable and deadlines, which should be visibly displayed on the wall near your work station. Give yourself plenty of deadlines by breaking the chapters down into smaller sections and make sure that the deadlines are realistic. If you have empirical work, then schedule your writing around it, but make sure you are writing from day one. In future articles, I will discuss the planning process in more detail, but if you need help then the PhD Consultancy has experts who can support you in all aspects of your PhD work.

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