According to Joseph Berger of the New York Times, in this 21st century, an average student spends 8.2 years to get a Ph.D on average, while about 50% drop out along the way.  While some of the situations leading to these alarming statistics are beyond the student’s control, many factors can be controlled and managed by the students; thus, significantly bringing the program duration time close to the expected 3 to 4 years. This article provides tips that can substantially help complete postgraduate studies in record time, giving a balanced approach from Project Management and Research’s angle.

  • Handle your research like you will manage a successful project

Research is a project and should be handled as one. Understanding the best practices for managing a project goes a long way in increasing a researcher’s efficiency. A project creates a unique product, service, or result; has a definite beginning and end; has the major triple constraint of time, scope, and cost. Clearly defining and managing these attributes is a major key to completing a postgraduate study in record-time.  All researchers are recommended to take at least a course in Project Management (PM) and utilize some PM’s methods, tools and techniques.  You are your research’s project manager, and you must be clear on strategies to make your project successful.

  • Plan before you start

Planning for postgraduate research should start even before the student applies to the school. Most students have a reasonable amount of time between when they apply for the postgraduate studies and date of resumption, and it can be up to 6 months in some cases. This gives room for proper planning before the program commences. It is recommended that researchers leverage on Project Management tools such as Microsoft Project. This tool is excellent for the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), Cost and schedule (Gantt Chart) of the research. Start with a high-level plan with a timeline, research your course of study, and update the activities and schedule as you have more information about your course. It is essential to have the final and complete planning document latest before the program’s first semester ends. This will be a great input for the research proposal document.  Do you need help in developing a detailed end to end plan for your research project? LabIngate is ready to work hand in hand with you and create one, register on and send an email to to get started.

  • Start studying and researching extensively as soon as possible

Applying for a postgraduate course requires the student to identify the potential supervisor(s) in many cases. This gives the students a good idea of research focus. Students can start studying as soon as they decide to get enrolled in the course. The study can initially be broad and get streamlined as the supervisor is being engaged. Studying early in the program helps the student’s confidence and make the supervisor perceive the student positively. Discussions on the research at the early stage will be meaningful and enable the student to hit the ground running. If students are well-grounded in the study area, identifying the research problems and making decisions such as the thesis topic becomes much easier for the student and supervisor. Once you have established and agreed on a topic with your supervisor, try to focus and stick to it. LabIngate provides support for researchers, register on and send an email to to speak with a consultant if you need help on starting your research.

  • Understand your school’s graduation requirements

Graduation requirements differ by school, and there have been cases when some students do not even understand their school’s graduation requirements even up till the third year in the program. This is a primary reason why such students stay so long on the program. It is recommended that students have the milestone “full understanding of the school’s graduation requirements” as part of the WBS. The requirements and timelines should be included in the activities/milestones. Examples of such requirements are “how many levels of reviews or approvals will my work go through and when is the earliest time to do so?”, “how many publications is required of me before graduation”, “is it compulsory for me to present my work in an international conference?”. Knowing these requirements at the start of the study is not enough; requirements can change anytime in the program. Therefore, students must stay in touch and ensure that no vital information is missed. Once any aspect of the requirement changes, it is crucial to update the WBS & Gantt Chart to plan and execute properly.

  • Be clear on your supervisor’s expectations and be your supervisor’s favourite mentee:

Your supervisor is a key stakeholder to the success of your research. You must understand your supervisor’s work, interests, dos and don’ts as much as you can. Right from the first semester, understand what needs to be true for you to graduate, and work towards completing them at the earliest time. Schedule regular meetings with your supervisor (can be weekly or biweekly) and respect your supervisor’s time. Prepare for the meetings ahead. Ensure you have the agreed next steps (from the previous meeting) done and ready for presentation. Try your best to present your new discoveries during the meeting, and ask questions. Make the meeting interesting to both parties and interactive. Attend the meetings with your laptop and writing materials (It is recommended you maintain a book throughout your program, properly date it and review it often). Practice active listening when your supervisor gives feedback; this allows you to hear the unspoken words. Reiterate what your supervisor has said by summarising and always remember to tell your supervisor “thank you”.

  • Ensure you do extensive reviews at the early stage of the study and get them published

The benefits of quality reviews are enormous. This includes providing the researchers with a deep understanding of the study, allowing easy identification of research gaps, enabling early feedback from reviewers on the researcher’s thoughts, great resources for the final thesis. It is recommended to publish an extensive review as soon as there is an agreement on the research focus between the researcher and the supervisor. Do you need someone to work with you on your manuscripts? LabIngate is here to support you. Please register on and send an email to to speak with a consultant. Note that we have a free webinar coming up on February 6, 2021, on the Strategies for Increasing your Article Acceptance in Rated Journals. The poster is shown below, please register today (limited seats are available) and ensure you attend.

  • Review your progress and track against the plan, update schedule

Having a well-laid plan is not enough, but the progress of research should be reviewed and tracked frequently (can be weekly or biweekly). This helps the researcher to remain accountable and adjust accordingly if any activity is going off track. With a good project plan, review and tracking might not take up till 30 minutes.  This allows the researcher to identify impediments early enough and thus, proactively ask for help to remove every obstacle identified as soon as possible

  • Study, work hard and make the research a fun activity

Little drops of water make a mighty ocean. Imagine that a student spends about 4 hours daily in the typical working days on the Postgraduate studies for three (3) years; the student will have over 3000 hours to complete the project. Even as a working student, dedicating a minimum of 2 hours every day can go a long way, especially when supported with more time during weekends, holidays and work-free days. Students should realize that anything short of spending quality time on the research daily will lead to an extension, which can run into years. Thus, it is recommended that students strive to consistently work on their research daily, even if it is just downloading, reading and summarising an article related to the work.  Make the research project fun in some creative ways. Keep working actively on your research even as you work on your coursework. Break the research into smaller pieces, set targets to complete each small bits and ensure that the tasks are completed as scheduled. Learn about tools and applications that will enhance your work quality. Get your hands dirty; enjoy your work in the laboratory and have fun analyzing your data. You will realize that the hard work worths it when you complete the program in record time. Discipline is key!

  • Build a support network

The place of the support network cannot be overemphasized. Leverage others’ knowledge by asking the right questions, attending conferences, collaborating with other researchers, and having an open heart towards other researchers. Please leverage the support systems provided by your institution and other bodies. Discuss your project with other researchers and ask for help when needed. Do you need to build your research support network? You are not alone; LabIngate is here to support you. Please register on to gain free access to more resources.

  • Celebrate small successes and stay positive

Whenever you meet a milestone, achieve a great result, or got a commendation, always endeavour to celebrate the success. Reward yourself, relax and have fun times with colleagues, families, and friends. Overall, as you give your best to your studies, always stay optimistic. Believe that you will obtain favour in the sight of your supervisors and examiners, and this shall be so.

Do you have more tips on completing a postgraduate research project in record time? or do you have any comment or question? Kindly share in the comment section below. We want to hear from you!

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