The transition from coursework to independent scholarship leads to significant changes in how the workplace is organized and structured for most graduate students. The first several years of graduate school are often highly structured with courses, exams, and deadlines, whereas independent scholarship is more self-directed with fewer deadlines and less accountability. In professional workplaces, project management responsibilities are often assigned to the employee, and this is frequently true for graduate students who are working on the thesis.
The responsibilities associated with project management typically include planning, organizing, scheduling, allocating resources, and evaluating progress. These are very different responsibilities than the day-to-day tasks associated with the thesis itself, including research, data analysis, and writing. It’s possible to excel in one of these roles but not the other. Because the progress you make on the thesis will depend, at least in part, on the effectiveness of your project management skills, it is important to assess your relative strengths and weaknesses as a project manager.
Some important questions to ask yourself include:
- What types of organizational challenges have I experienced in the past?
- Have I relied on deadlines to complete work on projects in the past?
- What types of factors are most likely to motivate me to work on the project?
- Do I have difficulty working in unstructured workplaces?
- Do I work more productively whenever I am able to collaborate with others?
- Do I have a tendency to become distracted while working?
- Do I have a history of over-committing my time?
- What time of the day am I most likely to be productive?
- How much autonomy do I have in determining my work schedule?
How you answer these questions may help you to determine what skills need to be improved in order to be a more effective project manager.