Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Building a Research Planning Timeline

I went looking for a plan online - a yeast starter, if you will - for planning my PhD a few weeks ago.

What really surprised me was that it appeared that one had such a plan available online. I was staggered that there did not appear to be something already in the wild.

After a fairly intensive search, I found a few sources to help me compile a planning tool of my own. This included John Wittwer's gantt chart template, but, as his spreadsheet was locked, I didn't explore this much further. I considered some of his headings, but the sample I found online from an unknown author (see below) had also used much of the same functionality as John had.

The two sources which did work - after a fashion - were both spreadsheets, both set up as Gantt charts... but both woefully under-detailed. One was a downloadable creative commons sheet with an unknown author, containing perhaps two percent of the required amount of detail (Unknown, n.d.); the other was an online Gantt chart website with perhaps ten percent of the required detail (Toms Planner, n.d.).

What a great shortcut it would have been to have had a whole PhD research planning timeline list that I could have downloaded, then built on. But it was not to be.

So I sat down myself and planned the first cut of my whole darn project, task by task; with start dates and stop dates; scheduling in known breaks. It was quite a long list by the time that I got to 'enough' to start with.

I had a good look at both the online and downloadable spreadsheet versions, then decided to use the downloadable version, as the online version had a 100 line limitation. This was a good option, as my downloadable spreadsheet currently has 201 lines, and will, I am sure, expand.

I made quite a few modifications, such as using functions to work out min & max dates, functions to add the due dates, summing, auto filters, sub-groups and use of colour to delineate different task deadlines (I have put a key at the top). Unfortunately, I could only fit two years on one Gantt chart in Excel before the spreadsheet started crashing on me, but I think that is enough.

Because of the lack of resources, and in the spirit of the creative commons donation which I used a lot of, I have decided to share what I have created with others who are looking for such a beast (and you will find a note in the Comments box under Advanced properties, acknowledging my creative commons benefactor for the spreadsheet structure).
  • Download the entire spreadsheet here
  • Download my task list here


Sam

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