How to write a research plan: Step-by-step guide

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30 January 2024

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Today’s businesses and institutions rely on data and analytics to inform their product and service decisions. These metrics influence how organizations stay competitive and inspire innovation. However, gathering data and insights requires carefully constructed research, and every research project needs a roadmap. This is where a research plan comes into play.

There’s general research planning; then there’s an official, well-executed research plan. Whatever data-driven research project you’re gearing up for, the research plan will be your framework for execution. The plan should also be detailed and thorough, with a diligent set of criteria to formulate your research efforts. Not including these key elements in your plan can be just as harmful as having no plan at all.

Read this step-by-step guide for writing a detailed research plan that can apply to any project, whether it’s scientific, educational, or business-related.

  • What is a research plan?

A research plan is a documented overview of a project in its entirety, from end to end. It details the research efforts, participants, and methods needed, along with any anticipated results. It also outlines the project’s goals and mission, creating layers of steps to achieve those goals within a specified timeline.

Without a research plan, you and your team are flying blind, potentially wasting time and resources to pursue research without structured guidance.

The principal investigator, or PI, is responsible for facilitating the research oversight. They will create the research plan and inform team members and stakeholders of every detail relating to the project. The PI will also use the research plan to inform decision-making throughout the project.

  • Why do you need a research plan?

Create a research plan before starting any official research to maximize every effort in pursuing and collecting the research data. Crucially, the plan will model the activities needed at each phase of the research project.

Like any roadmap, a research plan serves as a valuable tool providing direction for those involved in the project—both internally and externally. It will keep you and your immediate team organized and task-focused while also providing necessary definitions and timelines so you can execute your project initiatives with full understanding and transparency.

External stakeholders appreciate a working research plan because it’s a great communication tool, documenting progress and changing dynamics as they arise. Any participants of your planned research sessions will be informed about the purpose of your study, while the exercises will be based on the key messaging outlined in the official plan.

Here are some of the benefits of creating a research plan document for every project:

Project organization and structure

Well-informed participants

All stakeholders and teams align in support of the project

Clearly defined project definitions and purposes

Distractions are eliminated, prioritizing task focus

Timely management of individual task schedules and roles

Costly reworks are avoided

  • What should a research plan include?

The different aspects of your research plan will depend on the nature of the project. However, most official research plan documents will include the core elements below. Each aims to define the problem statement, devising an official plan for seeking a solution.

Specific project goals and individual objectives

Ideal strategies or methods for reaching those goals

Required resources

Descriptions of the target audience, sample sizes, demographics, and scopes

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

Project background

Research and testing support

Preliminary studies and progress reporting mechanisms

Cost estimates and change order processes

Depending on the research project’s size and scope, your research plan could be brief—perhaps only a few pages of documented plans. Alternatively, it could be a fully comprehensive report. Either way, it’s an essential first step in dictating your project’s facilitation in the most efficient and effective way.

  • How to write a research plan for your project

When you start writing your research plan, aim to be detailed about each step, requirement, and idea. The more time you spend curating your research plan, the more precise your research execution efforts will be.

Account for every potential scenario, and be sure to address each and every aspect of the research.

Consider following this flow to develop a great research plan for your project:

Define your project’s purpose

Start by defining your project’s purpose. Identify what your project aims to accomplish and what you are researching. Remember to use clear language.

Thinking about the project’s purpose will help you set realistic goals and inform how you divide tasks and assign responsibilities. These individual tasks will be your stepping stones to reach your overarching goal.

Additionally, you’ll want to identify the specific problem, the usability metrics needed, and the intended solutions.

Know the following three things about your project’s purpose before you outline anything else:

What you’re doing

Why you’re doing it

What you expect from it

Identify individual objectives

With your overarching project objectives in place, you can identify any individual goals or steps needed to reach those objectives. Break them down into phases or steps. You can work backward from the project goal and identify every process required to facilitate it.

Be mindful to identify each unique task so that you can assign responsibilities to various team members. At this point in your research plan development, you’ll also want to assign priority to those smaller, more manageable steps and phases that require more immediate or dedicated attention.

Select research methods

Research methods might include any of the following:

User interviews: this is a qualitative research method where researchers engage with participants in one-on-one or group conversations. The aim is to gather insights into their experiences, preferences, and opinions to uncover patterns, trends, and data.

Field studies: this approach allows for a contextual understanding of behaviors, interactions, and processes in real-world settings. It involves the researcher immersing themselves in the field, conducting observations, interviews, or experiments to gather in-depth insights.

Card sorting: participants categorize information by sorting content cards into groups based on their perceived similarities. You might use this process to gain insights into participants’ mental models and preferences when navigating or organizing information on websites, apps, or other systems.

Focus groups: use organized discussions among select groups of participants to provide relevant views and experiences about a particular topic.

Diary studies: ask participants to record their experiences, thoughts, and activities in a diary over a specified period. This method provides a deeper understanding of user experiences, uncovers patterns, and identifies areas for improvement.

Five-second testing: participants are shown a design, such as a web page or interface, for just five seconds. They then answer questions about their initial impressions and recall, allowing you to evaluate the design’s effectiveness.

Surveys: get feedback from participant groups with structured surveys. You can use online forms, telephone interviews, or paper questionnaires to reveal trends, patterns, and correlations.

Tree testing: tree testing involves researching web assets through the lens of findability and navigability. Participants are given a textual representation of the site’s hierarchy (the “tree”) and asked to locate specific information or complete tasks by selecting paths.

Usability testing: ask participants to interact with a product, website, or application to evaluate its ease of use. This method enables you to uncover areas for improvement in digital key feature functionality by observing participants using the product.

Live website testing: research and collect analytics that outlines the design, usability, and performance efficiencies of a website in real time.

There are no limits to the number of research methods you could use within your project. Just make sure your research methods help you determine the following:

What do you plan to do with the research findings?

What decisions will this research inform? How can your stakeholders leverage the research data and results?

Recruit participants and allocate tasks

Next, identify the participants needed to complete the research and the resources required to complete the tasks. Different people will be proficient at different tasks, and having a task allocation plan will allow everything to run smoothly.

Prepare a thorough project summary

Every well-designed research plan will feature a project summary. This official summary will guide your research alongside its communications or messaging. You’ll use the summary while recruiting participants and during stakeholder meetings. It can also be useful when conducting field studies.

Ensure this summary includes all the elements of your research project. Separate the steps into an easily explainable piece of text that includes the following:

An introduction: the message you’ll deliver to participants about the interview, pre-planned questioning, and testing tasks.

Interview questions: prepare questions you intend to ask participants as part of your research study, guiding the sessions from start to finish.

An exit message: draft messaging your teams will use to conclude testing or survey sessions. These should include the next steps and express gratitude for the participant’s time.

Create a realistic timeline

While your project might already have a deadline or a results timeline in place, you’ll need to consider the time needed to execute it effectively.

Realistically outline the time needed to properly execute each supporting phase of research and implementation. And, as you evaluate the necessary schedules, be sure to include additional time for achieving each milestone in case any changes or unexpected delays arise.

For this part of your research plan, you might find it helpful to create visuals to ensure your research team and stakeholders fully understand the information.

Determine how to present your results

A research plan must also describe how you intend to present your results. Depending on the nature of your project and its goals, you might dedicate one team member (the PI) or assume responsibility for communicating the findings yourself.

In this part of the research plan, you’ll articulate how you’ll share the results. Detail any materials you’ll use, such as:

Presentations and slides

A project report booklet

A project findings pamphlet

Documents with key takeaways and statistics

Graphic visuals to support your findings

  • Format your research plan

As you create your research plan, you can enjoy a little creative freedom. A plan can assume many forms, so format it how you see fit. Determine the best layout based on your specific project, intended communications, and the preferences of your teams and stakeholders.

Find format inspiration among the following layouts:

Written outlines

Narrative storytelling

Visual mapping

Graphic timelines

Remember, the research plan format you choose will be subject to change and adaptation as your research and findings unfold. However, your final format should ideally outline questions, problems, opportunities, and expectations.

  • Research plan example

Imagine you’ve been tasked with finding out how to get more customers to order takeout from an online food delivery platform. The goal is to improve satisfaction and retain existing customers. You set out to discover why more people aren’t ordering and what it is they do want to order or experience. 

You identify the need for a research project that helps you understand what drives customer loyalty. But before you jump in and start calling past customers, you need to develop a research plan—the roadmap that provides focus, clarity, and realistic details to the project.

Here’s an example outline of a research plan you might put together:

Project title

Project members involved in the research plan

Purpose of the project (provide a summary of the research plan’s intent)

Objective 1 (provide a short description for each objective)

Objective 2

Objective 3

Proposed timeline

Audience (detail the group you want to research, such as customers or non-customers)

Budget (how much you think it might cost to do the research)

Risk factors/contingencies (any potential risk factors that may impact the project’s success)

Remember, your research plan doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel—it just needs to fit your project’s unique needs and aims.

Customizing a research plan template

Some companies offer research plan templates to help get you started. However, it may make more sense to develop your own customized plan template. Be sure to include the core elements of a great research plan with your template layout, including the following:

Introductions to participants and stakeholders

Background problems and needs statement

Significance, ethics, and purpose

Research methods, questions, and designs

Preliminary beliefs and expectations

Implications and intended outcomes

Realistic timelines for each phase

Conclusion and presentations

How many pages should a research plan be?

Generally, a research plan can vary in length between 500 to 1,500 words. This is roughly three pages of content. More substantial projects will be 2,000 to 3,500 words, taking up four to seven pages of planning documents.

What is the difference between a research plan and a research proposal?

A research plan is a roadmap to success for research teams. A research proposal, on the other hand, is a dissertation aimed at convincing or earning the support of others. Both are relevant in creating a guide to follow to complete a project goal.

What are the seven steps to developing a research plan?

While each research project is different, it’s best to follow these seven general steps to create your research plan:

Defining the problem

Identifying goals

Choosing research methods

Recruiting participants

Preparing the brief or summary

Establishing task timelines

Defining how you will present the findings

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FLEET LIBRARY | Research Guides

Rhode island school of design, create a research plan: research plan.

  • Research Plan
  • Literature Review
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A research plan is a framework that shows how you intend to approach your topic. The plan can take many forms: a written outline, a narrative, a visual/concept map or timeline. It's a document that will change and develop as you conduct your research. Components of a research plan

1. Research conceptualization - introduces your research question

2. Research methodology - describes your approach to the research question

3. Literature review, critical evaluation and synthesis - systematic approach to locating,

    reviewing and evaluating the work (text, exhibitions, critiques, etc) relating to your topic

4. Communication - geared toward an intended audience, shows evidence of your inquiry

Research conceptualization refers to the ability to identify specific research questions, problems or opportunities that are worthy of inquiry. Research conceptualization also includes the skills and discipline that go beyond the initial moment of conception, and which enable the researcher to formulate and develop an idea into something researchable ( Newbury 373).

Research methodology refers to the knowledge and skills required to select and apply appropriate methods to carry through the research project ( Newbury 374) .

Method describes a single mode of proceeding; methodology describes the overall process.

Method - a way of doing anything especially according to a defined and regular plan; a mode of procedure in any activity

Methodology - the study of the direction and implications of empirical research, or the sustainability of techniques employed in it; a method or body of methods used in a particular field of study or activity *Browse a list of research methodology books  or this guide on Art & Design Research

Literature Review, critical evaluation & synthesis

A literature review is a systematic approach to locating, reviewing, and evaluating the published work and work in progress of scholars, researchers, and practitioners on a given topic.

Critical evaluation and synthesis is the ability to handle (or process) existing sources. It includes knowledge of the sources of literature and contextual research field within which the person is working ( Newbury 373).

Literature reviews are done for many reasons and situations. Here's a short list:

Sources to consult while conducting a literature review:

Online catalogs of local, regional, national, and special libraries

meta-catalogs such as worldcat , Art Discovery Group , europeana , world digital library or RIBA

subject-specific online article databases (such as the Avery Index, JSTOR, Project Muse)

digital institutional repositories such as Digital Commons @RISD ; see Registry of Open Access Repositories

Open Access Resources recommended by RISD Research LIbrarians

works cited in scholarly books and articles

print bibliographies

the internet-locate major nonprofit, research institutes, museum, university, and government websites

search google scholar to locate grey literature & referenced citations

trade and scholarly publishers

fellow scholars and peers


Communication refers to the ability to

  • structure a coherent line of inquiry
  • communicate your findings to your intended audience
  • make skilled use of visual material to express ideas for presentations, writing, and the creation of exhibitions ( Newbury 374)

Research plan framework: Newbury, Darren. "Research Training in the Creative Arts and Design." The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts . Ed. Michael Biggs and Henrik Karlsson. New York: Routledge, 2010. 368-87. Print.

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Except where otherwise noted, this guide is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution license

source document

  Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts

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  • A Research Guide
  • Research Paper Guide

How to Write a Research Plan

  • Research plan definition
  • Purpose of a research plan
  • Research plan structure
  • Step-by-step writing guide

Tips for creating a research plan

  • Research plan examples

Research plan: definition and significance

What is the purpose of a research plan.

  • Bridging gaps in the existing knowledge related to their subject.
  • Reinforcing established research about their subject.
  • Introducing insights that contribute to subject understanding.

Research plan structure & template


  • What is the existing knowledge about the subject?
  • What gaps remain unanswered?
  • How will your research enrich understanding, practice, and policy?

Literature review

Expected results.

  • Express how your research can challenge established theories in your field.
  • Highlight how your work lays the groundwork for future research endeavors.
  • Emphasize how your work can potentially address real-world problems.

5 Steps to crafting an effective research plan

Step 1: define the project purpose, step 2: select the research method, step 3: manage the task and timeline, step 4: write a summary, step 5: plan the result presentation.

  • Brainstorm Collaboratively: Initiate a collective brainstorming session with peers or experts. Outline the essential questions that warrant exploration and answers within your research.
  • Prioritize and Feasibility: Evaluate the list of questions and prioritize those that are achievable and important. Focus on questions that can realistically be addressed.
  • Define Key Terminology: Define technical terms pertinent to your research, fostering a shared understanding. Ensure that terms like “church” or “unreached people group” are well-defined to prevent ambiguity.
  • Organize your approach: Once well-acquainted with your institution’s regulations, organize each aspect of your research by these guidelines. Allocate appropriate word counts for different sections and components of your research paper.

Research plan example

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  • Writing a Research Paper
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  • Research Paper Sources
  • Research Paper Problem Statement
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  • Research Paper Summary
  • Research Paper Prospectus
  • Research Paper Proposal
  • Research Paper Format
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  • Research Paper Structure
  • Research Paper Cover Page
  • Research Paper Abstract
  • Research Paper Introduction
  • Research Paper Body Paragraph
  • Research Paper Literature Review
  • Research Paper Background
  • Research Paper Methods Section
  • Research Paper Results Section
  • Research Paper Discussion Section
  • Research Paper Conclusion
  • Research Paper Appendix
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How to Write a Research Plan

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Your answers to these questions form your research strategy. Most likely, you’ve addressed some of these issues in your proposal. But you are further along now, and you can flesh out your answers. With your instructor’s help, you should make some basic decisions about what information to collect and what methods to use in analyzing it. You will probably develop this research strategy gradually and, if you are like the rest of us, you will make some changes, large and small, along the way. Still, it is useful to devise a general plan early, even though you will modify it as you progress. Develop a tentative research plan early in the project. Write it down and share it with your instructor. The more concrete and detailed the plan, the better the feedback you’ll get.

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This research plan does not need to be elaborate or time-consuming. Like your working bibliography, it is provisional, a work in progress. Still, it is helpful to write it down since it will clarify a number of issues for you and your professor.

Writing a Research Plan

To write out your research plan, begin by restating your main thesis question and any secondary ones. They may have changed a bit since your original proposal. If these questions bear on a particular theory or analytic perspective, state that briefly. In the social sciences, for example, two or three prominent theories might offer different predictions about your subject. If so, then you might want to explore these differences in your thesis and explain why some theories work better (or worse) in this particular case. Likewise, in the humanities, you might consider how different theories offer different insights and contrasting perspectives on the particular novel or film you are studying. If you intend to explore these differences, state your goal clearly in the research plan so you can discuss it later with your professor. Next, turn to the heart of this exercise, your proposed research strategy. Try to explain your basic approach, the materials you will use, and your method of analysis. You may not know all of these elements yet, but do the best you can. Briefly say how and why you think they will help answer your main questions.

Be concrete. What data will you collect? Which poems will you read? Which paintings will you compare? Which historical cases will you examine? If you plan to use case studies, say whether you have already selected them or settled on the criteria for choosing them. Have you decided which documents and secondary sources are most important? Do you have easy access to the data, documents, or other materials you need? Are they reliable sources—the best information you can get on the subject? Give the answers if you have them, or say plainly that you don’t know so your instructor can help. You should also discuss whether your research requires any special skills and, of course, whether you have them. You can—and should—tailor your work to fit your skills.

If you expect to challenge other approaches—an important element of some theses—which ones will you take on, and why? This last point can be put another way: Your project will be informed by some theoretical traditions and research perspectives and not others. Your research will be stronger if you clarify your own perspective and show how it usefully informs your work. Later, you may also enter the jousts and explain why your approach is superior to the alternatives, in this particular study and perhaps more generally. Your research plan should state these issues clearly so you can discuss them candidly and think them through.

If you plan to conduct tests, experiments, or surveys, discuss them, too. They are common research tools in many fields, from psychology and education to public health. Now is the time to spell out the details—the ones you have nailed down tight and the ones that are still rattling around, unresolved. It’s important to bring up the right questions here, even if you don’t have all the answers yet. Raising these questions directly is the best way to get the answers. What kinds of tests or experiments do you plan, and how will you measure the results? How will you recruit your test subjects, and how many will be included in your sample? What test instruments or observational techniques will you use? How reliable and valid are they? Your instructor can be a great source of feedback here.

Your research plan should say:

  • What materials you will use
  • What methods you will use to investigate them
  • Whether your work follow a particular approach or theory

There are also ethical issues to consider. They crop up in any research involving humans or animals. You need to think carefully about them, underscore potential problems, and discuss them with your professor. You also need to clear this research in advance with the appropriate authorities at your school, such as the committee that reviews proposals for research on human subjects.

Not all these issues and questions will bear on your particular project. But some do, and you should wrestle with them as you begin research. Even if your answers are tentative, you will still gain from writing them down and sharing them with your instructor. That’s how you will get the most comprehensive advice, the most pointed recommendations. If some of these issues puzzle you, or if you have already encountered some obstacles, share them, too, so you can either resolve the problems or find ways to work around them.

Remember, your research plan is simply a working product, designed to guide your ongoing inquiry. It’s not a final paper for a grade; it’s a step toward your final paper. Your goal in sketching it out now is to understand these issues better and get feedback from faculty early in the project. It may be a pain to write it out, but it’s a minor sting compared to major surgery later.

Checklist for Conducting Research

  • Familiarize yourself with major questions and debates about your topic.
  • Is appropriate to your topic;
  • Addresses the main questions you propose in your thesis;
  • Relies on materials to which you have access;
  • Can be accomplished within the time available;
  • Uses skills you have or can acquire.
  • Divide your topic into smaller projects and do research on each in turn.
  • Write informally as you do research; do not postpone this prewriting until all your research is complete.

Back to How To Write A Research Paper .


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  • Starting the research process

A Beginner's Guide to Starting the Research Process

Research process steps

When you have to write a thesis or dissertation , it can be hard to know where to begin, but there are some clear steps you can follow.

The research process often begins with a very broad idea for a topic you’d like to know more about. You do some preliminary research to identify a  problem . After refining your research questions , you can lay out the foundations of your research design , leading to a proposal that outlines your ideas and plans.

This article takes you through the first steps of the research process, helping you narrow down your ideas and build up a strong foundation for your research project.

Table of contents

Step 1: choose your topic, step 2: identify a problem, step 3: formulate research questions, step 4: create a research design, step 5: write a research proposal, other interesting articles.

First you have to come up with some ideas. Your thesis or dissertation topic can start out very broad. Think about the general area or field you’re interested in—maybe you already have specific research interests based on classes you’ve taken, or maybe you had to consider your topic when applying to graduate school and writing a statement of purpose .

Even if you already have a good sense of your topic, you’ll need to read widely to build background knowledge and begin narrowing down your ideas. Conduct an initial literature review to begin gathering relevant sources. As you read, take notes and try to identify problems, questions, debates, contradictions and gaps. Your aim is to narrow down from a broad area of interest to a specific niche.

Make sure to consider the practicalities: the requirements of your programme, the amount of time you have to complete the research, and how difficult it will be to access sources and data on the topic. Before moving onto the next stage, it’s a good idea to discuss the topic with your thesis supervisor.

>>Read more about narrowing down a research topic

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So you’ve settled on a topic and found a niche—but what exactly will your research investigate, and why does it matter? To give your project focus and purpose, you have to define a research problem .

The problem might be a practical issue—for example, a process or practice that isn’t working well, an area of concern in an organization’s performance, or a difficulty faced by a specific group of people in society.

Alternatively, you might choose to investigate a theoretical problem—for example, an underexplored phenomenon or relationship, a contradiction between different models or theories, or an unresolved debate among scholars.

To put the problem in context and set your objectives, you can write a problem statement . This describes who the problem affects, why research is needed, and how your research project will contribute to solving it.

>>Read more about defining a research problem

Next, based on the problem statement, you need to write one or more research questions . These target exactly what you want to find out. They might focus on describing, comparing, evaluating, or explaining the research problem.

A strong research question should be specific enough that you can answer it thoroughly using appropriate qualitative or quantitative research methods. It should also be complex enough to require in-depth investigation, analysis, and argument. Questions that can be answered with “yes/no” or with easily available facts are not complex enough for a thesis or dissertation.

In some types of research, at this stage you might also have to develop a conceptual framework and testable hypotheses .

>>See research question examples

The research design is a practical framework for answering your research questions. It involves making decisions about the type of data you need, the methods you’ll use to collect and analyze it, and the location and timescale of your research.

There are often many possible paths you can take to answering your questions. The decisions you make will partly be based on your priorities. For example, do you want to determine causes and effects, draw generalizable conclusions, or understand the details of a specific context?

You need to decide whether you will use primary or secondary data and qualitative or quantitative methods . You also need to determine the specific tools, procedures, and materials you’ll use to collect and analyze your data, as well as your criteria for selecting participants or sources.

>>Read more about creating a research design

Finally, after completing these steps, you are ready to complete a research proposal . The proposal outlines the context, relevance, purpose, and plan of your research.

As well as outlining the background, problem statement, and research questions, the proposal should also include a literature review that shows how your project will fit into existing work on the topic. The research design section describes your approach and explains exactly what you will do.

You might have to get the proposal approved by your supervisor before you get started, and it will guide the process of writing your thesis or dissertation.

>>Read more about writing a research proposal

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.


  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility


  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

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Developing a Research Plan

  • First Online: 20 September 2022

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Discuss the basic engineering research tools and techniques.

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5StarEssays. (2020). Writing a research proposal—Outline, format and examples. In Complete guide to writing a research paper . Retrieved from

Walliman, N. (2011). Research methods: The basics . Routledge—Taylor and Francis Group.

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Thiel, D. V. (2014). Research methods for engineers . University Printing House, University of Cambridge.

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Habeeb Adewale Ajimotokan

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Ajimotokan, H.A. (2023). Developing a Research Plan. In: Research Techniques. SpringerBriefs in Applied Sciences and Technology. Springer, Cham.

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The Research Plan

Where to start with scholarly research, expectations for research, scholarly vs. popular sources, grey literature, primary vs. secondary sources, preliminary research.

  • Create a Plan

A good essay is grounded in good research, which requires clear direction, patience and persistence.

Research helps you to focus your topic, formulate and refine your thesis, and discover details, opinions, and facts to support your overall argument. You are better equipped to search for and sort sources when you have made decisions about your topic and developed a working thesis.

It is important that your research be accurate, reliable, relevant, and, for many disciplines, recent. The quality of your research determines the efficacy of your argument and your instructor’s assessment of your work.

Maintaining your academic integrity is an important factor that is assessed by your professors. The sources you use must be properly documented, accurately communicated, and clearly explained in relation to your topic and thesis. You are less likely to copy the text word for word or paraphrase too closely if you have spent some time thinking about how the research will inform your thesis and if you think carefully about your research process

Types of Sources

Many assignments will require you to focus primarily on scholarly, peer-reviewed sources. Check with your professor or the assignment instructions for guidance on using popular sources. 

Scholarly sources are supported by the peer review process, which means they are sources that have been evaluated by other experts in the same field.

Scholarly sources:

  • Are written by and for academics
  • Ensure that data is thoroughly checked
  • Cite all evidence
  • Make arguments which are supported by research
  • Meet conventions of scholarship in the discipline
  • Are written in formal, academic language

Popular sources are written for a wider, general audience and are more informal in tone. Sources like newspaper articles, documentaries and corporate websites are not scholarly, but they can offer useful information that you can include in your analysis alongside evidence presented by scholarly sources.

Grey literature is produced by entities whose main task is NOT publishing. Industry, think tanks, government departments, scholarly societies and associations can all produce grey literature. Grey literature can include reports, working papers, newsletters, government documents, speeches, white papers, and urban plans. Grey literature also includes newsletters, emails, blogs and other social networking sites. In addition to scholarly sources, grey literature can offer valuable evidence to your essay, but be sure to consider whether its use is appropriate for the discipline, the course, or the assignment.

In some disciplines, such as history, philosophy, or English literature, it is important to distinguish between primary and secondary sources.

Primary sources are original, first-hand materials. A primary source may be a government document, census data, a short story, old letters, or a piece of art.

Secondary source s are articles, editorials, textbooks, books, and other published materials that may interpret data, works of literature, ideas or events.

You may need to do preliminary research to find or refine a topic. Some early reading can help you narrow your focus, establish research questions, and avoid the frustration of directionless research.

Places to Start  

  • Begin with course materials. The syllabus, required or recommended readings, textbooks and lecture notes will often provide ideas for a topic, while focusing on the major themes of your course.
  • During the early stages of research, you can use reference works, such as discipline-specific textbooks, encyclopedias and dictionaries, or Wikipedia, for an introduction to your topic. Use the library subject guide to find useful reference works in your subject. Be sure that only material from your scholarly research, not Wikipedia , is used and cited in your paper.

The materials found during the preliminary research stage can help you to identify main concepts, key terminology, and important literature on the topic.

Planning your Research

A plan establishes research goals and clarifies direction.

A clear direction and plan for research helps you assess the quality and relevance of sources. 

Creating a Research Plan

In advance of beginning a search for evidence, take time to make a plan.

  • Develop specific questions about your topic: what do you want to know and how does it relate to your thesis?
  • Create a list of key words and synonyms for your search. Include specific and more general terms; establish parameters for your search (place, time, theory, field, species) but be open to related materials.
  • Identify types of evidence you are required to use (research requirements of the assignment) and you will find informative for your topic. Think about where you can find these types of sources.

Look to your course content to identify the types of sources commonly used in the discipline; here are some examples:

  • Peer-Reviewed scholarship: Argumentative articles, clinical trials, empirical articles (use library databases, google scholar)
  • Numerical and financial data: export data, quality of life measures (see library subject guides
  • Visual records (maps, old photographs, film)
  • NGO documents: Stakeholder reports, Best practice documents
  • Government documents: laws, legislation, reports

Research Plan worksheet - Accessible version (Word doc)

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Driving Discovery: How to Create an Effective Research Plan

September 23, 2023 - 10 min read

Wrike Team

When embarking on a research project , having a well-thought-out research plan is crucial to driving discovery and achieving your objectives. In this article, we will explore the importance of a research plan, the key benefits it offers, the essential components of an effective research plan, the steps to create one, and tips for implementing it successfully.

Understanding the Importance of a Research Plan

A research plan serves as a roadmap that guides your investigation and ensures that you stay focused and on track. It outlines the objectives, questions, and methods that will shape your research and enable you to make meaningful discoveries.

Imagine embarking on a research journey without a plan. You would be wandering aimlessly, unsure of where to focus your attention and resources. A research plan acts as a compass, guiding you towards the most promising avenues of exploration. It helps you formulate research questions that are relevant and meaningful, so that your study contributes to the existing body of knowledge in a significant way.

Key Benefits

A well-structured research plan offers several benefits besides guiding your investigation.

  • Clarify your research goals and align them with your overarching research objectives. You want your study to remain focused and avoid unnecessary detours.
  • Organize your research process, so that you cover all the necessary steps and avoid potential pitfalls. Break down your research into manageable tasks, allowing you to allocate your time and resources effectively. 
  • Secure funding and gain the support of stakeholders. When applying for grants or seeking approval for your research project, a comprehensive and compelling research plan can make all the difference. It provides a clear overview of your study's objectives, methods, and expected outcomes, demonstrating the potential impact of your research.

Essential Components 

When creating a research plan, certain components should be included to ensure its effectiveness. These components serve as building blocks that shape the overall structure and content of your plan.

Team collaborating at a table

Defining Your Research Objectives

The first step in creating an effective research plan is to clearly define your research objectives. These objectives should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). By setting SMART research objectives, you provide a clear purpose for your investigation and establish criteria by which you can evaluate its success.

Defining research objectives is crucial because it helps researchers stay focused and avoid getting lost in the vast sea of information. It provides a sense of direction and purpose, so that every step taken during the research process contributes to achieving the desired outcomes. Without well-defined objectives, researchers may find themselves overwhelmed and unable to make meaningful progress.

Identifying Your Research Questions

In addition to defining your research objectives, it is crucial to identify the research questions that will guide your investigation. These should be focused and address the specific aspects you aim to explore. By formulating precise research questions, you narrow down your research scope and provide a framework for gathering and analyzing data.

Remember that research questions serve as a compass, guiding researchers through the vast landscape of information. They help researchers stay on track and ensure that their efforts are aligned with the overall objectives of the study. Well-crafted research questions also enable them to delve deeper into specific areas of interest, uncovering valuable insights that contribute to the existing body of knowledge.

Choosing the Right Research Methodology

The selection of an appropriate research methodology is another vital component of an effective research plan. The methodology you choose should be aligned with your research objectives and questions, enabling you to gather and analyze data effectively. Whether quantitative or qualitative, your chosen methodology should provide reliable and valid results that contribute to driving your research forward.

Choosing the right research methodology is like selecting the right tools for a construction project. Each methodology has its strengths and limitations, and understanding these nuances is crucial for conducting a successful study. The decision that researchers make will impact the data collection techniques, analysis methods, and overall validity of the study.

Steps to Create a Comprehensive Research Plan

Now that we understand the essential components of a research plan, let's dive into the steps to create a comprehensive one.

Setting Your Research Goals

The first step in creating a research plan is to set clear and concise research goals. These goals serve as the guiding principles of the research and provide a framework for the investigation. When setting research goals, align them with the research objectives, so that the plan remains focused and purposeful. 

Don't forget that research goals can vary depending on the nature of the study. They can be broad, encompassing the overall aims of the research, or specific, focusing on particular aspects or variables. Regardless of their scope, research goals play a vital role in shaping the research plan and determining the path to be followed.

Conducting a Literature Review

A comprehensive literature review is crucial for building a solid foundation for your research plan. During this process, researchers explore various sources such as academic journals, books, conference proceedings, and online databases to gather relevant information. They critically analyze and synthesize the findings from previous studies, to identify gaps, inconsistencies, and areas that require further investigation. This process helps researchers refine their research questions, develop hypotheses, and select appropriate research methods.

Moreover, a literature review allows researchers to identify key theories, concepts, and methodologies that are relevant to their research. It helps them establish the theoretical framework for their study, providing a solid basis for data collection and analysis. By conducting a thorough literature review, researchers guarantee that their research plan is grounded in existing knowledge and contributes meaningfully to the field.

Designing Your Research Strategy

Once you have set your research goals and conducted a thorough literature review, it's time to design your research strategy. This step involves making important decisions regarding research questions, research methods, and data collection and analysis procedures.

  • Carefully consider various factors, such as the research goals, the nature of the research problem, the available resources, and ethical considerations. Determine the most appropriate research questions that align with the research goals and can be effectively addressed through the chosen research methods.
  • Select the most suitable research methods to collect and analyze data. This can involve qualitative methods such as interviews, observations, or focus groups, or quantitative methods such as surveys or experiments. The choice of research methods depends on the research objectives, the nature of the research problem, and the available resources.
  • Outline the data collection and analysis procedures. This means determining the sample size, developing data collection instruments, and devising data analysis techniques. A well-designed research strategy ensures that researchers gather the necessary data to address their research questions effectively and draw meaningful conclusions.

Work plan on the board

Tips for Implementing Your Research Plan

Creating a research plan is just the first step; successful implementation is equally important. Here are some tips to help you implement your research plan effectively.

Ensuring Flexibility 

While a research plan provides a structured roadmap, it is essential to remain flexible throughout the research process. Unexpected challenges and discoveries may require adjustments to your plan. By maintaining flexibility, you can adapt to changing circumstances and make the most of unforeseen opportunities.

Imagine you are conducting a research study on the impact of climate change on coral reefs. Your initial plan may involve collecting data from a specific location over a six-month period. However, during the course of your research, you may discover a new coral species that is particularly vulnerable to climate change. In such a scenario, being flexible allows you to modify your research plan to include a more in-depth investigation of this new species, potentially leading to groundbreaking findings.

Tracking Your Research Progress

Regularly tracking your research progress is crucial to ensuring that you stay on schedule and achieve your research objectives. Establish milestones and set aside dedicated time for progress evaluation. This will help you identify any deviations from the plan and take corrective measures promptly.

Suppose you are conducting a longitudinal study on the effects of a new teaching method on student performance. By tracking your research progress, you can analyze the data collected at various intervals and assess whether the teaching method is consistently improving student outcomes. If you notice any inconsistencies or unexpected trends, you can adjust your research plan accordingly, such as modifying the teaching method or expanding the sample size.

Evaluating and Refining Your Research Plan

Periodically evaluating and refining your research plan is vital for its effectiveness. Reflect on the progress of your research and assess whether your objectives and questions are still relevant. Take feedback from colleagues and stakeholders into account and make necessary adjustments to improve your research plan.

Let's say you are conducting a survey-based research study on consumer preferences for sustainable packaging. After analyzing the initial survey responses, you may realize that the questions you asked did not capture all the relevant factors influencing consumer choices. By evaluating and refining your research plan, you can modify the survey questions to include additional variables, such as price sensitivity or brand perception, thus enhancing the validity and comprehensiveness of your study.

Drive Your Discovery with Wrike

Creating an effective research plan to drive discovery is like having a detailed itinerary for an exploration journey. It guides your research efforts and ensures that you uncover valuable insights. However, managing these research plans across multiple projects can be challenging.

This is where Wrike steps in. Within Wrike, you can easily create folders for each project or research plan. These folders can serve as a place where you can store research methods, data collection plans, and even your research findings. This structured approach brings direction and discovery to your research, much like a detailed itinerary guides an exploration journey.

And when it comes to the other documents and workflows your business needs — whether it's data analysis or report writing — Wrike has you covered with robust project management features and ready-to-use templates. Ready to drive your discovery process? Start your free trial of Wrike today.

Note: This article was created with the assistance of an AI engine. It has been reviewed and revised by our team of experts to ensure accuracy and quality.

Wrike Team

Occasionally we write blog posts where multiple people contribute. Since our idea of having a gladiator arena where contributors would fight to the death to win total authorship wasn’t approved by HR, this was the compromise.

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Key Sales Pipeline Metrics to Monitor for Business Success

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Catalyzing Business Growth: Strategies for Expansion

Catalyzing Business Growth: Strategies for Expansion

Expanding a business is an exciting and challenging endeavor. It requires careful planning, strategic thinking, and a deep understanding of the market. In this article, we will explore the key strategies for business expansion and how to catalyze growth effectively. Whether you are a small startup or an established company, these strategies will provide valuable insights into achieving your growth goals. Understanding Business Expansion Business expansion offers numerous benefits, such as increased market share, higher revenues, and improved brand recognition. It allows businesses to tap into new markets, gain a competitive edge, and attract a larger customer base. However, expanding without a well-thought-out plan can be risky and may lead to financial instability. Therefore, it is essential to carefully consider all aspects of expansion before embarking on this journey. The Importance of Business Growth Vital for long-term success and sustainability: Stay ahead of the competition, adapt to changing market trends, and take advantage of new opportunities. Attract potential investors and strategic partnerships.  Improves company culture: Boost employee morale and provide career advancement opportunities. Platform for innovation and creativity: With a larger customer base, you have the opportunity to gather valuable feedback and insights, enabling you to refine your products or services and meet the evolving needs of your target audience. Access to new markets and geographical locations: Diversify your customer base and reduce dependency on a single market. Establish a global presence and build a strong network of partners and suppliers, facilitating further growth and expansion. Key Factors in Business Expansion Several key factors play a crucial role in successful business expansion: Market Demand: Before expanding, assess the market demand for your products or services. Conduct market research and analyze customer preferences and buying patterns to confirm that there is a sustainable demand in the new market. Identify potential gaps in the market that your business can fill, offering unique value propositions to attract customers. Competitive Analysis: Understand the competitive landscape in the target market. Identify key competitors and analyze their strengths and weaknesses. This analysis will help you position your organization and differentiate it from the competition. Develop a compelling value proposition that highlights your unique selling points and conveys why customers should choose your business over others. Operational Capacity: Evaluate your operational capacity to handle expansion. Verify that you have the necessary infrastructure, resources, and systems in place to meet the increased demand without compromising product quality or customer service. Consider factors such as production capacity, supply chain management, and distribution channels. Implement scalable processes and invest in technology that can support your growth objectives. Financial Planning: Expansion requires significant financial resources. Develop a comprehensive financial plan that includes projected revenues, expenses, and cash flow forecasts. Assess your funding options, such as internal sources (retained earnings) or external sources (loans, investments). Consider the potential risks and uncertainties associated with expansion and have contingency plans in place to mitigate them. Talent Acquisition and Development: Expanding your business may require additional workforce. Evaluate your current talent pool and identify any skill gaps that need to be filled. Develop a recruitment strategy to attract and hire qualified individuals who align with your company's values and objectives. Additionally, invest in training and development programs to upskill existing employees and ensure they are equipped to handle new responsibilities and challenges. Formulating a Strategic Plan for Growth Expanding a business requires careful planning and consideration of various factors. In order to oversee a smooth and successful expansion, it is important to set clear business objectives and conduct a thorough analysis of the internal and external environment. Setting Clear Business Objectives Clearly define your business objectives for expansion. Are you aiming to penetrate a new market, launch new products, or expand geographically? Remember to consider the current market conditions, customer demands, and competitive landscape. Conducting a SWOT Analysis Identify internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats. This analysis will help you capitalize on your strengths, address weaknesses, seize opportunities, and mitigate potential risks. Remember to involve key stakeholders from different departments within your organization, for a holistic view of your business and access to diverse perspectives.  During the analysis, consider your company's strengths, such as a strong brand reputation, talented workforce, or innovative products. These strengths can be leveraged to gain a competitive advantage in the new market or industry segment you are targeting. Identifying weaknesses is equally important, as it allows you to address any internal limitations that may hinder your expansion efforts. This could include areas such as outdated technology, lack of skilled personnel, or inefficient processes.  Opportunities and threats in the external environment should also be carefully evaluated. This could include emerging market trends, changes in consumer behavior, or new technological advancements. Similarly, by recognizing potential threats, such as increased competition or economic downturns, you can develop strategies to mitigate their impact. Financial Considerations for Business Expansion Expanding a business requires sound financial planning to guarantee long-term viability and success. Consider the following financial aspects when formulating your expansion strategy: Budgeting for Growth Develop a detailed budget that accounts for all expansion-related expenses, such as marketing campaigns, additional staff recruitment and training, infrastructure investments, and increased operational costs. Verify that your projected revenue growth aligns with your planned expenses. When creating your budget, consider both short-term and long-term financial goals. Short-term goals may include immediate expenses related to the expansion, while long-term goals may involve planning for future growth and sustainability. Additionally, factor in potential risks and uncertainties that may impact your financial projections. Conducting a thorough risk assessment can help you identify and mitigate potential financial challenges, so that your budget remains realistic and achievable. Exploring Financing Options Consider various financing options to fund your expansion. These may include bank loans, venture capital, crowdfunding, or seeking partnerships with strategic investors. Carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each option to determine the most suitable financing strategy for your business. When exploring financing options, assess your business's current financial health and creditworthiness. Lenders and investors will evaluate your financial statements, credit history, and cash flow to determine the level of risk associated with providing funds. Furthermore, seek professional advice from financial experts, such as accountants or financial advisors, who can guide you through the process and help you make informed decisions. They can assist in analyzing the financial implications of different financing options and provide recommendations based on your specific business needs. Remember that securing financing for expansion is not just about obtaining the necessary funds; it also involves understanding the terms and conditions associated with each financing option. Consider factors such as interest rates, repayment terms, collateral requirements, and potential impact on your business's ownership and control. Lastly, maintaining open communication with potential lenders or investors is crucial. Clearly articulate your expansion plans, demonstrate your business's growth potential, and provide a comprehensive financial proposal that highlights the expected return on investment. Building trust and credibility with financial stakeholders can increase your chances of securing the necessary funds for your business expansion. Human Resources and Business Growth Efficiently managing human resources is crucial during business expansion, as shown by the factors below. Staffing for Expansion Assessing the current workforce is not only about identifying the need for additional staff members, but also about evaluating the existing employees' potential for growth and development. By recognizing the talent within the organization, businesses can provide opportunities for internal promotions and career advancement. This not only motivates employees but also fosters loyalty and commitment to the company. When hiring new employees, take into account diversity and inclusion. By creating a diverse workforce, businesses can benefit from a wide range of perspectives, experiences, and ideas. This can lead to increased innovation, creativity, and problem-solving capabilities, which are essential for business growth. Training and Development for Growth Investing in training and development programs is crucial to making sure that employees have the necessary skills and knowledge to support the expanded operations. By providing continuous learning opportunities, businesses can enhance the capabilities of their workforce, leading to higher productivity and better customer service. Training programs can include a variety of methods, such as workshops, seminars, online courses, and on-the-job training. These initiatives can focus on developing technical skills, leadership abilities, communication skills, and other competencies that are essential for business growth. Moreover, businesses can also consider partnering with external training providers or educational institutions to offer specialized programs tailored to their specific industry or market. By providing employees with access to industry-leading training, businesses can stay ahead of the competition and see to it that their workforce remains up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices. Marketing Strategies for Business Expansion Effective marketing strategies are essential for creating brand awareness and driving customer acquisition during business expansion. Branding and Expansion Review and refine your brand strategy to align with the expanded market and target audience. Confirm that your brand positioning, messaging, and visual identity convey the unique value proposition of your business in a way that resonates with the new market. Digital Marketing for Growth Leverage the power of digital marketing channels to reach your target audience and generate leads. Invest in search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, content marketing, and targeted online advertising to expand your reach and drive traffic to your website or physical location. Catalyze Your Business Growth with Wrike Business growth requires effective strategies and the right tools. With Wrike, you can easily manage your growth strategies. Wrike allows you to create individual folders for each growth initiative, serving as a central hub for all relevant information and updates, fostering effective growth management. Beyond just growth management, Wrike offers a comprehensive suite of tools designed to streamline your workflows, foster collaboration, and drive productivity. From real-time communication to intuitive task management features, Wrike provides everything you need to catalyze your business growth and drive expansion. Ready to catalyze your business growth and drive expansion? There's no better time to start than now. Get started with Wrike for free today. Note: This article was created with the assistance of an AI engine. It has been reviewed and revised by our team of experts to ensure accuracy and quality.


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Writing the Research Plan for Your Academic Job Application

By Jason G. Gillmore, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, Hope College, Holland, MI

A research plan is more than a to-do list for this week in lab, or a manila folder full of ideas for maybe someday—at least if you are thinking of a tenure-track academic career in chemistry at virtually any bachelor’s or higher degree–granting institution in the country. A perusal of the academic job ads in C&EN every August–October will quickly reveal that most schools expect a cover letter (whether they say so or not), a CV, a teaching statement, and a research plan, along with reference letters and transcripts. So what is this document supposed to be, and why worry about it now when those job ads are still months away?

What Is a Research Plan?

A research plan is a thoughtful, compelling, well-written document that outlines your exciting, unique research ideas that you and your students will pursue over the next half decade or so to advance knowledge in your discipline and earn you grants, papers, speaking invitations, tenure, promotion, and a national reputation. It must be a document that people at the department you hope to join will (a) read, and (b) be suitably excited about to invite you for an interview.

That much I knew when I was asked to write this article. More specifics I only really knew for my own institution, Hope College (a research intensive undergraduate liberal arts college with no graduate program), and even there you might get a dozen nuanced opinions among my dozen colleagues. So I polled a broad cross-section of my network, spanning chemical subdisciplines at institutions ranging from small, teaching-centered liberal arts colleges to our nation’s elite research programs, such as Scripps and MIT. The responses certainly varied, but they did center on a few main themes, or illustrate a trend across institution types. In this article I’ll share those commonalities, while also encouraging you to be unafraid to contact a search committee chair with a few specific questions, especially for the institutions you are particularly excited about and feel might be the best fit for you.

How Many Projects Should You Have?

research plan of the

While more senior advisors and members of search committees may have gotten their jobs with a single research project, conventional wisdom these days is that you need two to three distinct but related projects. How closely related to one another they should be is a matter of debate, but almost everyone I asked felt that there should be some unifying technique, problem or theme to them. However, the projects should be sufficiently disparate that a failure of one key idea, strategy, or technique will not hamstring your other projects.

For this reason, many applicants wisely choose to identify:

  • One project that is a safe bet—doable, fundable, publishable, good but not earthshaking science.
  • A second project that is pie-in-the-sky with high risks and rewards.
  • A third project that fits somewhere in the middle.

Having more than three projects is probably unrealistic. But even the safest project must be worth doing, and even the riskiest must appear to have a reasonable chance of working.

How Closely Connected Should Your Research Be with Your Past?

Your proposed research must do more than extend what you have already done. In most subdisciplines, you must be sufficiently removed from your postdoctoral or graduate work that you will not be lambasted for clinging to an advisor’s apron strings. After all, if it is such a good idea in their immediate area of interest, why aren’t they pursuing it?!?

But you also must be able to make the case for why your training makes this a good problem for you to study—how you bring a unique skill set as well as unique ideas to this research. The five years you will have to do, fund, and publish the research before crafting your tenure package will go by too fast for you to break into something entirely outside your realm of expertise.

Biochemistry is a partial exception to this advice—in this subdiscipline it is quite common to bring a project with you from a postdoc (or more rarely your Ph.D.) to start your independent career. However, you should still articulate your original contribution to, and unique angle on the work. It is also wise to be sure your advisor tells that same story in his or her letter and articulates support of your pursuing this research in your career as a genuinely independent scientist (and not merely someone who could be perceived as his or her latest "flunky" of a collaborator.)

Should You Discuss Potential Collaborators?

Regarding collaboration, tread lightly as a young scientist seeking or starting an independent career. Being someone with whom others can collaborate in the future is great. Relying on collaborators for the success of your projects is unwise. Be cautious about proposing to continue collaborations you already have (especially with past advisors) and about starting new ones where you might not be perceived as the lead PI. Also beware of presuming you can help advance the research of someone already in a department. Are they still there? Are they still doing that research? Do they actually want that help—or will they feel like you are criticizing or condescending to them, trying to scoop them, or seeking to ride their coattails? Some places will view collaboration very favorably, but the safest route is to cautiously float such ideas during interviews while presenting research plans that are exciting and achievable on your own.

How Do You Show Your Fit?

Some faculty advise tailoring every application packet document to every institution to which you apply, while others suggest tweaking only the cover letter. Certainly the cover letter is the document most suited to introducing yourself and making the case for how you are the perfect fit for the advertised position at that institution. So save your greatest degree of tailoring for your cover letter. It is nice if you can tweak a few sentences of other documents to highlight your fit to a specific school, so long as it is not contrived.

Now, if you are applying to widely different types of institutions, a few different sets of documents will certainly be necessary. The research plan that you target in the middle to get you a job at both Harvard University and Hope College will not get you an interview at either! There are different realities of resources, scope, scale, and timeline. Not that my colleagues and I at Hope cannot tackle research that is just as exciting as Harvard’s. However, we need to have enough of a niche or a unique angle both to endure the longer timeframe necessitated by smaller groups of undergraduate researchers and to ensure that we still stand out. Furthermore, we generally need to be able to do it with more limited resources. If you do not demonstrate that understanding, you will be dismissed out of hand. But at many large Ph.D. programs, any consideration of "niche" can be inferred as a lack of confidence or ambition.

Also, be aware that department Web pages (especially those several pages deep in the site, or maintained by individual faculty) can be woefully out-of-date. If something you are planning to say is contingent on something you read on their Web site, find a way to confirm it!

While the research plan is not the place to articulate start-up needs, you should consider instrumentation and other resources that will be necessary to get started, and where you will go for funding or resources down the road. This will come up in interviews, and hopefully you will eventually need these details to negotiate a start-up package.

Who Is Your Audience?

Your research plan should show the big picture clearly and excite a broad audience of chemists across your sub-discipline. At many educational institutions, everyone in the department will read the proposal critically, at least if you make the short list to interview. Even at departments that leave it all to a committee of the subdiscipline, subdisciplines can be broad and might even still have an outside member on the committee. And the committee needs to justify their actions to the department at large, as well as to deans, provosts, and others. So having at least the introduction and executive summaries of your projects comprehensible and compelling to those outside your discipline is highly advantageous.

Good science, written well, makes a good research plan. As you craft and refine your research plan, keep the following strategies, as well as your audience in mind:

  • Begin the document with an abstract or executive summary that engages a broad audience and shows synergies among your projects. This should be one page or less, and you should probably write it last. This page is something you could manageably consider tailoring to each institution.
  • Provide sufficient details and references to convince the experts you know your stuff and actually have a plan for what your group will be doing in the lab. Give details of first and key experiments, and backup plans or fallback positions for their riskiest aspects.
  • Hook your readers with your own ideas fairly early in the document, then strike a balance between your own new ideas and the necessary well referenced background, precedents, and justification throughout. Propose a reasonable tentative timeline, if you can do so in no more than a paragraph or two, which shows how you envision spacing out the experiments within and among your projects. This may fit well into your executive summary
  • Show how you will involve students (whether undergraduates, graduate students, an eventual postdoc or two, possibly even high schoolers if the school has that sort of outreach, depending on the institutions to which you are applying) and divide the projects among students.
  • Highlight how your work will contribute to the education of these students. While this is especially important at schools with greater teaching missions, it can help set you apart even at research intensive institutions. After all, we all have to demonstrate “broader impacts” to our funding agencies!
  • Include where you will pursue funding, as well as publication, if you can smoothly work it in. This is especially true if there is doubt about how you plan to target or "market" your research. Otherwise, it is appropriate to hold off until the interview to discuss this strategy.

So, How Long Should Your Research Plan Be?

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Here is where the answers diverged the most and without a unifying trend across institutions. Bottom line, you need space to make your case, but even more, you need people to read what you write.

A single page abstract or executive summary of all your projects together provides you an opportunity to make the case for unifying themes yet distinct projects. It may also provide space to articulate a timeline. Indeed, many readers will only read this single page in each application, at least until winnowing down to a more manageable list of potential candidates. At the most elite institutions, there may be literally hundreds of applicants, scores of them entirely well-suited to the job.

While three to five pages per proposal was a common response (single spaced, in 11-point Arial or 12-point Times with one inch margins), including references (which should be accurate, appropriate, and current!), some of my busiest colleagues have said they will not read more than about three pages total. Only a few actually indicated they would read up to 12-15 pages for three projects. In my opinion, ten pages total for your research plans should be a fairly firm upper limit unless you are specifically told otherwise by a search committee, and then only if you have two to three distinct proposals.

Why Start Now?

Hopefully, this question has answered itself already! Your research plan needs to be a well thought out document that is an integrated part of applications tailored to each institution to which you apply. It must represent mature ideas that you have had time to refine through multiple revisions and a great deal of critical review from everyone you can get to read them. Moreover, you may need a few different sets of these, especially if you will be applying to a broad range of institutions. So add “write research plans” to this week’s to do list (and every week’s for the next few months) and start writing up the ideas in that manila folder into some genuine research plans. See which ones survive the process and rise to the top and you should be well prepared when the job ads begin to appear in C&EN in August!

research plan of the

Jason G. Gillmore , Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Hope College in Holland, MI. A native of New Jersey, he earned his B.S. (’96) and M.S. (’98) degrees in chemistry from Virginia Tech, and his Ph.D. (’03) in organic chemistry from the University of Rochester. After a short postdoctoral traineeship at Vanderbilt University, he joined the faculty at Hope in 2004. He has received the Dreyfus Start-up Award, Research Corporation Cottrell College Science Award, and NSF CAREER Award, and is currently on sabbatical as a Visiting Research Professor at Arizona State University. Professor Gillmore is the organizer of the Biennial Midwest Postdoc to PUI Professor (P3) Workshop co-sponsored by ACS, and a frequent panelist at the annual ACS Postdoc to Faculty (P2F) Workshops.

Other tips to help engage (or at least not turn off) your readers include:

  • Avoid two-column formats.
  • Avoid too-small fonts that hinder readability, especially as many will view the documents online rather than in print!
  • Use good figures that are readable and broadly understandable!
  • Use color as necessary but not gratuitously.

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10 Free Research Plan Templates for Teams and Professionals

February 13, 2024

Starting a new research project from scratch can feel overwhelming. Without the right tools and templates, you’re left with a blank page and no direction. With them, starting a new project or organizing an existing one feels like a breeze.

That’s why you need to build a library of the best research plan templates. And we’re here to help you do it.

Stick with us as we run through the benefits of using a research plan template and share some of our favorites—all designed to help make your research projects run like magic.

What is a Research Plan Template?

What makes a good research plan template, 1. clickup user research plan template, 2. clickup market research template, 3. clickup research whiteboard template, 4. clickup equity research report template, 5. clickup seo research & management template, 6. clickup research report template, 7. clickup data analysis findings template, 8. clickup personal swot analysis template, 9. clickup case study template, 10. clickup investigation report template, how to write a research plan.

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A research plan template is a document that’s designed to help you build the best research management plan possible. Instead of starting from scratch with a blank screen, a research plan document gives you the building blocks to fill in—so you won’t miss anything important.

There are a lot of solid research plan documents out there—covering everything from UX research (user experience) to case study templates . These templates can be helpful for any team, whether you’re working on product development prototypes or research objectives for a marketing project. They’re especially helpful for product design , UX research, and project management teams.

Some of the most popular research plan templates include:

  • UX research plan templates
  • Usability testing research templates
  • Data analysis findings templates
  • Project proposal templates
  • Case study templates
  • Research process templates
  • Market research templates
  • Competitive analysis templates
  • Request for proposal templates

Each is there to guide you towards collecting, reviewing, and reporting on your research in a more strategic and organized way. Think of the research plan as your helpful research buddy—there to make things easier, provide guidance, and help you ace your project execution .

We’re all looking for something different when it comes to project templates. You might favor simplicity and order, while another team might prefer a more creative approach with lots of color and prompts.

Even though your needs are unique, there are some elements that almost always make a research plan template stand out above all the rest.

The best research plan templates:

  • Keep you and your product team organized
  • Help you standardize the research process and research method you use 
  • Keep you focused on the key project goals and deliverables
  • Give you suggestions for metrics to record and analyze
  • Help you keep your research questions in one place
  • Help you stay on target with your project timeline
  • Give you a defined place to store your thoughts and research findings

There’s no one perfect template for any individual or team. Consider what your purpose or goal is, what your project management workstreams look like, and which areas you need the most support or guidance in. This will help you choose which templates to feature and how you can use wiki software to build a collection of your go-to templates.

10 Research Plan Templates to Use in 2024

There are hundreds of research plan templates out there, but they’re not all alike. Some of them bring out the best of your project management skills , while others hinder them.

We’ve brought together the best of the best, to share with you the ultimate list of research plan templates to add to your workflow this year. Want to know what’s even better? You don’t need to get buy-in for an expensive pricing plan—these templates are all free!

ClickUp User Research Plan Template

One of the first things that comes to mind when you say “research plan template” is user research. For development and project teams, this is one step of the process where strategy and staying organized is essential.

The User Research Plan Template by ClickUp makes it easy for you to achieve that and more. There’s space to share your project overview and research goals, research objectives, hypotheses, and more—plus a bonus Interview Research Debrief doc.

This template acts as a central resource for all the stakeholders. Use it to bring your team together, reaffirm your goals and objectives, and stay on track as you execute your qualitative research project.

Bonus: UX design tools !

ClickUp Market Research Template

Planning your market research is a must-have if you want to get the best possible data. Give your team everything they need in one place and it helps your process run smoothly.

To help keep your team informed and ready to go, we developed the Market Research Template by ClickUp . It’s a Task template that brings you key information, all in one place.

Our Market Research Template features five custom fields—a research presentation link, market research type, report document link, data collection technique, and research stage. Add your clickable links, and use the dropdowns to assign the correct stage or type as you progress.

ClickUp Research Whiteboard Template

You can collect user research in so many ways. Questionnaires, user interviews, focus groups, user research sessions, or social media. Another super engaging way to do this is with a whiteboard.

Collaboration and user research feels interactive and fun with the Research Whiteboard Template by ClickUp . Encourage your team to share the insights they’ve collected in this highly visual template, with digital sticky notes instead of empty white boxes.

Use this ClickUp whiteboard template as a more engaging way to view your user research. You can also use this as a tool for internal research projects—invite your stakeholders by link and ask them to comment directly.

ClickUp Equity Research Report Template

If you’re in the business of advising investors on what to do with their money, an equity report is a must-have. Instead of manually writing a new report every time, a research plan template can help you shortcut the process and get straight to the details.

Enter the Equity Research Report Template by ClickUp . It’s designed to help you share what you know in a more strategic way. Share an insight into the company overview, management team, performance, market valuation, and recommendations.

This research plan template has everything you need to present your findings to investors in an organized and effective way. Look like a pro to your investor clients and partners, and store all your data in a meaningful way to reflect on later.

ClickUp SEO Research & Management Template

Staying on top of your company’s SEO performance is no easy task. There are so many moving parts, tools, projects, goals, and team members that you need a way to stay organized and productive.

Luckily for you, the SEO Research & Management Template by ClickUp is here to help simplify the process—and make you look good to your boss. This Folder template gives you a dedicated place to work on your SEO goals, with SEO-related custom fields and plenty of custom task types to help your team communicate progress and see roadblocks in your research plan.

Use this template to see at a glance where your SEO projects are, so you can be more proactive about how your team is working. You can also dive in to details and understand time estimates, publish dates, and where your rankings are at.

Check out these AI SEO Tools !

ClickUp Research Report Template

There’s no need to start from scratch every time you’re asked to put a research report together—instead use a template to make all your research questions and study reports as impressive as the last one.

Shortcut your way to success with the Research Report Template by ClickUp . There are sections for your executive summary, introduction, research method and techniques, results & discussion, references, and appendices. Add a report author and contributors, so you can recognize everyone that contributed to the report.

Share your research methods, approach, and findings with stakeholders and clients with this impressive template. It’s a useful foundation to help your team get organized and find a better way to update stakeholders on progress.

ClickUp Data Analysis Findings Template

The Data Analysis Findings Template by ClickUp helps you present your data to everyone in a more meaningful way. Instead of presenting numbers and graphs, this template can help you go deeper into the problem statement, scope, analysis and research method, findings, and conclusion.

Use this template to help you organize your thoughts and communicate the results of your study in a transparent and easy-to-read way. Explain the context and background information alongside your approach, so your stakeholders can fully understand what the data shows.

ClickUp Personal SWOT Analysis Template

A personal SWOT analysis can help you understand your (or your team’s) strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This information can not only help you work better, but it means you can be more intentional about your impact on the wider company.

The Personal SWOT Analysis Template by ClickUp can help you remember to work on your SWOT analysis. Find your strengths, weaknesses or pain points, opportunities, and threats. This Task template features several custom fields designed to help you monitor your progress—including your objective, timeline, and completion rate.

This template can be a helpful reminder to focus on your personal SWOT analysis, so you can be more intentional and aware of how you contribute to your team and company’s goals and objectives. Use your personal SWOT to help you set professional goals for work and make a bigger impact.

ClickUp Case Study Template

Case studies give you a powerful insight into what your brands, clients, or competitors are doing. They’re an in-depth look into a specific area of the business, based on your personal research and findings.

Simplify the process of building your case studies with the Case Study Template by ClickUp . This template gives you a strong foundation for presenting clear, insightful case studies with your team, stakeholders, or clients. Introduce the company, your case study objective, solutions and statistics, and your insights.

Use this template to help you create case studies at scale. Present your data in a clear and concise way, with all the context your team or stakeholders need to extract the most value from the case study as possible.

ClickUp Investigation Report Template

Often our research helps us understand the market, our competitors, or what our own company is doing. Sometimes, it’s to help us understand incidents and challenges instead.

That’s where the Investigation Report Template by ClickUp comes in. This template is designed to help you report on accidents, complaints, incidents, and violations. Explain the case details including a summary and evidence, then move into cross-examination with space for interview questions and answers, and your conclusion.

This template is a must-have for teams and companies that want to demonstrate how they overcome challenges or handle incidents. It’s great for transparency and trust-building, and serves as a useful way to document a trail of evidence for when you need it.

Now that you have a template for your research plan, let’s dive into the details of how to write one. Follow these steps to create an effective research plan that will guide your research and help you achieve your goals.

Step 1: Identify Your Research Question

The first step in writing a research plan is to clearly define your research question or topic. This will serve as the foundation for all of your research and help guide your methods and analysis. Make sure your question is specific, relevant, and achievable within the scope of your project.

Step 2: Outline Your Objectives

Next, you should outline the specific objectives or goals of your research. These objectives should be aligned with your research question and provide a clear roadmap for your project. Be sure to make them measurable and achievable.

Step 3: Choose Your Research Methods

Based on your research question and objectives, you can now determine the appropriate methods for gathering data and conducting analysis. This may include surveys, experiments, interviews, or literature reviews. It’s important to choose methods that are suitable for your research topic and will provide reliable and accurate results.

Step 4: Create a Timeline

A research plan should include a detailed timeline for each stage of the project. This will help you stay on track and ensure that you have enough time to complete each task. Be realistic with your timeline and build in some buffer time for unexpected delays or challenges.

Step 5: Consider Ethical Implications

When conducting research, it’s important to consider any potential ethical implications. This may include obtaining consent from participants, ensuring privacy and confidentiality, or following ethical guidelines set by your institution or governing body.

Step 6: Anticipate Potential Outcomes

As with any research project, there are always potential outcomes that can arise. These could be both positive and negative, and it’s important to anticipate and plan for them. This will help you be prepared for any potential challenges or changes that may occur during your research.

Step 7: Revise and Refine Your Plan

Once you have completed the previous steps, it’s essential to review and revise your research plan as needed. It’s common for plans to change as the project progresses, so be open to making adjustments and tweaking your methods or timeline as needed.

Stay Organized with the Best Research Plan Templates

Nobody likes a disorganized project—especially a research project. Let your team breathe a sigh of relief and make your stakeholders smile when they realize you’ve got it all under control.

Use these free research plan templates to help you get organized, streamline your workflows, and keep everyone informed. Build a collection of templates that work for your projects, and make them a central part of the way you work as a team. Standardize, simplify, and get productive.

All of these research plan templates are available right now, for free, inside our template library . Get access to these user-friendly templates, 100MB of storage, 1,000+ integrations, and more with ClickUp—free now, and forever!

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Creating a Research Plan

Creating a Research Plan for a Science Project Before starting work on a science project, a research plan should be created. While many researchers merely do this “in their head”, it should be formally contained within a document. The research plan describes many aspects of the project. It will help both the researchers and mentors understand the overall approach that is planned for the project. The contents of this web page should serve as a guide for creating a research plan.

A written research plan should contain a description of the following. 1. The goals of the project 2. The hypothesis 3. The factors that will be studied 4. The responses (results) that will be observed 5. How the data will be analyzed and interpreted 6. The materials and equipment that will be used 7. The experimental methods (procedure) that will be used 8. The facilities where the work will be done 9. How the research plan might change 10. Summary

11. A bibliography that includes at least five major references.

NOTE : Steps 1-5 are focused on setting up the overall ideas and objectives. Steps 6-8 are focused on the specifics of the experimentation, such as what, how, and where the experimentation will be performed. Steps 9-11 are important for anyone looking over the project, but are particularly important if you are applying for pre-approval because it gives those reviewing the application a better sense of how well the planning was done.

The Goals of the Project A description of the goals of the project should be a general discussion of the project. What will be studied? Why is it of interest? What do you hope to learn? This will set the stage for the rest of the research plan.

The Hypothesis Here is where the scientific hypothesis is laid out. A proposal is made about the factors to be studied and how they might affect the responses of interest. For example, a hypothesis about the growth of maple tree saplings might start with: “We believe that recently-sprouted maple tree saplings will have their growth stunted by excessive exposure to ultraviolet light.” From here, the hypothesis is discussed in enough detail for the reader to understand exactly what is being proposed about the state of the natural world that you hope to either prove or disprove.

The Factors That Will Be Studied In this section, you will spell out which factors will be studied in your research project as well as those that will be held constant. The factors that you study are the ones that you vary in a controlled fashion in order to explore the hypothesis. The factors that are held constant are factors that you do not want to affect the outcome of your experiment. A perfect example of these two kinds of factors at work would be growing plants in a greenhouse. The factors that are varied (for example, adding nutrients to the soil) will have the best chance of being the ones that affect the plants’ growth. By using a greenhouse, the factors that you do not wish to affect the outcome of your experiment (such as exposure of the plants to wind, rain, or animals) will not have a chance to affect the outcome.

The Responses (Results) That Will Be Observed The response is the result you observe as the output of your experiments. An observation may be qualitative (for example, a change of color) or quantitative (for example, a change in height determined by a measurement). In a chemical experiment the product of the reaction is the response. A botanical experiment might have the change in height of the plant or the number of leaves on the plant at the end of the growing period as the response. Mention should be made if you plan to get assistance in measuring your response by using an outside expert in the field of study.

How the Data Will Be Analyzed and Interpreted This section should discuss how the responses (results) will be treated in order to make conclusions about your work. How will the data be compared in order to make a conclusion? Will an average response be calculated? Standard deviation? Will a visual examination of the experiments be used as the basis of the data analysis? Include any details that will help the reader understand how the responses that were observed will be turned into understandable conclusions about your project.

The Materials and Equipment That Will Be Used In this part, the materials (expendables) and equipment that will be used for the science project are discussed. Will the materials be collected from nature? Will they be purchased from a scientific supply house? Will you use special glassware that is provided by your school? Describe the materials and equipment in enough detail so that someone can understand how they will be used in your science project.

The Experimental Methods (Procedure) That Will Be Used This section will cover how you will carry out your experiments. You will describe the methods (procedures) that you will use during your experiments. For example, a chemistry project might involve running a reaction and measuring the yield of a chemical that you make. The description would include how the chemical reaction will be run in special glassware and how the work up will isolate the product. You would also describe how the yield will be measured, such as weighing the resultant product on a balance. At the end of this section of the research plan, the reader should understand the general work flow of your experiments and how they will be run.

The Facilities Where the Work Will be Done Describe where the experiments will be done. Your home? Your school? A special laboratory? Give enough detail for the reader to understand where you will work on your science project.

How the Research Plan Might Change A research plan is just that, a plan! Plans don’t always proceed exactly as you envisioned them. If you have thought about changes that might need to be made as you are running your experiments, mention them here. This will indicate that you have thought about your work in great depth and are prepared to adjust accordingly.

Summary For this section, provide a general summary of your research plan. Tell the reader what you hope to accomplish and how you will do it.


Provide at least five major references that relate to the project.  This helps reviewers to understand better the depth of research that has been done in preparation for doing the research project.

2024 Fair results!

What a great fair!  The 2024 NHSEE fair was held on March 14, and we’re already looking forward to the 2025 fair – we hope you are too.

You can see the complete list of awards here. Besides the trophies and medals, we awarded a number of Special Awards provided by companies and associations that love helping students get and stay excited by science, and scholarships to the New Hampshire Academy of Science (NHAS) summer program .  Check out the list!

In the meantime, start thinking of an amazing project for 2025, how you can help a student with one, or how you can help the NHSEE 2025 fair. Judge, volunteer, sponsor? Let us know!

See the results here - Who won? We are ISEF Affiliated! Mentors Available -->

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The value of a good research plan

research plan of the

A research plan is a guiding framework that can make or break the efficiency and success of your research project. Oftentimes teams avoid them because they’ve earned a reputation as a dry or actionless document — however, this doesn’t have to be the case.

In this article, we’ll go over the most important aspects of a good research plan and show you how they can be visual and actionable with Work OS.

Don’t miss more quality content!

Why is the research plan pivotal to a research project.

A research plan is pivotal to a research project because it identifies and helps define your focus, method, and goals while also outlining the research project from start to finish.

This type of plan is often necessary to:

  • Apply for grants or internal company funding.
  • Discover possible research partners or business partners.
  • Take your research from an idea into reality.

It will also control the entire journey of the research project through every stage by defining crucial research questions and the hypothesis (theory) that you’ll strive to prove or disprove.

What goes into a research plan?

The contents of a thorough research plan should include a hypothesis, methodology, and more. There is some variation between academic and commercial research, but these are common elements:

  • Hypothesis:  the problem you are trying to solve and the basis for a theoretical solution. For example, if I reduce my intake of calories, I’ll lose weight.
  • Research questions: research questions help guide your investigation into particular issues. If you were looking into the potential impact of outsourcing production, you might ask something like: how would outsourcing impact our production costs?
  • Research method: the method you’ll use to get the data for your research. For example, a case study, survey, interviews, a clinical trial, or user tests.
  • Definitions: a glossary for the research plan, explaining the terminology that you use throughout the document.
  • Conceptual frameworks:  a conceptual framework helps illustrate what you think you’ll discover with your research. In a sense, it’s a visual representation of a more complex hypothesis.

For commercial plans, there will also likely be a budget and timeline estimate, as well as concrete hypothetical benefits for the company (such as how much money the project should save you).

OK, so you’ve got a handle on the building blocks of a research plan, but how should you actually write it?

How do you write a research plan on

The first, and perhaps most crucial part of having a good research plan is having the right medium for creating and sharing it. Using a pre-defined template can also make it much easier to get started.

On, you can choose from several templates like the Project Proposal Template or better yet the Research Power Tools Template to manage all aspects of your project including important communication with internal and external stakeholders and teammates.

Use your template to:

  • Create workdocs
  • Upload assets
  • Provide feedback
  • Assign task owners
  • Automate communication

The next step in writing a research plan is choosing the topic. To pick the right topic, focus on these factors:

  • What are the priorities of the potential funder/employer, such as the company or institution?
  • Are there any relevant recent studies with results you can build on and explore with further research?
  • Can you creatively adapt your experience — whether post-grad or professional — to make you the natural candidate? They don’t just need to believe in the research project, but also in your ability to manage it successfully.

Do your research, no pun intended. Once you’ve got the topic, you need to work on fleshing out the core ideas with the building blocks we mentioned above.

  • Get specific with your research questions and goals. Don’t go with, “how can we revolutionize our HR practices?” Instead use, “what is the economic and environmental impact of only accepting digital CVs?”
  • Use clear language aimed at gatekeepers.  If it’s a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) or a lab committee, you can use well-known technical terms. If they aren’t technical experts, adjust accordingly.
  • Include preliminary data or highlight similar studies.  For companies, showing that a similar approach helped a competitor is a better argument than an empty assertion.

The recommended length of the plan depends on who you’re sending it to and their expectations. If possible, look at successful examples or directly ask your potential employers about their preferences. Not only do you need the right idea, but you also need to present it in the right way for your research project to have a fighting chance.

What is a good research plan?

A good research plan is one that gets accepted and funded to start doing the research.

If you want to plan a pivotal study, it’s not enough to consider the problem in a vacuum. You also need to evaluate how you can best communicate the value of your project to the gatekeepers.

Consider the entirety of your current situation and what that means for your project.

For example, inputs like funding, staff, IP, and how the scale of the project lines up with your company’s research budget. Or how it aligns with the goals of a University program. If the primary goal of the research is to impact a company or government agency directly, you should consider these stages of research engagement.

Flowchart of research engagement

( Image Source )

  • Inputs: anything from funding and staff to company IP that you need to both run the project and implement any results. Does this line up with the budget?
  • Activities: case studies, trials, surveys, the actual research.
  • Outputs: the final reports, any publications, and raw data.
  • Outcome: how will it directly impact the company, organization, or larger society?
  • Impacts: what are the indirect benefits or downsides?

In an internal research proposal, you can outline these aspects in separate sections. That allows different execs or managers to focus on the details that matter most to them. You must also work to engage stakeholders  and make sure that they understand the importance of your project.

Frequently asked questions

What are the 5 purposes of research.

The 2 primary purposes of research are to gather information or test an existing theory. When broken down further, you can see 5 more specific purposes:

  • Exploratory research  is an early-stage inquiry that explores a topic for further study down the line, like exploring the deep ocean with a submersible vehicle.
  • Descriptive research  aims to explore and describe a specific substance, person, or phenomenon.
  • Explanatory research  is about figuring out the causal relationship, why something happens.
  • Predictive research  is all about trying to predict what might happen in specific situations based on the properties of the research object.
  • Meta-research  looks for overarching insights from multiple sources and tests the validity of common hypotheses.

What is a research work plan?

A research work plan is another name for a research plan, which is a critical component of any research proposal. Universities, labs, and companies use them to evaluate research projects before they decide to accept them.

As a researcher, it’s essential when targeting a funding opportunity of any kind.

What are the methods of research?

There are many research methods ranging from a simple online survey to a high-budget clinical study. Here are some examples of popular data collection methods:

  • Clinical trials
  • Experiments
  • Case studies
  • Observations

Which one is right for your plan depends on your hypothesis, goals, industry regulations, and more.

Create a dynamic research plan

If you want to turn your research project into a reality, you need to go beyond the academic and into management mode.

With a template from, you can plan out a research project from start to finish. Including goals and objectives, budget estimates, milestones, and more.

Send this article to someone who’d like it.


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Developing a Five-Year Research Plan

Cathy binger and lizbeth finestack, doi: 10.1044/cred-pvd-path006.

The following is a transcript of the presentation videos, edited for clarity.

What Is a Research Plan, and Why Do You Need One?

Presented by Cathy Binger

research plan of the

First we’re going to talk about what a research plan is, why it’s important to write one, and why five years—why not one year, why not ten years. So we’ll do some of those basic things, then Liza is going to get down and dirty into the nitty-gritty of “now what” how do I go about writing that research plan.

research plan of the

First of all, what is a research plan? I’m sure some of you have taken a stab at these already. In case you haven’t, this is a real personalized map that relates your projects to goals. It’s exactly what it sounds like, it’s a plan of how you’re going to go about doing your research. It doesn’t necessarily just include research.

It’s something that you need to put a little time and effort into in the beginning. And then, if you don’t revisit it, it’s really a useless document. It’s something that you need to come back to repeatedly, at least annually, and you need to make it visible. So it’s not a document that sits around and once a year you pull it out and look at it.

It can and should be designed, especially initially, with the help of a mentor or colleague. And it does serve multiple purposes, with different lengths and different amounts of detail.

I forgot to say, too, getting started, the slides for this talk were started using as a jumping off point Ray Kent’s talk from last year. So some of the slides we’ve borrowed from him, so many thanks to him for that.

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But why do we want to do a research plan? Well, to me the big thing is the vision. Dr. Barlow talked this morning about your line of research and really knowing where you want to go, and this is where that shows up with all the nuts and bolts in place.

What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to contribute? Most of you are at the stage in your career where maybe you have started out with that you want to change the world scenario and realized that whatever you wanted your first research project to be, really, is your entire career. You need to get that down to the point where it is manageable projects that you can do—this is where you map out what those projects are and set reasonable timelines for that.

You want to really demonstrate your independent thinking and your own creativity, whatever that is that you then establish as a PhD student, postdoc, and beyond—this is where you come back to, okay, here’s how I’m going to go about achieving all of that.

This next point, learning to realistically gauge how long it takes to achieve each goal, this for most of us is a phenomenally challenging thing to do. Most of us really overestimate what we can do in a certain amount of time, and we learn the hard way that you can’t, and that’s another reason why you keep coming back to these plans repeatedly and learning over time what’s really manageable, what’s really doable, so we can still reach our goals and be very strategic about how we do that.

When you’re not strategic, you just don’t meet the goals. Your time gets sucked into so many different things. We need to be really practical and strategic.

Everything we do is going to take longer than we think.

I think this last one is something that maybe we don’t talk about enough. Really being honest with ourselves about the role of research in our lives. Not all of you are at very high-level research universities. Some of you have chosen to go elsewhere, where research maybe isn’t going to be playing the same role as it is for other people. The research plan for someone at an R One research intensive university is going to look quite different from someone who is at a primary teaching university. We need to be open and practical about that.

research plan of the

Getting sidetracked. I love this picture, I just found this picture the other day. This feels like my life. You can get pulled in so many different directions once you are a professor. You will get asked to do a thousand different things. There are lots of great opportunities that are out there. Especially initially, it’s tempting to say yes to all of them. But if you’re going to be productive, you have to be very strategic. I’m going to be a little bit sexist against my own sex here for a minute, but my observation has been that women tend to fall into this a little bit more than men do in wanting to say yes and be people pleasers for everything that comes down the pike.

It is a professional skill to learn how to say no. And to do that in such a way that you are not burning bridges as you go down the path. That is a critical skill if you are going to be a successful researcher. I can’t tell you how many countless people I’ve seen who are very bright, very dedicated, have the skills that it takes in terms of doing the work—but then they are not successful because they’ve gotten sidetracked and they try to be too much of a good citizen, give too much service to the department, too much “sure I’ll take on that extra class” or whatever else comes down the line.

I just spoke with a professor recently who had something like five hours a week of office hours scheduled every single week for one class. Margaret is shaking her head like “are you kidding?” That’s crazy stuff. But he wanted to really support his students. His students loved him, but he was not going to get tenure. That’s the story.

So we have to be very thoughtful and strategic, and what can help you with this, and ASHA very firmly recognizes which is why we’re here—is that your mentors in your life should be there to help you learn these skills and learn what to say yes to, and learn what to say no to. I’ve learned to say things like, “Let me check with my mentor before I agree to that.” And it gives you a way out of that. The line that I use a lot is, “Let me check with my department head” or, I just said this to somebody last week, “I just promised my department head two weeks ago that I would only do X number of external workshops this year, so I’m going to have to turn this one down.” Those are really important skills to develop.

And having that research plan in place that you can go back to and say, know what, it’s not on my plan I can’t do it. If I do it—I have to go back to my research plan and figure out what I’m going to kick off in order to review this extra paper, in order to take on this extra task. The plan also helps me to know exactly what to say no to. And to be very direct and have a very strong visual.

I actually have my research plan up on a giant whiteboard in my office, so I can always go back to that and see where I am, and I can say, “Okay, what am I going to kick off of here? Nothing. Okay, I have to say no to whatever comes up.” Just be strategic. This is where I see most beginning professors really end up taking that wrong fork in the road—taking that right instead of that left, and ending up not being the successful researcher that they wanted to be.

research plan of the

What evidence supports research planning? This was something Ray Kent had found. That a recent analysis had found that postdoc scholars who developed a written plan with their postdoc advisers were much more productive than those who didn’t. And your performance during a postdoc—and I know many of you have either finished your postdoc or decided not to—so more simply, just during those first six years, the decisions you make really do establish the foundation for the rest of your professional life. It’s very important to get started and get off on the right foot.

research plan of the

I love this quote, I just found it the other day: “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”

research plan of the

What we see with productivity is that postdoc scholars who developed written productivity expectations with their advisers were more productive than those who didn’t. You see 23% more papers submitted, 30% more first-author papers, and more grant proposals as well.

research plan of the

So why five years? I’m going to start with number 5. It’s long enough to build a program of research, but short enough to deal with changing circumstances. That’s really the long and the short of the matter. As well as these other things as well that I won’t take the time to go through point by point.

What Should a Five-Year Plan Include?

Presented by Lizbeth Finestack

research plan of the

So, thinking about a five-year research plan, I like to think about it like your major “To Do List.” It’s what you’re going to accomplish in five years. Start thinking: What is going to be on my to do list?

research plan of the

You can also think about it like: Okay, I have research. I’ve got to do research. Maybe think about this as one big bucket, or maybe one humongous silo. I have some farm themes going on. Cathy was just on a farm, so I thought I’d tie that in.

So here’s your big silo. You can call that your research silo.

research plan of the

But more realistically, you need to think about it like separate buckets, separate silos, where research is just one of those. Just like Cathy indicated, there’s going to be lots of other things coming up that you’re going to have to manage. They are going to have to be on your to do list, you need to figure out how to fit everything in.

What all those other buckets or silos are, are really going to depend on your job. And maybe the size of the silos, and the size of the buckets are going to vary depending on where you are, what the expectations are at your institution.

That’s important to keep in mind, and Cathy said this too, it’s not going to be the same for everyone. The five-year plan has to be your plan, your to do list.

research plan of the

Here are some buckets or some silos that I have on my list and the way that I break it up, this is just one example, take it or leave it.

The first three are all very closely related, right? Thinking about grants, thinking about research, thinking about publications. I’m going to define grants as actual writing, getting the grant, getting the money.

Research is what you’re going to do once you get that money. Steps you need to take before you are getting the money. Any sorts of projects, the lab work, that’s why I have the lab picture there. Of course, publications are part of the product—what’s coming out of the research—but it also cycles in because you need publications to support that you are a researcher to apply for funding and show you have this line of research that you’ve established and you’ll be able to continue. So, those first three are really closely related. And that’s where I’ll go next. And then have teaching and service you see here at the bottom.

research plan of the

So thinking about research, in that broad sense. As you’re writing your five-year plan you’re going to want to think of, “What’s my long-term goal?” There’s lots of ways to think of long-term goals. You could think, before I die, this is what I want to accomplish. For me I kind of have that. My long-term goal is that I’m going to find the most effective and efficient interventions for kids with language impairment. Huge broad goal. But within that I can start narrowing it down.

Where am I within that? Within the next five years or maybe the next ten years, what is it I want to accomplish towards that goal. Then start thinking about: In order to accomplish that goal, what are the steps I need to take? Starting to break it down a little bit. Then it’s also going to be really important to think: where are you going to start? Where are you now? What do you need to have happen? And is it reasonable to accomplish this goal within five years? Is it going to take longer? Maybe you could do it in a couple years? Start thinking about the timeline that’s going to work for you.

research plan of the

Then thinking about your goals—and everyone’s program is going to be different, like I said, there’s going to be a lot of individual needs, preferences. So it might be the case that you have this one long-term goal that you’re aiming for. Long-term goal in the sense of, maybe, what you want to study in your R01, perhaps something like that. But in order to get to that point, you’re going to have several short-term goals that need to be accomplished.

research plan of the

Or maybe it’s the case that you have two long-term goals. And with each of those you’re going to have multiple short-term goals that you’re working on. Maybe the scope of each of these long-term goals is a little bit less than in that first scenario.

Start thinking about my research, what I want to do, and how it might fit into these different circumstances.

research plan of the

Also thinking about your goals, this is a slide from Ray Kent from last year, was thinking about the different types of projects you might want to pursue, and thinking about ones that are definitely well on your way. They are safe bets. You have some funding. They are going to lead directly into your longer-term plan.

Those are going to be your front burner—things you can easily focus on. That said, don’t put everything there.

You can also have things on the back burner. Things that really excite you, might have huge benefits, big pay. But you don’t want to spend all of your time there because they could be pretty risky.

Start thinking about where you’re putting your time. Are you putting it all on this high-risk thing that if it doesn’t pan out you’re going to be in big trouble? Or balancing that somewhat with your front burner. Making that steady progress that will lead directly to help fund an R01 or whatever the mechanism that you’re looking for.

research plan of the

Then, thinking about your goals—if you have multiple long-term goals, or thinking about your short-term goals, you could think about your process. Is it something where you need to do study 1 then study 2, then study 3—each of those building on each other, that’s leading to that long-term goal. In many cases, that is the case, where you have to get information from the first study which is going to lead directly to the second study and so forth.

research plan of the

Or is it the case that you can be working on these three short-term goals simultaneously? Spreading your resources at the same time. Maybe it will take longer for any one study, but across a longer period of time you’ll get the information that you need to reach that long-term goal.

Lots and lots of different ways to go about it. The important thing is to think about what your needs are and what makes the most sense for you.

research plan of the

Here’s my own little personal example. Starting over here, I have my dissertation study. My dissertation study was this early efficacy study looking at one treatment approach using novel forms that really can’t generalize to anything too useful, but it was important.

Then I did a follow up study, where I was taking that same paradigm, looking to see where kids with typical development perform on the task. So I have these two studies, and they served as my preliminary studies for an R03. So I just finished an R03 where I was looking at different treatment approaching for kids with primary language impairment. At the same time, while conducting my R03, I’m also looking at some different approaches that might help with language development. Also conducting surveys to see what current practices are.

I have these three projects going on simultaneously, that are going to lead to a bigger pilot study that are going to feed directly into my R01. All of this will serve as preliminary data to go into an R01.

Start thinking about your projects, what you have. Maybe starting with your dissertation project or work that you’re doing as a postdoc as seeing how that can feed into your long-term goal. And really utilizing it, building on it, to your benefit.

research plan of the

That’s all fine and dandy. You can draw these great pictures. But you still have to break it down some more. It’s not like, “Oh, I’m just going to do this project.” There are other steps involved, and lots of the time these steps are going to be just as time consuming.

Starting to think about: well, if you have the funding. Saying, “I want to do this study, but I have no money to do it.” What are the steps in order to get the money to do it? Do you have a pilot study? What do you need?

Start thinking about the resources? Do you need to develop stimuli, protocols, procedures? Start working on that. All of these can be very time consuming, and if you don’t jump on that immediately, it’s going to delay when you can start that project.

Thinking about IRB. Relationships for recruitment, if you’re working with special populations especially? Do you have necessary personnel, grad students, people to help you with the project? Do you need to train them? What’s the timeline of the study?

Start thinking about all these pieces, and how they are going to fit in that timeline.

research plan of the

This is one way that might help you start thinking about the resources that you need. This is online—Ray Kent had it in his talk, and when I was doing my searches I came across it too and I have the website at the end. Just different ways to think about the resources you might need.

research plan of the

Let’s talk about mapping it out. You have your long-term goal. You have your short-term goals. You’re breaking it down thinking about all those little steps that you need to accomplish. We gotta put it on a calendar. When is it going to happen?

This is an example—you might have your five years. Each month plugging in what are you going to accomplish by that time. Maybe it’s when are grant applications due? It’s going to be important to put those on there to go what do I need to do to make that deadline. Maybe it’s putting when you’re going to get publications out. Things like that.

Honestly, looking at this drives me a little bit crazy, it seems a bit overwhelming. But it’s important to get to these details.

research plan of the

This is an example from, I did Lessons for Success a few years ago and they had their format for doing your plan. I wrote out all my projects, started thinking about all the different aspects. So if something like this works for you, by all means you could use that type of procedure.

research plan of the

Here’s a grid that Ray Kent showed last year. We’re breaking it down by semester. Thinking about each of your semesters, what manuscripts you’re going to be working on, what data collection, your grant applications. Starting to get into some of those other buckets: course preparation, conference submissions.

research plan of the

We also need to include teaching and service.

You probably can’t see this very well. This is similar to that last slide Ray Kent had used last year.

I have my five year plan: what studies I want to accomplish, start thinking about breaking it down.

Then at the beginning of each semester, I fill in a grid like this. Where at the top, I have each of my buckets. I have my grant bucket, my writing bucket which is going to include publications. I also include doing article reviews in my writing bucket, because that’s my writing time. My teaching bucket, my research bucket. Then at the end, my service bucket.

At the beginning of the semester, I think about the big things I want to accomplish. I list those at the top. Then at the beginning of each month, I say, okay what are the things I’m going to accomplish this month, write those in. Then at the beginning of each week, I start looking at whether I’m dedicating any time to the things I said I was going to do that month. I start listing those out saying, this is the amount of time I’m going to spend on that. Of course, I have to take data on what I actually do, so I plug in how much time I’m spending on each of the tasks. Then I graph it, because that’s rewarding to see how much time you’re spending on things, and I get a little side-tracked sometimes.

Think about a system that will help you keep on track, to make sure you’re meeting the goals that you want to meet in terms of your research. But also getting the other things done that you need to get done in terms of teaching and service.

Discussion and Questions

Compiled from comments made during the Pathways 2014 and 2015 conferences. (Video unavailable.)

Building Flexibility into Your Five-Year Plan Comments by Ray Kent, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The five-year plan is not a contract. It’s a map or a compass. A general set of directions to help you plan ahead. It’s not even a contract with yourself, because it will inevitably be revised in some ways.

Sometimes cool things land in your lap. Very often it turns out that through serendipity or whatever else, you find opportunities that are very enticing. Some of those can be path to an entirely new line of research. Some of them can be a huge distraction and a waste of time. It’s a really cool part of science that new things come along. If we put on blinders and say, “I’m committed to my research plan,” and we don’t look to the left or the right, we’re really robbing ourselves of much of the richness of the scientific life. Science is full of surprises, and sometimes those surprises are going to appear as research projects. The problem is you don’t want to redirect all your time and resources to those until you’re really sure they are going to pay off. I personally believe, some of those high risk but really appealing projects are things you can nurse along. You can devote some time and build some collaborations – far enough to determine how realistic and viable they are. That’s important because those things can be the core of your next research program.

It’s very easy to get overcommitted. We all know people who always say “yes”—and we know those people, and they are often disappointing because they can’t get things done. It’s important to have new directions, but limit them. Don’t say, “I’m going to have 12 new directions this year.” Maybe one or two. Weigh them carefully. Talk about them with other people to get a judgment about how difficult it might be to implement them. It enriches science: not only our knowledge, but the way we acquire new knowledge. A psychologist, George Miller—this is the guy with the magic number 7 +- 2—when we interviewed him years ago at Boystown, he said, “My conviction is that everybody should be able to learn a new area of study within three months.” That’s what he thought for a scientist was a goal.

The idea is that you can learn new things. And that’s very important because when you think of it in terms of a 30-year career, how likely is it that the project that you’re undertaking at age 28 is the same project you’ll be working on at age 68? Not very likely. You’re going to be reinventing yourself as a scientist. And reinventing yourself is one of the most important things you can do, because otherwise you’re going to be dead wood. Some projects aren’t worth carrying beyond five or ten years. They have an expiration date.

Building Risk into Your Five-Year Plan Comments by Ray Kent, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Your doctoral study should generally be low-risk research. As you move into a postdoctoral fellowship, think about having two studies—one low-risk, one high-risk with a potential for high impact. At this time you can begin to play the risk factor a little bit differently.

When you are tenure-track you can have a mix of significance with low-risk and high-risk studies. And when you are tenured, then you can go for high risk, clinical trials, and collaborations. Because you have established your independence, so you do not need to worry about losing your visibility. You can be recognized as a legitimate member of the team.

As you plan your career, you should take risk into account. Just as you manage your money taking risk into account, we should manage our careers taking risk into account. I have met people who did not really think about that, and they embarked on some very risky procedures and wasted a lot of time and resources with very little to show for it. For example, don’t put everything into an untested technology basket. You want to be using state of the art technology, but you want to be sure it is going to give you what you need.

Other Formats and Uses of Your Research Plan Audience Comments

  • If you do your job right with your job talk, there’s a lot of cross-pollination between your job talk and your research plan. Ideally your job talk tells your colleagues that this is the long-term plan that you have. And they shouldn’t be surprised when you submit a more detailed research plan. They should say, “okay this is very consistent with the job talk.” In my view, the job talk should be a crystal summary of the major aspects of that research program. Of course, much of the talk will be about a specific project or two—but it should always be embedded within the larger program. That helps the audience keep sight of the fact that you are looking at the program. You can say that this is one project that I’ve done, and I plan to do more of these, and this is how they are conceptually related. That’s a good example of why the research plan has multiple purposes – it can be a research statement, it can be the core of your job talk, it can be the nature of your elevator message, and it can be a version of your research plan for a K award application or R01 application or anything else of that nature.
  • I think what’s useful is to actually draft your NIH biosketch. The new biosketch has a section called “contributions to science.” It’s really helpful to think about all your projects. It’s hard to start with a blank sheet of paper. But to have it in the format of a biosketch can be really helpful.

Avoiding Overcommitment Audience Comments

  • One of the things that is amazing about planning is that if you put an estimate on the level of effort for each part of your plan, you’ll quickly find that you are living three or four lives. Some 300% of your time is spent. It’s helpful for those of us who might share my lack of ability to see constraints or limitations to reel it back and say, “I have a lot on my plate.” Which allows you to say no—which is not something we all do very well when it comes to those nice colleagues and those people you want to impress nationally and connect with. But it allows you to look at what’s planned and go, “I don’t know where I’d find the time to do that.” Which will hopefully help you stay on track.
  • I keep a to do list, but I also keep a “to not do” list. One of the things I will keep on my plan is the maximum number of papers I will review in a year. If I hit that number in March, that’s it. I say no to every other paper that comes down the pike. That’s something to work out with your mentor as far as what’s realistic and what’s okay for you. Every time I get a request, I think, “That’s my reading and writing time, so what am I willing to give up. If it means I won’t be able to write on my own paper this week, am I willing to do this?”

Staying on Schedule with Reading, Writing, and Reviewing Audience Comments

  • You have to do what works for you. Some people do wait for big blocks of time for writing—which are hard to come by. But the most important thing is to block off your time. Put it on your schedule, or it is the first thing that will get pushed aside.
  • Another thing I’ve done with some of my colleagues is writing retreats. So maybe once a year, twice a year, we’ll get together. Usually we’ll go to a hotel or somewhere, and we’re just writing. It’s a great way to get a jumpstart on a project. Like, I need to sit down and start this manuscript, and you can keep going once you’ve got that momentum.
  • My input would be that you really have to write all the time, every day. It’s a skill. I’ve found that if I take time off, my writing deteriorates. It’s something you need to keep up with.
  • I would look at it like a savings account that you put money into on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. The flip side of writing is reading. I would read constantly, widely, and not just in the discipline. That will give you not only a breadth in terms of your understanding of your field and the world around you, but it will also give you an incentive to make your own contributions. I think we don’t talk enough about the comprehensive side to this, and being receptive to the reading. I have a book, or something, by my bedside every night. And I read that until I fall asleep every night. And it’s done me in good stead over the years.
  • Reviewing articles can help advance your career, but it is something you need to weigh carefully as a draw on your time. You get a lot from it. You get to see what’s out there. You get to see what’s coming down the pipe before publication. To me that’s a huge benefit. You get to learn from other people’s writing, and that’s part of your reading you get to do. But it is time consuming. And it depends on the kinds of papers you get. Sometimes you’re lucky and sometimes you’re not.
  • If someone else is reviewing your grants and your articles, at some point you owe it back. You should at least be in break-even mode. Now, pre-tenure or postdoc your mentor should be doing that or senior faculty in the department. But there are so many articles to review. I review so many articles, but I am also at the tail end of my career. The bottom line is, if you don’t put on your schedule that if you don’t put time on your schedule for reading, reviewing articles forces you to look at and think about the literature, so you can be accomplishing what you owe back to the field—and at the same time, staying one step ahead knowledge wise. It forces you to do what you should be doing all along, which is keeping up with the literature.

Further Reading: Web Resources

Golash-Boza, T. (2014). In Response to Popular Demand, More on the 5-Year Plan. The Professor Is In . Available at

Kelsky, K. (2010). The Five-Year Plan for Tenure-Track Professors. Get a life, PhD . Available at

National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT). (2012). Planning Worksheets . Planning your Research Program (Available from the Science Education Resource Center at Carelton College Website at

Pfirman, S., Bell, R., Culligan, P., Balsam, P. & Laird, J. (2008) . Maximizing Productivity and Recognition , Part 3: Developing a Research Plan. Science Careers. Available at

Cathy Binger University of New Mexico

Lizbeth Finestack University of Minnesota

Based on a presentation and slides originally developed by Ray Kent, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Presented at Pathways (2015). Hosted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Research Mentoring Network.

Pathways is sponsored by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through a U24 grant awarded to ASHA.

Copyrighted Material. Reproduced by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in the Clinical Research Education Library with permission from the author or presenter.


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How to Prepare a PhD Research Plan/Schedule?

PhD research plan is a structured schedule for completing different objectives and milestones during a given timeframe. Scholars are usually unaware of it. Let us find out how to prepare it. 

Between March 2021 to 2022, I read almost 15 different research proposals from students (for their projects) and only a single one, I found, with a comprehensive research plan for 3 years. Which is still not, kind of practical, probably copied from other students. 

Such entities are not known to over 90% of students, if some know that because their university asked for but unfortunately, this basic procedure lacks penetration among students. I don’t know the exact reason, but students lack a basic understanding of the research process. 

Meaning, that they don’t know or perhaps don’t complete their course work needly. PhD research requires many documents, SOPs and write-ups, before even starting it. For example, a rough research plan, research proposal, initial interview, competence screening, grant proposal and so on. 

However, the requirement varies among universities and thus knowledge regarding basic procedures often also varies among students. So I’m not blaming students but certainly, it is the fault of the university side, as well.  

When you come up with a research proposal with a research schedule or entire plant, certainly it will create a positive image and good reputation. So it is important. But how to prepare it? 

Hey, there I’m Dr Tushar, a PhD tutor and coach. In this article, we will understand how we can prepare a structured plan for the PhD research and how to execute it. 

So let’s get started.  

How to prepare a PhD research plan/schedule?

A PhD research plan or schedule can be prepared using the GANTT chart which includes a month, semester or year-wise planning of the entire PhD research work. 

First, enlist goals and objectives.

It’s not about your research objective enlisted in your proposal. I’m talking about the objectives of your PhD. Take a look at some of the objectives.

Note that these are all the objectives that should be completed during the PhD, but not limited to a specific subject. Note you have to show how you can complete or achieve each objective during the entire tenure of your work. 

And that is what the plan/schedule is all about. Next, explain the time duration. The time required to complete each goal, roughly. For example, a semester or a year to complete the course work or 4 to 8 months for completion of ethical approval. 

Now two things must be known to you, at this point in time. 

  • First, enlist the time required to complete each objective, as aforementioned. 
  • Second, what goals would you complete during each semester?

For instance, course work takes a semester to complete, but during the period a scholar can also craft their PhD research title, research proposal, ethical approval and grant proposals. 

Now it is also crucial to know that there is no time bound to complete goals, but it should be completed as you explained. Let’s say you can plant it for 3 years, 4 or even 5 years depending on the weightage of your work. 

In summary, the answer to the question of how to prepare a research plan is, 

  • Enlist your goals or objectives. 
  • Decide the time required to complete each goal.
  • Prepare a GANTT chart.  

Now you have prepared zero-date planning for your research but how to present it? The answer is a GANTT chart.   

GANTT chart for PhD research plan: 

GANTT chart is a task manager and graphical presentation of how and how many tasks are completed or should be completed against a given time duration. Take a look at the image below. 

The example of the GANTT chart.

How can you prepare one?

Open MS Excel (on Windows) or numbers (on Mac).

Enlist goals or objectives in a column. 

Enlist years (duration of PhD) in a row and bifurcate them into individual semesters. You can also prepare a month-wise plan, that’s totally up to you. In my opinion, semester-wise planning is good because research is a lengthy and time-consuming process. So monthly planning would not work. 

To make a chart more attractive and readable use colors, as I used. Now mark a ‘cell’ against a column and row showing the objective which you are going to complete in a semester. Take a look. 

After the end of this, your GANTT chart would look like this. 

A screenshot of an ideal GANTT chart.

You can prepare a month-wise planning, individual semester-wise planning and goal-wise planning etc. I will explain these things in upcoming articles on 5 different types of GANTT charts for PhD.  

Custom writing services: 

If you find difficulties in preparing a research plan, synopsis, proposal or GANTT chart. We can work on behalf of you. Our costume services are, 

  • Synopsis writing 
  • Project writing 
  • Research proposal writing 
  • Research planning and GANTT chart preparation. 

You can contact us at [email protected] or [email protected] to get more information. 

Wrapping up: 

Planning and executing a research schedule are two different things. Oftentimes, students just prepare as per the requirements and then do work as per their convenience. Then they are stuck in one place and just work around the time. 

Plan things. Make your own GANTT chart, put it on your work table or stick it on a wall so that you can see it daily. Try to achieve each goal in time. Trust me things will work and you will complete your PhD before anyone else.  

Dr Tushar Chauhan

Dr. Tushar Chauhan is a Scientist, Blogger and Scientific-writer. He has completed PhD in Genetics. Dr. Chauhan is a PhD coach and tutor.

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Public Health Buckeyes: Angela Falconi

BSPH student combines passions for health care, policy

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Falconi has been involved in CPH research and is an active member of Ohio State's Pilipino Student Association.

Meet Angela Falconi, a fourth-year student specializing in  environmental public health who aspires to advocate for others through public health policy.

What inspired you to pursue a public health education?

Growing up, I was surrounded by both medicine and public policy because of my parents. Since I was six, my father, a politician and elected official, had me act as his unofficial campaign staff—knocking on doors with him to speak to voters, sitting in on city council meetings and accompanying him to various events. My mother, a pediatric physician, inspired me to pursue a career in medicine by showing me the impact that she’s made on her patients and always encouraging me to learn more about the health care field. When choosing my major, it felt natural to me to combine policy and health into public health.

What public health topics are you passionate about?

“Your zip code determines your health.”

This is one of the most important phrases I have learned in my public health courses, and as a volunteer at Helping Hands Health and Wellness Center, a free clinic which provides health care services for the uninsured and underinsured. I see the realities of this phrase in the patients who I work with. 

As an aspiring elected official, I want to create health care reform which helps individuals the health care system has failed to provide with affordable service.

You spent last summer in Washington, D.C. interning in the U.S. Senate. What was that experience like?

I worked (there) through the IMPACT program, created by the US-Asia Institute in coordination with the Embassy for the Philippines for Filipino students interested in public policy. Working and living in D.C. was one of the best experiences I have had in my undergraduate career because I was able to learn about and research health care policy on the national stage, which is exactly what I hope to do in my future career.

What have you enjoyed most about being involved in research as a student?

I am a research assistant for the Consumer Access Project which utilizes a secret shopper survey of Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance marketplace plan networks to study these barriers and inequities, including disparities related to race. I have loved getting to work with  Wendy Xu as she has helped me learn more about the research process as well as how everyday Americans experience the health care system.

What kind of extracurricular activities are you involved in?

The Pilipino Student Association (PSA) has been my home away from home since the start of my time at Ohio State. It has not only allowed me to learn more about my Filipino culture, but I met my best friend through this organization. I have been involved in PSA in numerous roles: culture night coordinator, vice-president internal, president and now dance leader. 

As dance leader, I lead PSA’s tinikling team. Tinikling is a dance which involves two people beating, sliding, and tapping two bamboo poles on the ground while two people dance above the sticks, trying not to get caught in between them. Our latest performance from PSA’s culture show “Barrio” was in October. I choreographed, taught and performed the modern part of this dance!

What are your goals for the future?

I hope to not only assist individual patients as a physician, but I also hope to help others on the national scale by being an advocate as an elected official. I hope to apply the experiences and lessons that I have learned from my time at Ohio State into my future career in the field of health policy.

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Key takeaways from the Biden administration executive order on AI

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Key takeaways from the biden administration executive order on ai (pdf), biden ai eo key deadlines (pdf).

O n 30 October, President Biden issued a sweeping  executive order  (“Executive Order” or EO) on artificial intelligence (AI) with the goal of promoting the “safe, secure, and trustworthy development and use of artificial intelligence.” A White House fact sheet on the order can be found  here .

This Executive Order represents a significant contribution to the subject of accountability in how AI is developed and deployed across organizations. Given the breadth of recommendations and actions provided, it is likely to have an effect on organizations across all sectors of the economy, from the most mature AI implementers to first-time adopters. The Executive Order’s definition of AI systems is also broad; it is not limited to generative AI or systems leveraging neural networks but is inclusive of systems which have been built over the last several years.

Determining the extent to which the EO affects an organization will involve careful assessment of not only an entity’s own use of AI, but also the extent to which its products and services incorporate or are reliant on third-party vendors’ AI-enabled capabilities.

Importantly, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be foundational in the development of guidelines and best practices for “developing and deploying safe, secure and trustworthy AI systems,” and companies may consider evaluating their existing AI risk management frameworks against the  NIST AI Risk Management Framework  to develop a baseline and prepare for additional guidance to be released from relevant agencies and regulatory bodies.

Download our timeline: key deadlines - Biden administration EO on AI

The executive order is guided by eight principles and priorities:.

  • AI must be safe and secure by requiring robust, reliable, repeatable and standardized evaluations of AI systems, as well as policies, institutions, and, as appropriate, mechanisms to test, understand, and mitigate risks from these systems before they are put to use.
  • The US should promote responsible innovation, competition and collaboration via investments in education, training, R&D and capacity while addressing intellectual property rights questions and stopping unlawful collusion and monopoly over key assets and technologies.
  • The responsible development and use of AI require a commitment to supporting American workers though education and job training and understanding the impact of AI on the labor force and workers’ rights.
  • AI policies must be consistent with the advancement of equity and civil rights.
  • The interests of Americans who increasingly use, interact with, or purchase AI and AI-enabled products in their daily lives must be protected.  
  • Americans’ privacy and civil liberties must be protected by ensuring that the collection, use and retention of data is lawful, secure and promotes privacy.
  • It is important to manage the risks from the federal government’s own use of AI and increase its internal capacity to regulate, govern and support responsible use of AI to deliver better results for Americans.
  • The federal government should lead the way to global societal, economic and technological progress including by engaging with international partners to develop a framework to manage AI risks, unlock AI’s potential for good and promote a common approach to shared challenges.

Notably, the EO uses the definition of “artificial intelligence,” or “AI,” found at 15 U.S.C. 9401(3):

“a machine-based system that can, for a given set of human-defined objectives, make predictions, recommendations or decisions influencing real or virtual environments.” 

Therefore, the scope of the EO is not limited to generative AI; any machine-based system that makes predictions, recommendations or decisions is impacted by the EO.

As expected, the NIST is tasked with a leading role in implementing many of the directives of the EO. The NIST is called upon to lead the development of key AI guidelines, and the  NIST AI Risk Management Framework  is repeatedly referenced in the Executive Order. However, the EO adopts the “all-of-government approach” that has become a trademark of the Biden administration, tapping agencies and offices across the entire administration to tackle the use of AI technologies in their areas of expertise with numerous actions specified in the near and medium term.

With Congress continuing to study the policy implications raised by AI technologies, this Executive Order and the actions that follow will be the cornerstone of the federal regulatory approach in the space for now. Of course, these actions are limited to the authorities of the executive branch, so this EO concentrates its mandates on programs administered by federal agencies, requirements for AI systems procured by the federal government, mandates related to national security and critical infrastructure, and launching potential rulemakings that govern regulated entities. This EO, like all executive orders, cannot create new laws or regulations on its own, but can trigger the beginning of such processes.

Key provisions of the EO are summarized below.

What you need to know: Biden Executive Order on AI

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

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EU Artificial Intelligence Act

The world’s first comprehensive legal framework regulating artificial intelligence (AI) brings new obligations for organizations to strengthen trust.

Key highlights

Safety and security.

  • First, the NIST is directed to establish guidelines and best practices for “developing and deploying safe, secure, and trustworthy AI systems.”
  • Additionally, the NIST is called upon to develop standards and procedures for developers of AI (outside of national security applications) to conduct AI red-teaming tests (structured testing to identify potential flaws and vulnerabilities).
  • The Department of Energy (DoE), also within 270 days, is directed to develop and implement “a plan for developing the Department of Energy’s AI model evaluation tools and AI testbeds” including evaluating AI tools where outputs “may represent nuclear, nonproliferation, biological, chemical, critical-infrastructure, and energy-security threats or hazards.”
  • The Commerce Department will establish requirements (within 90 days) for “companies developing or demonstrating an intent to develop potential dual-use foundation models” to report certain information and activities to the federal government.
  • Entities will also be required to provide the federal government with specific information about any large-scale computing cluster.
  • The secretary of Commerce shall (within 270 days), solicit input from the private sector, academia, civic society, and other stakeholders through a public consultation process on potential risks, benefits and other implications. 
  • Based on consultations, the secretary of Commerce shall submit a report to the president on the potential benefits, risks and implications as well as policy and regulatory recommendations pertaining to these models.
  • US IaaS providers will be further prohibited from permitting foreign companies to resell their services or open accounts for foreign persons unless they agree to make similar disclosures in the future.
  • The Treasury Department is required to issue a report within 150 days on best practices for financial institutions to manage AI-specific cybersecurity risks for financial institutions.
  • The EO also outlines a process to mandate the adoption by critical infrastructure owners and operations of the NIST AI Risk Management Framework via “appropriate regulatory action.”
  • The EO also recognizes the potential for AI technologies to promote cybersecurity defenses, calling on the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense to conduct studies and issue reports on how AI can be used to aid in cyber defense.
  • Likewise, the Department of Defense (DoD) – working with the administration, OSTP and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine – will conduct a 120-day study on the ways AI can both increase and counter biosecurity risks.
  • Additional mandates are set forth regarding the risk of misuse of synthetic nucleic acids and to “improve biosecurity measures for the nucleic acid synthesis industry.”
  • Finally, the EO calls for the drafting of an interagency National Security Memorandum on AI to “address the governance of AI used as a component of a national security system or for military and intelligence purposes” through a coordinated executive branch effort.

Federal procurement of AI systems

As the largest customer in the US economy, the federal government’s own purchasing requirements often become industry standard – making procurement policy a very strong tool for promoting policy goals.

  • Requiring the designation of a Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer at each agency
  • At some agencies, the creation of an internal Artificial Intelligence Governance Board
  • Risk management practices for government use of AI that impacts “people’s rights or safety” (utilizing, as appropriate, the NIST AI Risk Management Framework)
  • Recommendations regarding AI testing, labeling AI output, and the “independent evaluation of vendors’ claims concerning both the effectiveness and risk mitigation of their AI offerings.”
  • OMB is further tasked with establishing systems to ensure agency compliance with guidance on AI technologies, including ensuring that agency contracts for the purchase of AI systems align with all requirements and a yearly cataloging of agency AI use cases.
  • The administrator of General Services, along with OMB, is tasked with developing a framework for the use of generative AI by the federal workforce.
  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is authorized to consider hiring tools for these AI professionals, including direct hire authority for AI roles, pay flexibilities, personnel vetting requirements, pooled hiring and incentive pay programs.
  • Agencies are also required to implement (or increase) training programs to educate the current federal workforce on AI issues.
  • A separate study of the AI personnel needs of the DoD is required within 180 days, with DoD and the DHS encouraged to “work together to enhance the use of appropriate authorities for the retention of certain noncitizens of vital importance to national security.”

AI-generated content

  • The Department of Commerce is directed to complete a 240-day study of the existing tools and methods to detect AI-generated content, track its provenance and prevent AI technology from producing Child Sexual Abuse Material.
  • Using that information, the Department will have 180 days to develop guidance on “digital content authentication and synthetic content detection measures.”
  • Finally, following up on that guidance, the OMB is required to issue guidance to federal agencies for labeling and authenticating official US government content.
  • The US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is required by the EO to provide guidance to patent examiners on issues of “inventorship and the use of AI” and, potentially, issues of patent eligibility.
  • To combat intellectual property crimes through AI technologies, DHS is directed to develop a training, analysis, and evaluation program” and share information with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs and Border Protection and other agencies.

Promoting innovation

  • The secretaries of State and Homeland Security are further directed to consider rulemakings and efforts to expand existing programs for highly skilled foreign talent.
  • The Department of Labor is tasked with identifying AI and other STEM-related occupations for which there are insufficient US workers.
  • The NSF is also called on to establish, within 150 days, at least one NSF Regional Innovation Engine that prioritizes work on AI technology, as well as four new National AI Research Institutes (within 540 days).
  • DoE (to enhance existing training programs for AI scientists; utilize AI to combat climate change; report on the potential for AI to improve the electric grid infrastructure)
  •  Department of Health and Human Services (to prioritize programs to support responsible AI development and use in programs that improve “clinical care, real-world-evidence programs, population health, public health, and related research,” including in underserved communities)
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (to use AI to improve veterans’ health care and promote small business innovation)
  • President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (to study the potential for AI to tackle “major societal and global challenges”)


  • Included in the mandate are actions such as “addressing risks arising from concentrated control of key inputs, taking steps to stop unlawful collusion and prevent dominant firms from disadvantaging competitors, and working to provide new opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs.”
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is required to consider using its rulemaking authority over the marketplace to “ensure that consumers and workers are protected from harms that may be enabled by the use of AI.”
  • The Department of Commerce is directed to take measures that promote competition in the semiconductor sector, which is crucial to powering AI technologies.
  • The EO requires the Small Business Administration (SBA) to allocate funding for AI initiatives and ensure that grant programs are eligible for AI-related small businesses.

Worker protections

  • A study by the Council of Economic Advisors on the “labor-market effects of AI”
  • An evaluation by the secretary of Labor on the potential for AI-related displacements in the federal workforce
  • The development of employer principles and best practices by the Department of Labor on militating the potential harm/maximizing the benefits of AI technologies for workers
  • Additionally, NSF is required to prioritize AI-related workforce development through its existing programs.

Civil rights and equity

  • Requires a study of the use of AI in the criminal justice system (sentencing, parole, bail, prison management, etc.) from the Attorney General within one year
  • Recognizes the potential for AI to “enhance law enforcement efficiency and accuracy, consistent with protections for privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties”
  • Calls on an interagency working group to promote the hiring and training of law enforcement AI professionals
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is required to publish a plan on the use of AI systems by states and localities administering federal government programs to ensure the “access to benefits by qualified recipients; notice to recipients about the presence of such systems; regular evaluation to detect unjust denials; processes to retain appropriate levels of discretion of expert agency staff; processes to appeal denials to human reviewers; and analysis of whether algorithmic systems in use by benefit programs achieve equitable and just outcomes.”
  • Similarly, the Department of Agriculture is directed to publish guidance for public benefits administrators who use AI systems in the implementation of their programs.
  • The Department of Labor (DoL) has a mandate to publish guidance for federal contractors regarding nondiscrimination in hiring involving AI and other technology-based systems.
  • The Federal Housing Authority and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are directed to use their authorities to prevent bias in the housing and consumer financial markets, including in the areas of underwriting and appraisals.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the CFPB are also tasked with examining the use of AI in the property rental market, including AI systems for tenant screening and the advertising of housing and credit.
  • The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board is directed to ensure that people with disabilities are not subject to unequal treatment by AI systems that use biometric data.

Consumer protection, privacy and health care

  • Protecting American consumers from fraud is a mandate of the EO, which directs agencies to consider “clarifying the responsibility of regulated entities to conduct due diligence on and monitor any third-party AI services they use, and requirements and expectations related to the transparency of AI models and regulated entities’ ability to explain their use of AI models.”
  • Issue a strategy on whether AI technologies in the health and human services sector “maintain appropriate levels of quality.”
  • Take appropriate actions to ensure that health care providers who receive federal funding comply with nondiscrimination requirements when utilizing AI technology.
  • In the future, HHS policies are required to be issued regarding the occurrence of clinical errors when utilizing AI technology and the use of AI in the drug development process.
  • The Department of Commerce and NIST are required to issue guidelines for agencies, within a year, to promote the use of privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs).
  • DoE and the NSF are directed to create a Research Coordination Network dedicated to PET research and encourage the incorporation of privacy-enhancing technologies.

Global leadership

  • The administration emphasizes the values of the voluntary commitments made by US technology companies, saying that the US should seek to “establish a strong international framework for managing the risks and harnessing the benefits of AI, including expanding and internationalizing voluntary actions made by United States companies.”
  • The EO also requires the Secretaries of Commerce and State to work with key international partners on global technical standards, mandating a report within 270 days on a plan for global engagement.

The EO addresses a number of additional issues not summarized above, but which will be critically important to some developers and deployers of AI technology. Other topics covered by the EO include:

  • Dual-use foundation models with widely available model weights (Section 4.6)
  • Protections surrounding the use of federal data sets to train AI systems (Section 4.7)
  • The creation of an Artificial Intelligence Safety and Security Advisory Board at the DHS to provide “advice, information, or recommendations for improving security, resilience, and incident response related to AI usage in critical infrastructure.” (Section 4.3(a)(v))
  • The creation of an interagency White House AI Council tasked with coordinating the activities across the federal government related to the implementation of this Executive Order.
  • The use of AI in the transportation sector, including AI enhancements to autonomous vehicle systems. (Section 8(c))
  • Education and AI, including the development of an AI Toolkit for education leaders (Section 8(d))
  • The potential for AI to impact communications networks, improve spectrum management, network security, and interoperability. The EO singles out “efforts to combat unwanted robocalls and robotexts that are facilitated or exacerbated by AI” as an area for potential rulemaking. (Section 8(e))
  • Priority use of the federal government’s Technology Modernization Fund for AI projects (Section 10.1(g))

For information on the US public policy debate surrounding AI, please see our EY publication US public policy spotlight: artificial intelligence. For a discussion of global AI policy trends, please see How to navigate global trends in Artificial Intelligence regulation.

Download Key takeaways from the Biden administration executive order on AI

The Biden administration has issued an executive order on AI to inform the safe, secure and trustworthy development and use of AI. This summary from EY US provides an overview of key points to consider.

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How You Pay Drives What You Choose: Health Savings Accounts versus Cash in Health Insurance Plan Choice

A marked feature of health insurance plan choice is inconsistent choices through the overweighting of premiums relative to out-of-pocket spending. We show that this source of inconsistency disappears when both types of spending come from the same source of designated funds. We focus on the MediSave program in Singapore, whereby residents can pay their health insurance premiums with cash or MediSave funds, but are subject to limits that vary by age and over time. By exploiting variations in those limits, we consistently find that when individuals are able to pay their health insurance premiums with MediSave funds, they are less price sensitive and more willing to enroll in more generous plans—which results in lower spending levels and variance, and lower adverse selection in the market. The results suggest a strong role for mental accounting in insurance decisions.

Lin, Liu, and Yi gratefully acknowledge support from Singapore’s Ministry of Education Academic Research Fund Tier 1 (WBS R-122-000-303- 115). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.


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A.3 Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry Inclusion Plan Correction

A.3 Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry (OBB) focuses on better understanding the ocean’s role in the Earth System, and predicting future causes and impacts of change driven by Earth’s climate, the environment, and event-scale phenomena on ocean biology, biogeochemistry, and ecology. A.3 OBB requests the following subelements of research investigations in no priority order:

  • Tipping points and episodic events, and their impacts to aquatic ecosystems.
  • Advancing the remote detection of floating debris.
  • Refining our predictive understanding of the ocean biological pump.
  • Successor studies

A.3 OBB has been corrected. The summary table of requirements for anonymized proposals lacked a row for the inclusion plan. The anonymized inclusion plan is to be placed in a special section of up to two pages following the OSDMP, see Sections 3.5 and the Table in Section 5.1. New text is in bold. The due date remains unchanged: proposals are due July 3, 2024.

Questions regarding OBB may be directed to Laura Lorenzoni at [email protected] and Kelsey Bisson at [email protected] .

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