A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Keeping on track with big research projects

For long term research projects, such as your thesis or group assignments, keeping on track with work and making sure you don’t fall behind can be difficult. I know for me it was a hard thing to learn (oh procrastination I miss you), so here are 5 tips to keep on track with your research!

Know your progress

adult blur books close up

Hiding behind a big stack of books won’t hide you from your deadlines!

To keep on track, you need to know how far you’ve come and how far you need to go! Breaking the research down into manageable stages can make it less intimidating, as well as making it easier to plan out a time scale. This can also be really useful in progress meeting with team mates or your supervisor and you can use it in creating study schedules.  One benefit of this step for me is no more procrastinating when deciding what work to do next.

Go analogue

I’m a big supporter for working analogue, and I think writing out the plan and schedule for your research can be really helpful. It can give you an opportunity to “clear out” your brain, laying everything out on paper. This can also be very helpful when making notes on papers, it can be easier to keep check of key points and make sure that you can add emphasis or annotate extra ideas when they hit you.

Handwritten notes: cute and helpful for mapping out thought processes and to-do lists.

Also for days where I can’t face more computer time, taking a notebook to a café to brainstorm ideas or write a weekly checklist can be really helpful. Check out this post on Bullet Journaling, one of the most popular and versatile analogue systems.

Share with friends


Study groups or writing sessions can be incredibly helpful in giving you a dedicated time and space to work on your research. Bring a group of friends together, book a room in the Library or your department, and just write! To upgrade your group to expert level, make it a weekly meeting and have a different person each week bring snacks, or introduce an accountability introduction- where everyone states their goal for the day at the start of the session and checks their progress at the end.

Regular deadlines

Like the first point, this should also seem obvious, but it’s one of the easiest steps to skip as it can seem a little scary. Despite this, having regular deadlines with your supervisor or with your group can help to keep you on focus and make sure you’re not wasting time down a rabbit hole. I think keeping in contact with your supervisor is key, to keep you both up-to date with your work, but also to make sure you feel confident in reaching out for help when needed.

email blocks on gray surface

Send out that email! I know it can be hard, especially when you’re maybe not 100% on track, but this is the first step to take to remedy that. Tell your supervisor if you’re struggling.

Hopefully these tips will help you keep track of your research and projects this year and prevent everything from getting too stressful! I’d love to hear any other tips you have, my thesis deadline is fast approaching, please share them below.


One comment on “Keeping on track with big research projects

  1. Anna@theleidener
    February 12, 2019

    Great post!

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This entry was posted on February 8, 2019 by in Sophie, Study and tagged , , , , , .

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