Project Management for PhD Students

Prof. David Vernon
School of Informatics
University of Skövde

Course Outline |  Lecture Notes  | Textbook  |  Reading   |  Instruction  |  Assessment  |  Links  |  Timetable

Course Outline 

Critical success factors in the transition to independent research

  • Theoretical perspectives
  • Practical perspectives

Why project management?

  • Social developments
  • Reluctance to plan ahead
  • Project management for PhDs
  • Plan every last detail?

From theory to practice

  • Characteristics of a project
  • Classic project management
  • Project-based creativity

Rhythm and time management

  • Personal rhythm
  • What tasks do you have?
  • Planning tasks
  • Important or urgent?

Manage your PhD

  • The Big Question
  • Product or Process
  • Time as a starting point
  • The Planning System for PhDs
  • Getting started
  • Difficult times


  • Thinking about your future
  • Formulating goals
  • Make SMART objectives
  • Action plan

Time to write

  • Writing process step by step
  • Writing and supervision
  • Problems with writing


  • Who do you work together with
  • How do you work together?
  • Supervision
  • Schedule meetings
  • Dealing with conflicting interests

Finished in four years! A step-by-step plan

  • Ten steps
  • In conclusion

The transition to post-doc: managing research in a successful university

  • What are the characteristics of a successful university?
  • Strategic management in universities

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Lecture Notes

Lecture 01: Course Overview and Critical Success Factors
Lecture 13: Managing Successful Universities
Lecture 14: Project Scheduling

All other lectures are based on the course text and are prepared by the students (see below).

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Course Textbook

J. de Bruin and B. Hertz, Project Management for PhDs, Eleven International Publishing, The Hague (2010).

Follow the link above to buy either a physical or an electronic copy of the book

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Essential Reading 

B. E. Lovitts, "The Transition to Independent Research: Who Makes It, Who Doesn't, and Why", The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 79, No. 3, pp. 296-325 (2008). 

M. Shattock, Managing Successful Universities, Second Edition, McGraw Hill (2010); Chapters 1-2 

Abstracts from Shattock 

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Student Instruction

This course will adopt an inverted approach to student instruction.  For each class, the students must prepare a presentation that would be suitable for teaching the material under each of the ten headings in the Course Outline above.

The material under the first and tenth heading should be abstracted from the [Lovitts 2008] and [Shattock 2010], respectively (see Essential Reading above) and the material under the remaining headings should be abstracted from the corresponding chapter in the course textbook.

During the class, each student will present his material and the lecturers will play the role of students.  After the presentation, lecturers and students will review the material delivered and discuss how it might be improved.

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Student Assessment

There will be six short assignments based exercises in Chapters 2-8 of the course textbook.  All exercises must be completed successfully to pass the course.  The specific exercises will be assigned as the course progresses.

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Course Documentation

Course Plan IT920F
Kursplan IT7920F

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David Vernon's Personal Website