Research skills for HDR students


It is important to plan your research and your writing. This will help you stay on track in your research and ensure you meet your progress requirements.

Spending time planning your dissertation and its structure will help you meet the requirements of each section while ensuring the cohesion of your dissertation as a whole. You must be aware of the expectations of theses in terms of publication, originality, literature reviews, writing of results and relating your findings to the research literature.

Be sure to refer to our page on preparing your dissertation for specific information on the correct referencing and presentation of the thesis, including title and abstract requirements, using an editor and statements by attribution of paternity. In addition to the required workshops and training, the Learning Hub (Academic Language and Learning) offers workshops that can develop your research and writing skills.

Once you have written your thesis, you can follow our instructions for submitting your thesis.


Before you start your research, think about your general approach. Are you engaged in theory development or theory testing? Does your discipline have a particular approach to research? What research methods are needed?

Management of time

Efficient time management is essential when producing a thesis.

You need to create a timeline for the main stages of the research process. This should include:

  • make an early reading list
  • write and submit your research proposal
  • ethics approval request
  • write your thesis plan
  • compilation of references
  • search and / or playback
  • chapter planning structure
  • drafting and redesign of chapters
  • prepare your thesis using the correct style and format
  • writing your summary, keywords, table of contents and figures, acknowledgments, list of references, appendices
  • get final approval from your supervisor
  • editing and proofreading
  • printing and binding
  • submit your thesis.

You will also need to establish a regular schedule to meet with your supervisor. The frequency of these meetings will vary at different stages of your thesis. They give you the opportunity to discuss the progress of your research, raise issues or concerns, and get feedback from your supervisor.

You may find that a “study buddy” will help you stick to your schedule. You can have daily or weekly review meetings where you share what you’ve been up to since your last speech and list your top priorities for the day or week.

Find out how to manage your time.


When reading, it is important to be systematic. Keep track of what you read with basic bibliographic information and brief notes. Try to build a full reference list as you go, for example using End note, rather than leaving it until the end.

You can also use strategies such as a summary grid to give yourself an “overview” of the readings you are taking. Find out how to create a summary grid in Developing and supporting a pitch (pdf 127KB). Or you can divide your readings into Basic Assignments, Directly Related Non-Core Readings, and Indirectly Related Non-Core Readings.


This material was developed by the Learning Hub (Academic Language and Learning), which offers workshops, face-to-face consultations and resources to support your learning. Find out how they can help you develop your communication, research and study skills.

See our document on writing a thesis proposal (pdf, 341 KB).


Paul N. Strickland

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