Use the following generic timeline below to develop a specific, realistic project timeline with your advisor. This will help both you and your advisor to
Note, then, the following represents an idealizedtimeline; in reality, many students will find the actual process takes considerably longer.
- reserve appropriate blocks of time required to meet each deadline
recognize and avoid potential blockages ahead of time.
For example, if one were to start the process in September, the initial steps cannot be completed in time to begin data collection for the January term. Consequently, if the project were one that required the study of a class over a complete semester, data collection could not begin until the following September, and the generic timeline would have to be adjusted to accommodate that additional 8 month delay.
Competing priorities (demanding day jobs, unanticipated family responsibilities, illnesses, 'life') may cause students to miss some key deadlines. Once a key deadline has been missed, all the subsequent dates in the timeline need to be recalculated and renegotiated with the advisor.
Gaps in background preparation (conceptualization, familiarity with relevant theory, methodology, statistical analysis, narrative development, etc.); problems with fluency (writers' block, the need for additional revisions, APA formatting issues); or difficulties accessing required resources (computer or library access) may result in delays as students are required to redo particular steps or take longer then indicated in the idealized timeline presented below.
Unavoidable delays caused by third parties (awaiting the return of parental approval forms, difficulties in scheduling respondents, delays in obtaining survey returns, awaiting the start of a new semester to begin data collection, etc.) are likely to result in missing at least some of the deadlines listed below.
Similarly, graduate students are cautioned to be mindful of their advisor's other responsibilities and not to expect rapid turnaround during peak work periods, such as the first weeks of a new term; immediately after undergraduate mid-terms or finals; immediately prior to grant-submission deadlines, and so on. Note that many key deadlines for graduate students (e.g., last day to submit completed projects for convocation) tend to overlap with peak demands on your advisor, and that other graduate students will also be trying to make these same deadlines. It is therefore not sufficient to cacluate backwards from these fixed deadlines the dates by which you must have done your work; you must also include in your calculations realistic turn around times for your advisor and other faculty members, keeping in mind the likely demands on them by other graduate students and their other teaching, research, and service responsibilities. Advisors are also likely to be absent from campus and unavailable to you at least part of the year as they supervise student teachers, conduct research, or take their assigned holidays.
Careful preplanning using the template below is therefore required to schedule realistic due dates and to ensure that the advisor has incorporated timely responses to your submissions in their own work schedules. By scheduling realistic project dates well in advance, your advisor is committing to timely turnaround. Missing any of your own due dates, however, will require renegotiation of all subsequent deadlines with the advisor, and is likely to extend the overall timeline considerably, as your advisor may not be able to accommodate your ideal revised schedule within their own previously scheduled committments. For example, missing one of your deadlines by two weeks does not mean simply adding two weeks to every subsequent due date, as your advisor or other key faculty may be absent or fully booked for one or more of those new dates, and it may be four to five weeks before a new opening may be found. Like dominos, if any step in the idealized timeline is missed, the whole process can fall significantly behind, so be sure to develop a realistic timeline that takes as many of the external factors discussed above into account as possible.
Students considering undertaking a thesis should be aware that the thesis timeline template (still under development) is considerably longer and even more prone to unexpected delays. Students facing severely restricted timelines for program completion (e.g., require the completed degree immediately for an upcoming promotion) should investigate the examination option or the new capstone course option (both requiring approximately 13 weeks).