Dr Margaret Collins

Dr Margaret Collins
Member Association for Coaching Graduate Coach-U

Managing Your Research Project

Most researchers, including myself, seem to fall into research management more by accident than intention.

We are enjoying our research when we notice that we are slowly but surely gaining more responsibility for supporting, directing or supervising students, less experienced researchers or technicians… Perhaps we are surprised to find we are even managing more experienced collaborators or even the Principle Investigator on the project!

While there are libraries full of books on project management, the management of academic research projects is less well supported with learned texts. Over the years I have discovered a few that I have found enlightening. Do have a browse and see what you like!

A good resource to consider is “Lab Dynamics”, the first book I read on laboratory management. To my mind it is one of the better books giving interesting examples and covering a wide range of activities including suggestions on how to deal with difficult relationships or individuals within a working environment.


For more senior researchers or group leaders the “At the Helm” by Kathy Barker may provide some useful insights or an overview of the skills required. The topics covered are wide-ranging and include how to manage yourself, to recruit and keep good staff, to focus on the research, to communicate effectively and to manage change.

For less experienced researchers just committed to at the bench activities, why not try “At the Bench”. This covers everything from what to expect working in a laboratory environment through how to organise your resources. It provides insights into how to establish a successful research career and to plan for career advancement.

There are a small number of texts to provide guidance for student research project planning that also provide valuable insights into the process of planning and managing your research.
Some texts are written for students in particular academic areas, human geography, nursing, business or construction for example. The contribution of Gary Thomas seems to be particularly well reviewed by a wide range of Academics as you can see if you click on the link below:
“How To Do Your Research Project”

Women who are interested in successful careers as researchers and research leaders will often face different challenges to their male colleagues.

If you’re looking for inspiration and motivation as a scientist I can suggest you have a look at “Success Strategies for Women in Science: A Portable Mentor (Continuing Professional Development Series)

and any woman could benefit from investing 15 minutes in listening to Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook discussing how to keep more women in the workplace!

For researchers wondering how to start or finish difficult conversations with maybe even more difficult people, help is at hand! Below are a few books I’ve found particularly helpful: