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Managing Research Projects


Motivation is a key factor to success in completing your research project. Here's some advice on how to plan your schedule and stay motivated.

Stay Focused on Why You are Completing this Project

Make sure you stay grounded in your decision to embark on such a huge task.  Is it a requirement for your degree? Then, what does a college degree mean to you and to your family? Think about how you’ll use this degree in your future career and how incredibly proud you’ll feel for accomplishing this goal! And, of course, think about your support system, family, and friends who believe in your college journey.

Secure your Support System

Now that you’ve identified why you are doing this project,  it’s important to find people to help you keep your eye on the prize.  Mentors can be teachers, spiritual leaders, or family friends who can give you guidance and help you stay on track.

To secure a support system:

  • Identify one or more friends, family members, or mentors who can be your support
  • Share your goals with them and ask them to help you keep these in mind when things get tough. 
  • Reach out to friends and peers who can motivate you by listening and sharing ideas.

Set Achievable Goals and Develop Routines and Schedules

When working on your research project, it will be critical to establish routines and schedules to keep yourself motivated and focused. Be sure to set interim achievable goals as well as long-term larger goals.  Break down searching, reading, and writing work into manageable chunks and stick to a daily and weekly schedule.

You Can Handle Any Project in Small Chunks.  

  • Use a calendar or to-do list to check off daily and weekly tasks that you accomplish

  • Keep a list of your long-term goals handy too (including career goals), so you can refer to them when you want to remind yourself of your ultimate goal: graduation!

Engage with Your SPU Community

Although your classmates are working on topics different from yours, find ways to connect about the challenges of long-term research and writing projects.

  • Use email and video conferencing to stay connected if you cannot meet in person.
  • Find out if your classmates are using group texts, Instagram, Twitter, etc. as another means to connect. 
  • Try setting up an online accountability group using a group text chat or Zoom to stay connected.

Stay Positive

Staying positive and having a growth mindset is important to maintain motivation. 

  • If you are finding it difficult to stay positive about your project, talk to your instructor.
  • You may also want to talk with other students to help you through challenging times.
  • Remember to take the time to encourage others through chat, email, and social media.
  • Reach out to your support system - mentors, teachers, family, friends, fellow classmates. 


self-care icons


Practice Self-Care and Reward Yourself

With all the hard work that you are doing, you need to take some time out to reward yourself.  When you accomplish a goal, no matter how small, be sure to reward yourself with something that will make you happy!  Whether it's a walk in your neighborhood, a FaceTime with family or friends, or watching your favorite Netflix series (try not to binge!), these rewards can help you stay motivated and on task.


Make a list of small rewards you can give yourself as you achieve your daily tasks. Make a list of bigger rewards you can give yourself as you finish bigger goals.

The information on this page is adapted from the Learning Online 101 Canvas module created by California State University, Channel Islands.

Practical checklist of ideas to keep you motivated

  • Calendar with 2-hour block for research projectBlock off a two-hour chunk of time every week to work on your project (or more, or multiple blocks of time).
    • Better yet, schedule it with a friend also working on a big project. You don't even need to talk!
    • Schedule a library study room (or plan for another location) for this time. Knowing you have a room reserved and/or being in a different location might be the motivation you need.
    • Work on tasks in 20 minute chunks to get you started.
  • Schedule a meeting for several weeks out with your advisor/reader/mentor, or with your librarian! Having a meeting planned, with an agenda you plan to discuss, should motivative you to take that next step with your project.Checklist of four items to do that week
  • Go back to the Planning Calculators and review what to do and when. But don't get overwhelmed! Put key dates on your calendar, and then make a list of only what you need to accomplish this week.

Convert text files to audio

It can be extremely useful or necessary to listen to text-based readings rather than only to visually read them:book on audio

  • Use your commuting, walking, or cleaning time to listen to your course texts!
  • Listen while you visually read along with a text to try to increase comprehension and memory.
  • Use as a writing strategy: listen to your own writing as a way to notice areas to improve.
  • Use a a motivation strategy; if you don't feel motivated to do anything, at least listening to readings will allow you to make some progress and may re-engage you in your work.


SPU has a tool called SensusAccess, which can convert text-based files to audio (plus other ways to change file types).

  1. Start at SPU’s SensusAccess Conversion Tool.
  2. (Step 1 of process) Upload a PDF document (or text or URL) you’d like converted to a streaming audio file. (If you have a print book, scan to PDF the section you need. If you are starting with a text file in another format, go straight to Step 6.)
  3. (Step 2) Select Accessibility conversion. This will send you a Word document, which will put header and footer info into correct places (it won't read you all those headers and footers) and which you can then edit otherwise as needed (don't need to listen to the 25 references at the end of the chapter? Delete them!).
  4. (Step 4) Email the file to yourself at your SPU email address, which takes only a few minutes to process.
  5. Re-start at SensusAccess Conversion Tool, and (Step 1) upload the Word document you’d been emailed. 
  6. (Step 2) Select MP3 audio as the target format.
  7. (Step 3) Select language of document and audio speed (choose default to start, then consider another speed later if necessary).
  8. (Step 4) Email the streaming file to yourself. It may take longer to process, depending on the length of audio, but is usually ready with 5 min - 1 hour.

The streaming audio file will be a link in the email and is available for one week. If you need it longer, re-convert the Word file to mp3.

Happy listening!

audiobook by Clea Doltz is licensed CC BY 3.0.