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Managing Research Projects

Goal Setting & Staying Motivated

Work through this online intensive writing workshop from Purdue Online Writing Lab

When Motivation Wanes

Listen to a PhD student talk about struggling with motivation and how to keep going

Keeping motivated when doing a dissertation or thesis

A professor and counselor from the Dublin Institute of Technology have a conversation about how to stay motivated when undertaking a dissertation or thesis.


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.