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A fall-back position or safety net in research projects

Why fallback positions or safely nets are essential in research

If you think that things going wrong in research will not apply to you, you would be mistaken. Research by its nature is unpredictable: specimens or inter-library loans fail to turn up on time; people are unavailable for interview; computers crash, etc. There can be serious delays and the entire project can seem on the point of collapse. That is why students need a fall-back position, a safety net or a form of insurance to enable them to complete on time.

How to develop fallback positions or safety nets in research

The first step in devising a fallback position or a safety net is to appreciate that the thesis or dissertation does not have to produce answers to the research questions or the research problems that were given in the original proposal.

What matters is that the thesis or dissertation is an original piece of well-rounded and self-contained quality work which is sufficiently significant for the award concerned. That is where creativity comes in.

The sketches illustrate this well.

analogy between a creative archer and a target for creativity in researcc

The archer aims for a target and misses, but she turns it into a win by drawing a new target round where her arrow has landed. Students need to be equally creative about turning what they have achieved during a research project into a rounded and self-contained piece of work, even where it wasn't what they originally intended.

The archer aims for a target and misses, but she turns it into a win by drawing a new target round where her arrow has landed. Students need to be equally creative about turning what they have achieved during a research project into a rounded and self-contained piece of work, even where it wasn't what they originally intended.

The creative thinking techniques on this website should help, as will the various ways of recognising alternative ways of looking at your research on the originality page. It is often the case that something that you did when setting up your work can quickly be expanded into the main theme of a self-contained piece of work.

© Pat Cryer


* 'Supervisor' is a shorthand for 'research degree supervisor', 'advisor' or 'tutor', and applies to varying extents for all research degrees: PhD, DPhil. MPhil, Prof Doc and even undergraduate and masters' projects. In some countries, notably the USA, a 'supervisor' is known as an 'advisor'.