Timelines and Gantt charts

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Image © https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8JQW3137tA

Google definition of: ‘Gantt chart’
/gant/noun: Gantt chart; plural noun: Gantt charts
1. a chart in which a series of horizontal lines shows the amount of work done or production completed in certain periods of time in relation to the amount planned for those periods.
Origin
early 20th century: named after Henry L. Gantt (1861–1919), American management consultant.

Ok I confess until I entered the realm of research I didn’t know what a ‘gantt chart’ was! But this morning when I woke up and started getting ready for one of the last days of uni / work before Christmas I thought I should check my gantt chart. It seems appropriate to do this as I am coming up to the end of my first quarter of my PhD.

And what an exciting quarter it has been. On checking my chart I can tell you I have completed the things I set out to do and even a few more. Although I have also found that things don’t always go to plan. For example you may go down a path to start a systematic review of the literature to find someone else got there first. On checking this out you consider perhaps to update their review. This detailed consideration and informed decision making all takes time. Time, which you have strictly packaged into small parcels on your gantt chart. It would be preferable not to waste any of this precious time. There are so many other things on the chart which you must get on with.

Having said all that the gantt chart is a guide to keep you to the path, it’s a trail of breadcrumbs so you don’t get lost. The nature of a PhD takes you on many detours, treks off the gantt chart road. On micro adventures into new uncharted and perhaps highly relevant territory. This is not a waste of gantt chart time. This is a lived experience, a true detective story. Each new puzzle piece could hold a clue to the next and so develop a richer, more useful PhD project at the end of the road.

The gantt chart must and does account for this. I am right on track. And although I may or may not be doing a systematic review, it has been really useful to venture into that area as I have gathered some useful information on route to make my project a richer one and myself a better clinical-researcher.

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Browsing the literature serendipitously or seriously?

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Image copyright of Guardian Website

As an undergraduate I would look at an article because I was told to, as a newly graduated speech and language therapist I would look at an article because I thought I should. Over the years I gradually realised I enjoyed reading what people were writing about. I started browsing through the literature in a serendipitous fashion, looking for what I enjoyed, following where my fancy took me.

I became passionate in endeavouring to identify what expert researchers and academics might recommend to be the most effective intervention options for my patients. Gradually I started to identify in myself a desire to join these researchers somehow. And in undertaking new aspects of my work; writing a book, completing small clinical governance and research projects, I started looking for answers in the literature. This meant I would conduct searches of google scholar and pubmed with certain questions in mind. What ARE the most effective interventions out there for primary progressive aphasia. But where and when do I stop searching? I couldn’t always find these answers, yet felt surely if I just looked hard enough the answer must be there in those gazillions of journal articles somewhere in the world.

Now I realise that systematically reviewing the literature is a skill and science unto itself. It requires planning and strategies, aims and specific search terms. All of which must be rigorously documented. And you still may not find the answer you’re looking for. In fact finding the gaps can be useful. If that research hasn’t been done, or hasn’t been done well enough it raises the question; Perhaps that is the research I should be doing?