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What Is a Dissertation? | Guide, Examples, & Template

Structure of a Dissertation

A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program.

Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you’ve ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating to know where to begin.

Your department likely has guidelines related to how your dissertation should be structured. When in doubt, consult with your supervisor.

You can also download our full dissertation template in the format of your choice below. The template includes a ready-made table of contents with notes on what to include in each chapter, easily adaptable to your department’s requirements.

Download Word template Download Google Docs template

  • In the US, a dissertation generally refers to the collection of research you conducted to obtain a PhD.
  • In other countries (such as the UK), a dissertation often refers to the research you conduct to obtain your bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Table of contents

Dissertation committee and prospectus process, how to write and structure a dissertation, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your dissertation, free checklist and lecture slides.

When you’ve finished your coursework, as well as any comprehensive exams or other requirements, you advance to “ABD” (All But Dissertation) status. This means you’ve completed everything except your dissertation.

Prior to starting to write, you must form your committee and write your prospectus or proposal . Your committee comprises your adviser and a few other faculty members. They can be from your own department, or, if your work is more interdisciplinary, from other departments. Your committee will guide you through the dissertation process, and ultimately decide whether you pass your dissertation defense and receive your PhD.

Your prospectus is a formal document presented to your committee, usually orally in a defense, outlining your research aims and objectives and showing why your topic is relevant . After passing your prospectus defense, you’re ready to start your research and writing.

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The structure of your dissertation depends on a variety of factors, such as your discipline, topic, and approach. Dissertations in the humanities are often structured more like a long essay , building an overall argument to support a central thesis , with chapters organized around different themes or case studies.

However, hard science and social science dissertations typically include a review of existing works, a methodology section, an analysis of your original research, and a presentation of your results , presented in different chapters.

Dissertation examples

We’ve compiled a list of dissertation examples to help you get started.

  • Example dissertation #1: Heat, Wildfire and Energy Demand: An Examination of Residential Buildings and Community Equity (a dissertation by C. A. Antonopoulos about the impact of extreme heat and wildfire on residential buildings and occupant exposure risks).
  • Example dissertation #2: Exploring Income Volatility and Financial Health Among Middle-Income Households (a dissertation by M. Addo about income volatility and declining economic security among middle-income households).
  • Example dissertation #3: The Use of Mindfulness Meditation to Increase the Efficacy of Mirror Visual Feedback for Reducing Phantom Limb Pain in Amputees (a dissertation by N. S. Mills about the effect of mindfulness-based interventions on the relationship between mirror visual feedback and the pain level in amputees with phantom limb pain).

The very first page of your document contains your dissertation title, your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date. Sometimes it also includes your student number, your supervisor’s name, and the university’s logo.

Read more about title pages

The acknowledgements section is usually optional and gives space for you to thank everyone who helped you in writing your dissertation. This might include your supervisors, participants in your research, and friends or family who supported you. In some cases, your acknowledgements are part of a preface.

Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces

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The abstract is a short summary of your dissertation, usually about 150 to 300 words long. Though this may seem very short, it’s one of the most important parts of your dissertation, because it introduces your work to your audience.

Your abstract should:

  • State your main topic and the aims of your research
  • Describe your methods
  • Summarize your main results
  • State your conclusions

Read more about abstracts

The table of contents lists all of your chapters, along with corresponding subheadings and page numbers. This gives your reader an overview of your structure and helps them easily navigate your document.

Remember to include all main parts of your dissertation in your table of contents, even the appendices. It’s easy to generate a table automatically in Word if you used heading styles. Generally speaking, you only include level 2 and level 3 headings, not every subheading you included in your finished work.

Read more about tables of contents

While not usually mandatory, it’s nice to include a list of figures and tables to help guide your reader if you have used a lot of these in your dissertation. It’s easy to generate one of these in Word using the Insert Caption feature.

Read more about lists of figures and tables

Similarly, if you have used a lot of abbreviations (especially industry-specific ones) in your dissertation, you can include them in an alphabetized list of abbreviations so that the reader can easily look up their meanings.

Read more about lists of abbreviations

In addition to the list of abbreviations, if you find yourself using a lot of highly specialized terms that you worry will not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary. Here, alphabetize the terms and include a brief description or definition.

Read more about glossaries

The introduction serves to set up your dissertation’s topic, purpose, and relevance. It tells the reader what to expect in the rest of your dissertation. The introduction should:

  • Establish your research topic , giving the background information needed to contextualize your work
  • Narrow down the focus and define the scope of your research
  • Discuss the state of existing research on the topic, showing your work’s relevance to a broader problem or debate
  • Clearly state your research questions and objectives
  • Outline the flow of the rest of your work

Everything in the introduction should be clear, engaging, and relevant. By the end, the reader should understand the what, why, and how of your research.

Read more about introductions

A formative part of your research is your literature review . This helps you gain a thorough understanding of the academic work that already exists on your topic.

Literature reviews encompass:

  • Finding relevant sources (e.g., books and journal articles)
  • Assessing the credibility of your sources
  • Critically analyzing and evaluating each source
  • Drawing connections between them (e.g., themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps) to strengthen your overall point

A literature review is not merely a summary of existing sources. Your literature review should have a coherent structure and argument that leads to a clear justification for your own research. It may aim to:

  • Address a gap in the literature or build on existing knowledge
  • Take a new theoretical or methodological approach to your topic
  • Propose a solution to an unresolved problem or advance one side of a theoretical debate

Read more about literature reviews

Theoretical framework

Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework. Here, you define and analyze the key theories, concepts, and models that frame your research.

Read more about theoretical frameworks

Your methodology chapter describes how you conducted your research, allowing your reader to critically assess its credibility. Your methodology section should accurately report what you did, as well as convince your reader that this was the best way to answer your research question.

A methodology section should generally include:

  • The overall research approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative ) and research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment )
  • Details of where, when, and with whom the research took place
  • Any tools and materials you used (e.g., computer programs, lab equipment)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
  • An evaluation or justification of your methods

Read more about methodology sections

Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. You can structure this section around sub-questions, hypotheses , or themes, but avoid including any subjective or speculative interpretation here.

Your results section should:

  • Concisely state each relevant result together with relevant descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
  • Briefly state how the result relates to the question or whether the hypothesis was supported
  • Report all results that are relevant to your research questions , including any that did not meet your expectations.

Additional data (including raw numbers, full questionnaires, or interview transcripts) can be included as an appendix. You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results. Read more about results sections

Your discussion section is your opportunity to explore the meaning and implications of your results in relation to your research question. Here, interpret your results in detail, discussing whether they met your expectations and how well they fit with the framework that you built in earlier chapters. Refer back to relevant source material to show how your results fit within existing research in your field.

Some guiding questions include:

  • What do your results mean?
  • Why do your results matter?
  • What limitations do the results have?

If any of the results were unexpected, offer explanations for why this might be. It’s a good idea to consider alternative interpretations of your data.

Read more about discussion sections

Your dissertation’s conclusion should concisely answer your main research question, leaving your reader with a clear understanding of your central argument and emphasizing what your research has contributed to the field.

In some disciplines, the conclusion is just a short section preceding the discussion section, but in other contexts, it is the final chapter of your work. Here, you wrap up your dissertation with a final reflection on what you found, with recommendations for future research and concluding remarks.

It’s important to leave the reader with a clear impression of why your research matters. What have you added to what was already known? Why is your research necessary for the future of your field?

Read more about conclusions

It is crucial to include a reference list or list of works cited with the full details of all the sources that you used, in order to avoid plagiarism. Be sure to choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your dissertation. Each style has strict and specific formatting requirements.

Common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA , but which style you use is often set by your department or your field.

Create APA citations Create MLA citations

Your dissertation should contain only essential information that directly contributes to answering your research question. Documents such as interview transcripts or survey questions can be added as appendices, rather than adding them to the main body.

Read more about appendices

Making sure that all of your sections are in the right place is only the first step to a well-written dissertation. Don’t forget to leave plenty of time for editing and proofreading, as grammar mistakes and sloppy spelling errors can really negatively impact your work.

Dissertations can take up to five years to write, so you will definitely want to make sure that everything is perfect before submitting. You may want to consider using a professional dissertation editing service or grammar checker to make sure your final project is perfect prior to submitting.

After your written dissertation is approved, your committee will schedule a defense. Similarly to defending your prospectus, dissertation defenses are oral presentations of your work. You’ll present your dissertation, and your committee will ask you questions. Many departments allow family members, friends, and other people who are interested to join as well.

After your defense, your committee will meet, and then inform you whether you have passed. Keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality; most committees will have resolved any serious issues with your work with you far prior to your defense, giving you ample time to fix any problems.

As you write your dissertation, you can use this simple checklist to make sure you’ve included all the essentials.

Checklist: Dissertation

My title page includes all information required by my university.

I have included acknowledgements thanking those who helped me.

My abstract provides a concise summary of the dissertation, giving the reader a clear idea of my key results or arguments.

I have created a table of contents to help the reader navigate my dissertation. It includes all chapter titles, but excludes the title page, acknowledgements, and abstract.

My introduction leads into my topic in an engaging way and shows the relevance of my research.

My introduction clearly defines the focus of my research, stating my research questions and research objectives .

My introduction includes an overview of the dissertation’s structure (reading guide).

I have conducted a literature review in which I (1) critically engage with sources, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of existing research, (2) discuss patterns, themes, and debates in the literature, and (3) address a gap or show how my research contributes to existing research.

I have clearly outlined the theoretical framework of my research, explaining the theories and models that support my approach.

I have thoroughly described my methodology , explaining how I collected data and analyzed data.

I have concisely and objectively reported all relevant results .

I have (1) evaluated and interpreted the meaning of the results and (2) acknowledged any important limitations of the results in my discussion .

I have clearly stated the answer to my main research question in the conclusion .

I have clearly explained the implications of my conclusion, emphasizing what new insight my research has contributed.

I have provided relevant recommendations for further research or practice.

If relevant, I have included appendices with supplemental information.

I have included an in-text citation every time I use words, ideas, or information from a source.

I have listed every source in a reference list at the end of my dissertation.

I have consistently followed the rules of my chosen citation style .

I have followed all formatting guidelines provided by my university.


The end is in sight—your dissertation is nearly ready to submit! Make sure it's perfectly polished with the help of a Scribbr editor.

If you’re an educator, feel free to download and adapt these slides to teach your students about structuring a dissertation.

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Assignment start and due dates.

Enter the date you plan to start work and the due date of your assignment.

Required. Example: 12 31 2020

Assignment steps

Identify and refine your research question.

Your interest in your research questions will help you maintain focus on the dissertation process. The work you do may become the starting place for future research work and the next step in your career. Choose a topic that interests you and will help you advance your career. However, your choice of topic will depend on the requirements of your professors, advisors, program, department, college, university, and academic discipline. Review any documents or handbooks that outline the requirements and expectations.

  • Examine the requirements, expectations, and methods used by your department, program, and advisor.
  • University Digital Conservancy
  • Digital Dissertations
  • How to find dissertations and theses including older U of M print dissertations
  • Set up a system for organizing your search results, citations, PDFs, primary sources, notes etc. using  citation management tools  (e.g. Zotero or EndNote) or other strategies. You can use these tools to create "in-text" citations and bibliographies or works cited lists as you write.
  • In some cases, you will be given a research question or a list of topics to choose from by your advisor.In other cases, you will develop a topic based on your own research interests.
  • Review departmental information to learn about faculty research areas and identify faculty who might be interested in working with you. Try  Experts@Minnesota .
  • Do a  preliminary  study of the literature related to your topics to understand previous research, key themes, issues, variables, methodologies, limitations, terminology, controversies, and gaps in the current research. Identify significant researchers and scholars working in the area. Consult a variety of sources such as websites, research blogs, books, journal articles, conferences, organizations, and other sources.
  • Narrow your ideas to 2 or 3 possible research questions. Evaluate your question using criteria like feasibility, scope (too narrow or too broad), your level of interest, and future benefit to your career.
  • Discuss your ideas with classmates, colleagues, mentors, and other professors for comment and feedback.
  • Organize your research ideas into a pre-proposal for use in discussion and negotiation with your advisor.
  • Revise and modify as needed based on comments gathered.
  • Be sure that you and your advisor are in agreement about the research questions before drafting the final proposal.
  • The ULibraries have many print and ebooks on the process of writing dissertations. Search for: dissertations, academic; academic writing dissertations; and report writing dissertations.
  • Dissertations, from the University of North Carolina Writing Center

Percent time spent on this step: 5

Develop the research design and methodology

The research design is the strategy or blueprint for the collection, measurement, and analysis of your data (data can be numbers, images, texts, interview transcripts, etc.). Generally the design is the overall logical structure for your project and the methodology refers to the detailed steps for data collection and analysis. The type of design and method used is determined by the nature of your research question. Certain research designs and methods are core to specific fields of study or programs. Your design needs to be consistent with the requirements and expectations of your advisor, committee, and program.

  • Understand that your choice of design and methods will influence the niche you develop for yourself within your department, your discipline, and the wider academic community.
  • Read and review information about design and methodology (e.g. such as books on methodology) and study examples of how these strategies have been applied in research similar to yours (e.g. other dissertations, articles, etc.).
  • Consider any philosophical and practical factors. Identify the theoretical approaches inherent in your design and methods.
  • Use  Sage Research Methods Online  to learn more about design and methods.
  • Search Libraries Search for books and articles on theory, design, methods, and analysis.
  • Read about specific statistical techniques and software packages, for example, R, Tableau, NVivo, ATALAS.ti, SPSS, etc.. Some libraries and OIT labs have this software. Learn about  statistical consulting services , if needed.
  • Learn about data management best practices. Data management plans assist you in planning the types of data you will collect, standards to document your data (metadata), security measures to protect the confidentiality of your subjects and intellectual property, and methods for archiving and sharing your data.
  • Review  dissertations with similar designs and methods to learn about what worked well and what obstacles occurred.

Review literature & write a proposal or prospectus

Proposals generally include the title of your project, an introduction, literature review, and a description of the research design and methodology for your proposed dissertation. This is often used as the foundation for the first three chapters of the completed dissertation. Be sure to read other successful proposals as examples to guide your work. Check with your advisor, mentors, or department for examples.

  • Writing an effective title  from UMN Center of Writing  
  • Although this is the first section the reader comes to, you might want to write it last , since until then, you will not be absolutely sure what you are introducing.
  • The introduction establishes the context for your research by briefly summarizing the current and background information about the topic. Use it to state the purpose of your work in the form of the hypothesis, question, or research problem, and briefly explain your rationale, theoretical perspective, design and methodological approach. Identify the significance and potential outcomes your project.
  • The introduction might include acknowledgement of the previous work on which you are building, an explanation of the scope of your research, what will and will not be included, and a "road map" or "table of contents" to guide the reader to what lies ahead.
  • Write in the future tense since it is a proposal. It can be changed and edited later once it becomes part of your dissertation.
  • Tips for writing an introduction from University of North Carolina  
  • Develop an in-depth understanding of your topic and clarify why your research is significant.
  • Ensure that your research is a unique contribution.
  • Understand the broader discipline and field(s) of which your topic is a part. Position or frame your topic in your field and establish the link between existing research and your question.
  • Explore important methodologies, controversies, and research issues.
  • Identify names of key researchers, core journals, other research centers, or possible sources of funding.
  • Explain your rationale for the research design and methodology and your plan to use and describe why it is appropriate for your research.
  • Your reading and study of the literature should be very comprehensive as you prepare your proposal and later write your final literature review. Now is the time to immerse yourself in your topic.
  • The written literature review is selective and does not include every article or source your find on your topic. Think of yourself as a curator at a museum. Select the most meaningful, representative works for your "exhibit" but you will have had to have read and critically evaluate many more sources that you don't include in your literature review. 
  • Build a workflow or system so you can keep track of sources (e.g. citation, PDF, etc.) including notes/rationale for sources you  are  using and for those you choose  not  to include (with your rationale for excluding them in case your advisor or committee have questions later).
  • Determine the expectations and requirements for the proposal meeting, for example, find out what type of presentation, if any, is expected. Talk with colleagues who have completed this process to understand more about the meeting.
  • Be sure that you have completed all the necessary forms from your department or college. 
  • Meet with your subject librarians and or librarians from related subjects to learn about useful library databases, keywords, citation tools, and specialized services for researchers.
  • Go to workshops or watch recorded workshops from the University Libraries.
  • Use the Center for Writing, Student Writing Support resources , especially for graduate writers resources.
  • Review other dissertations both for ideas on how the literature review can be organized and for useful articles and other sources.
  • Review what you already have written and presented for your course work and other projects.
  • Use subject-specific databases , in addition to, Libraries Search to explore the literature in your field.
  • Search article databases outside your discipline. Explore interdisciplinary databases such as Web of Science , Google Scholar ,  Scopus ,  JSTOR ,  Worldcat , etc.
  • Browse and search in the core journals in your field. Try the tool Browzine  to create a personal library. 
  • Decide if you need sources that are international in scope and use additional search strategies as needed.
  • Identify non-digitized sources. Depending on your research area contact library archives or special collections and consult with curators or other staff to learn more about relevant resources.
  • Use Interlibrary Loan to request materials not available at UMN Libraries for free.
  • Use subject headings or a thesaurus within a database to find similar sources by concept rather than just keyword match.
  • Review the bibliographies of articles and books to identify additional sources.
  • Do "cited reference" searches to identify researchers that have cited other specific books or articles of interest. Use specialized tools like Web of Science ,  Google Scholar and other databases to trace the citations both backward and forward in time.
  • Track where you have searched and your search terms by keeping a research log or journal ( view example ). This will help you identify the most productive sources and not repeat what you have already done. If needed you will be able to report your search strategies.

Percent time spent on this step: 15

Gather and analyze your data

After your proposal is approved, the next step is to implement your research plan by gathering and analyzing your "data." Before you begin there are more steps to consider if you have not completed.

  • Obtain any needed human subject or animal care approval from the Institutional Review Board .
  • Create a strategy to organize your files, contacts, observations, field notes, and bibliographic information.
  • Implement a small pilot study before proceeding with the full data collection. This will help you to test your approach to ensure you are collecting data that reflects your research question. Document details such as time involved and issues in the study for either you or the participants. Determine if any modifications to your study need to occur before proceeding.
  • Identify and test a strategy for transforming and analyzing the data (e.g. coding data, transcribing interviews, running statistics, etc.).
  • Test your analysis method with the small pilot study or sample of your data.
  • Create graphs, tables, images, and other outputs that illustrate your results.
  • Meet regularly with your advisor to discuss and resolve any questions.
  • Use Sage Research Methods Online to learn more about design and methods.
  • Search Libraries Search  for books and articles on data visualization, data mining, data processing, methods, and analysis.

Percent time spent on this step: 30

Write the Results and Discussion sections

  • Use non-text objects to illustrate your results including tables, figures, images and visualizations. Illustrative objects should either be placed within the dissertation text or at the end of your dissertation.
  • Summarize all your results whether they are statistically significant or not.
  • Put raw data, survey instruments, and release forms, etc. into appendices if appropriate and required. Consider the Data Repository for the U of M (DRUM)  to archive data. 
  • Include your research questions identified in the introduction. Describe how you have moved the field forward. Explain how your research enhances or fills a gap in existing research. Identify any unexpected or contradictory findings.
  • Explain how your results relate to existing literature and if they are consistent with previous research.
  • Describe how your results can be applied. This could take a variety of forms such as real world application, best practices or recommendations.
  • Share the conclusion have reached because of your research.
  • Explain limitations in your research and possibilities for future research on your topic.
  • Meet with a subject librarian to do precise searching if you need to find additional sources.
  • Meet with the Center for Writing for support with your writing process.

Percent time spent on this step: 25

Edit Dissertation draft & prepare for your defense

Although editing and revising occurs throughout the writing process, budget sufficient time to return to your draft for full-scale revision. Seeking feedback, reviewing, and editing your document helps you to:

  • See your text from a reader's perspective.
  • Bring together parts written at different times to create a coherent, connected whole.
  • Make your ideas clear to others, which in turn, will result in better reader comments.
  • Plan and negotiate your progress in consultation with your advisor and committee members.
  • Examine the overall organization and identify what is no longer relevant and what sections need further development.
  • Twelve Common Errors: An Editing Checklist , from UW Madison
  • Higher Order Concerns and Lower Order Concerns  from Purdue
  • Ask colleagues and others for specific types of feedback to guide the comments. Connect with your dissertation support network and members of your committee to receive constructive feedback.
  • Help your readers help you by giving them a direction, for example in an email, in which you explain what you want to accomplish in the draft and list your specific questions and concerns.
  • Identify potential readers' expertise and skills when deciding which parts of your dissertation you want them to review. For example, perhaps only people working in your lab can constructively comment on your "methods," while friends in other disciplines would give useful feedback on the "introduction."
  • Respond to all comments even though you may decide to not incorporate a suggestion.
  • Negotiate with your advisor and committee members to establish a process for submitting drafts for their feedback.
  • Check all calculations, visual details, and citations for accuracy and validity and remove sources you are no longer citing or add new ones.
  • Prepare the bibliography, appendix, title page, and acknowledgements.
  • Be sure you are formatting your document to meet the  dissertation submission and formatting requirements .
  • You may or may not be expected to give a brief presentation at the beginning.
  • Focus on the needs of your primary audience (your advisor and committee), either by consulting them directly or considering their feedback to your initial draft.
  • Review your notes and rationale for making the decisions you made in your draft for example, including or excluding certain seminal theories, authors, and research methodologies.
  • Remind yourself that at this point you are now the "expert" on your research and the goal of the defense is to present and share your expertise and seek feedback from interested readers.
  • Dissertation Defense  from Texas A&M

Finish and submit your dissertation

Your dissertation defense committee will have informed you that you passed your defense, or passed with minor revisions needed. In some cases, substantial revisions are needed before the committee members agree to pass the dissertation. The procedures, requirements, and timelines for completing the dissertation process may vary depending on the department and college with which you are affiliated and the type of doctorate you will receive. Once any needed revisions have been completed and approved, you are ready to finish the dissertation and submit the final version.

  • Many departments have their own handbooks to guide students through the process with timelines and specific academic style guidelines. Consult the details in the doctoral handbook for your department and college.
  • Review the  Dissertation submission requirements .
  • Review information about Copyright and Dissertations & Theses . You own the copyright usually and it is wise to consider your next with the content.
  • You will retain your rights to your dissertation when submitting it to the UDC.
  • The UDC copy of your dissertation will be freely available for you and others to read and link to with a permanent URL. Learn more about the benefits of the UDC for your dissertation.
  • A copy of your dissertation is submitted to ProQuest/UMI Dissertation Publishing making information about your dissertation available through ProQuest Digital Dissertations. The full text of your dissertation will be available through libraries that subscribe to this product or copies may be purchased. You may also opt to make your dissertation available on an open access basis via ProQuest Open Access Publishing.

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Dissertation & thesis template.

If you’re preparing to write your dissertation, thesis or research project, our free dissertation template is the perfect starting point. In the template, we cover every section step by step, with clear, straightforward explanations and examples .

Download the dissertation and thesis template

What’s Included In The Dissertation Template

Our free dissertation and thesis template covers all the essential elements required for a first-class piece of research . The template’s structure is based on the tried and trusted best-practice format for formal academic research projects such as dissertations and theses. The template structure reflects the overall research process, ensuring your dissertation or thesis will have a smooth, logical flow from chapter to chapter.

The dissertation template covers the following core sections:

  • The title page/cover page
  • Abstract (sometimes also called the executive summary)
  • Table of contents
  • List of figures /list of tables
  • Chapter 1: Introduction  (also available: in-depth introduction template )
  • Chapter 2: Literature review  (also available: in-depth LR template )
  • Chapter 3: Methodology (also available: in-depth methodology template )
  • Chapter 4: Research findings /results (also available: results template )
  • Chapter 5: Discussion /analysis of findings (also available: discussion template )
  • Chapter 6: Conclusion (also available: in-depth conclusion template )
  • Reference list

Each section is explained in plain, straightforward language , followed by an overview of the key elements that you need to cover within each section. We’ve also included practical examples to help you understand exactly what’s required in each section.

The cleanly-formatted Word document is fully editable , so you can use it as-is for your dissertation or thesis, copy over the contents to a fresh document, or convert it to LaTeX.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What format is the dissertation template (Word Doc, PDF, PPT, etc.)?

The template is provided in a fully editable MS Word document. You’re welcome to convert it to whatever format works best for you, such as LaTeX or PDF.

What types of dissertations/theses can this template be used for?

The template follows the standard best-practice structure for formal academic research projects such as dissertations or theses, so it is suitable for the vast majority of degrees, particularly those within the sciences.

Some universities may have some additional requirements, but these are typically minor, with the core structure remaining the same. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to double-check your university’s requirements before you finalise your structure.

Is this template for an undergrad, Masters or PhD-level thesis?

This template can be used for a dissertation, thesis or research project at any level of study. It may be slight overkill for an undergraduate-level study, but it certainly won’t be missing anything.

How long should my dissertation/thesis be?

This depends entirely on your university’s specific requirements, so it’s best to check with them. As a general ballpark, Masters-level projects are usually 15,000 – 20,000 words in length, while Doctoral-level projects are often in excess of 60,000 words.

Can I share this dissertation template with my friends/colleagues? 

Yes, you’re welcome to share this template. If you want to post about it on your blog or social media, all we ask is that you reference this page as your source.

Can Grad Coach help me with my dissertation/thesis?

Within the template, you’ll find plain-language explanations of each section, which should give you a fair amount of guidance. However, you’re also welcome to consider our dissertation and thesis coaching services .

Dissertation Coaching

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This information and format is essential for personal practice and preparation for academic work


I Want to freely download thesis template

paul omar kamara

am righting on a topic the impact of culture on organizational performance. case study university of sierra Leone please help me how to go about it.


Am writing on a topic titled: The impact of communication on organisational performance. No case study selected yet. Pls how do I go about this. I need help. Am studying programme and project management. Need this topic refined if possible to suit a manufacturing, construction or Agricultural project if possible. Thanks.

Sule Olanrewaju

Am writing on a topic titled : Effect of social media on students academic performance.

Penelope Nanzumwa

Am writing on a topic titled: The impact of e-procurement on the performance of an organisation. Kindly,I need help developing a concept note


Please I am writing on Developing a Sustainable Chocolate Industry in Ghana and I need help on the Methodology as the Research is an Analytical Research


Good work! I learned from this article how to organize my thesis.

Marina van der Hoven

I need help with my research question and methodology.

Chryslee Rolle

Hello I am trying to write a thesis/ dissertation for a master’s degree on the topic : Biblical counseling v psychology counseling and Christianity .

This is so difficult for me because , I am trying to do this after years of not being in school . It would be great to get professional help, thank you in advance.


This template, plus the templates of each section, has been invaluable for me to take my Master’s dissertation draft to a higher level. Thank you so much for such a detailed description that is logical and explains the whys as well as the whats. 🙂

Simeon Lahai Momoh

Hello I need help am writing a dissertation on the topic: the prevelance of needle stick injury among health workers in ahospital

Rajiv Kumar

I read about your GRAD COACH. It would be great to get professional help; thank you in advance.

Jeffery Napi

Thanks l’ve read with great interest. Thank you so much for your professional advice.

Ritu Yadav

hi im writing on feminist public sphere kindly guide


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A Guide to Dissertation Planning: Tips, Tools and Templates

Dissertations are a defining piece of academic research and writing for all students. To complete such a large research project while maintaining a good work-life balance, planning and organisation is essential. In this article, we’ll outline three categories for dissertation planning including project management, note-taking and information management, alongside tools and templates for planning and researching effectively.

best dissertation planner

For both undergraduates and postgraduates, a dissertation is an important piece of academic research and writing. A large research project often has many moving parts from managing information, meetings, and data to completing a lengthy write-up with drafts and edits. Although this can feel daunting, getting ahead with effective planning and organisation will make this process easier. By implementing project management techniques and tools, you can define a research and writing workflow that allows you to work systematically. This will enable you to engage in critical thinking and deep work, rather than worrying about organisation and deadlines. 

To get prepared, you can do two things: First, start your preliminary readings and research to define a topic and methodology.  You can do this in summer or during the first few weeks of university but the sooner, the better. This gives you time to discuss things with your supervisor, and really choose a topic of interest. Second, begin preparing the tools and techniques you’ll be using for your research and writing workflow. You can use the preliminary research phase to test these out, and see what works for you. 

Below, we’ll cover three key aspects to consider when managing your dissertation, alongside some digital tools for planning, research and writing. 

The 3 Categories of Dissertation Planning

Project Management and Planning 

Your dissertation is a project that requires both long and short-term planning. For long-term planning, roadmaps are useful to break your work down into sections, chapters or stages. This will give you a clear outline of the steps you need to work through to complete your dissertation in a timely manner. 

Most likely, your roadmap will be a mixture of the stages in your research project and the sections of your write-up. For example, stage 1 might be defined as preliminary research and proposal writing. While stage 3 might be completing your literature review, while collecting data. 

This roadmap can be supplemented by a timeline of deadlines, this is when those stages or chapters need to be completed by. Your timeline will inform your short-term plans, and define the tasks that need completing on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. This approach, using a roadmap and timeline, allows you to capture all the moving parts of your dissertation, and focus on small sub-sections at a time. A clear plan can make it easy to manage setbacks, such as data collection issues, or needing more time for editing. 


Whether you use a notebook, or digital tool, it’s ideal to have a dedicated research space for taking general notes. This might include meeting notes from supervision, important information from informational dissertation lectures, or key reminders, ideas and thoughts. It can be your go-to place for miscellaneous to-do lists, or to map out your thought processes. It’s good to have something on hand that is easy to access, and keeps your notes together in one place. 

Beyond this, you’ll also need a dedicated space or system for literature and research notes. These notes are important for avoiding plagiarism, communicating your ideas, and connecting key findings together. A proper system or space can make it easier to manage this information, and find the appropriate reference material when writing. Within this system, you might also include templates or checklists, for example, a list of critical reading questions to work through when assessing a paper. 

Information Management 

It’s important to consider how you plan to organise your literature, important documents, and written work. Note-taking is a part of this, however, this goes a step further to carefully organise all aspects of your dissertation. For example, it’s ideal to keep track of your literature searches, the papers you’ve read, and their citations but also, your reading progress. Being able to keep track of how many passes a paper has been through, how relevant it is, or where it fits within your themes, or ideas, will provide a good foundation for writing a well-thought out dissertation. 

Likewise, editing is an important part of the write-up process. You’ll have multiple drafts, revisions and feedback to consider. It’s good to have some way of keeping track of all this, to ensure all changes and edits have been completed. You might also have checklists or procedures to follow when collecting data, or working through your research. A good information management process can reduce stress, making everything easy to access and keep track of, which then allows you to focus on getting the actual work complete. 

Digital Project Management and Research Tools for Dissertation Planning 

Trello is a project management tool that uses boards, lists and cards to help you manage all your tasks. In a board, you can create lists, and place cards within these lists. Cards contain a range of information such as notes, checklists, and due dates. Cards and lists can be used to implement a digital kanban board system , allowing you to move cards into a ‘to-do’, ‘in progress’ or ‘complete’ list. This gives a visual representation of your progress.

This is a flexible, easy to use and versatile tool that can help with project management of your dissertation. For example, cards and lists can be used to track your literature, each card can represent a paper and lists could be 1st pass, 2nd pass, or be divided into themes. Likewise, you can use this approach to organise the various chapters or stages of your dissertation, and break down tasks in a visual way. Students have used Trello to manage academic literature reviews , daily life as an academic , and collaborate with their supervisors for feedback and revisions on their write-up. 

Notion is an all-in-one note-taking and project management tool that is highly customisable. Using content blocks, pages, and databases, this tool allows you to build a workspace tailored to your needs. Databases are a key feature of Notion, this function allows you to organise and define pages using a range of properties such as tags, dates, numbers, categories and more. This database can then be displayed in a multitude of ways using different views, and filters. 

For example, you can create a table with each entry being a page of meeting notes with your supervisor, you can assign a date, person, and tags to each page. You can then filter this information by date, or view it in a board format. Likewise, you can use the calendar to add deadlines, within these deadlines, you can expand the page to add information, and switch to ‘timeline’ view . This is perfect for implementing project management techniques when planning your dissertation. 

Although this may sound complicated, there are many templates and resources to get you started . Notion is an ideal tool for covering all three aspects of dissertation planning from project and information management to note-taking of all kinds. Students have used Notion for literature reviews , thesis writing , long-term PhD planning , thesis management , and academic writing . The best part, these students not only share their systems, but have also created free templates to help you build your own system for research. 

Asana is a project management and to-do list tool that uses boards, lists, timelines and calendars. If you’re someone who prefers using lists to organise your life and projects, Asana is ideal for you. You can use this tool to manage deadlines, reading progress, or break down your work into projects and sub-tasks. Asana can integrate with your calendar, which is perfect if you already use other calendar tools for organisation. If something like Notion is too overwhelming, using a mixture of tools with different purposes can be a more comfortable approach. 

Genei is an AI-powered research tool for note-taking and literature management. Your research and reading material can be imported, and organised using projects and folders. For each file, genei produces an AI-powered summary, document outline, keyword list and overview. This tool also extracts key information such as tables, figures, and all the references mentioned. You can read through documents 70% faster but also, collect related articles by clicking on the items in the reference list. Genei can generate citations, and be used alongside other popular reference management tools, such as Zotero and Mendeley . 

This tool is ideal for navigating information management and literature notes for your dissertation. You can compile notes across single documents or folders of documents using the AI-generated summaries. These notes remain linked to their original source, which removes the need for you to keep track of this information. If you find it hard to reword content, there’s also summarising and paraphrasing tools to help get you started. Genei is a great tool to use alongside project management solutions, such as Trello and Asana, and note-taking tools like Notion. You can define an efficient research and writing workflow using these range of tools, and make it easier to stay on top of your dissertation. 

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Dissertation Planner: Prepare & Propose

  • Getting Started
  • Prepare & Propose
  • Plan & Research
  • Write & Edit
  • Defense & Closure
  • Help & Resources

Work on Your Research Topic and Methodology

  • Identify Topic
  • Perform Literature Review
  • Adjust Research Question
  • Develop Research Methodology
  • Finalize Topic

Establish a Committee

ESTABLISHING YOUR COMMITTEE moves the dissertation project ahead and will help you develop areas of interest and expertise. To begin the formation of a dissertation committee, you should:

  • review departmental guidelines regarding dissertation committee make-up;
  • seek out an advisor who can be a compatible ally and an on-task mentor; and
  • initiate a dialog with individuals who might serve on the committee.

Overall, dissertation committee members should:

  • represent a range of expertise related to your research interests and methodological choices;
  • advise you throughout the process; and
  • comment on written materials from the proposal stage through the conclusion of the dissertation.

Keep in mind this caveat: Forming your committee need not be driven only by the idea of amassing content experts. Rather, consider these:

  • Set up a committee that includes faculty who will support you in different ways
  • Work with your advisor to form your committee
  • Take time to think about why you select certain faculty
  • Figure out how, why, and when to interact with the committee throughout the process

Once you have found your committee members, you are required to submit an Advisory Committee Request Form, which is available on the Doctoral Degree Candidate Forms page from the Graduate School. 

Submit a Proposal

  • Purpose of Proposal
  • Questions to Consider
  • Proposal Meeting

The specific requirements for your PROPOSAL are determined by your department and your committee. Therefore, check with your advisor to ensure compliance with these specific requirements.

Generally, the purpose of your proposal is to persuade your committee that your dissertation will pursue an interesting and worthwhile research question. Furthermore, the proposal demonstrates that you are a researcher capable of:

  • explaining the significance of your research topic and question;
  • setting out a plan for gathering data and assembling information;
  • locating materials germane to your focus;
  • pursuing substantive examination of materials gathered; and
  • presenting a sound analysis of ideas to an academic audience.

The proposal helps you clarify your thoughts, arguments, and approach to your topic. The proposal is not a time to prove or claim you have read every article and book on the topic. Consider these questions when drafting a proposal:

  • What problem are you going to tackle?
  • Why is it a problem?
  • Why is it important to solve it?
  • Where are you going to look for answers?
  • Why are you going to look there?

You want to make clear and explicit the ways in which your conclusions or hypotheses follow from the ideas and research you have outlined in the proposal. Moreover, you should locate your own work within the larger field of study.

Schedule your proposal meeting after approval by your advisor, and make sure to follow all departmental guidelines and procedures. Procedures for proposal meetings and approvals vary widely among departments. Check that you are following the correct ones for yours.

As in all things related to your dissertation, check often with your advisor and department about internal requirements because they may change. One good way to determine the expectations and requirements for your proposal meeting is to talk to other students in your program who have completed the proposal process.

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This Dissertation Planner is a step-by-step guide to help you write a dissertation from starting to think about your question through to final submission. At each stage you will find useful tips and support. You can return to the planner by bookmarking the URL. Please contact us to provide feedback or if you have any questions.

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Dissertation Strategies

What this handout is about.

This handout suggests strategies for developing healthy writing habits during your dissertation journey. These habits can help you maintain your writing momentum, overcome anxiety and procrastination, and foster wellbeing during one of the most challenging times in graduate school.

Tackling a giant project

Because dissertations are, of course, big projects, it’s no surprise that planning, writing, and revising one can pose some challenges! It can help to think of your dissertation as an expanded version of a long essay: at the end of the day, it is simply another piece of writing. You’ve written your way this far into your degree, so you’ve got the skills! You’ll develop a great deal of expertise on your topic, but you may still be a novice with this genre and writing at this length. Remember to give yourself some grace throughout the project. As you begin, it’s helpful to consider two overarching strategies throughout the process.

First, take stock of how you learn and your own writing processes. What strategies have worked and have not worked for you? Why? What kind of learner and writer are you? Capitalize on what’s working and experiment with new strategies when something’s not working. Keep in mind that trying out new strategies can take some trial-and-error, and it’s okay if a new strategy that you try doesn’t work for you. Consider why it may not have been the best for you, and use that reflection to consider other strategies that might be helpful to you.

Second, break the project into manageable chunks. At every stage of the process, try to identify specific tasks, set small, feasible goals, and have clear, concrete strategies for achieving each goal. Small victories can help you establish and maintain the momentum you need to keep yourself going.

Below, we discuss some possible strategies to keep you moving forward in the dissertation process.

Pre-dissertation planning strategies

Get familiar with the Graduate School’s Thesis and Dissertation Resources .

Learn how to use a citation-manager and a synthesis matrix to keep track of all of your source information.

Skim other dissertations from your department, program, and advisor. Enlist the help of a librarian or ask your advisor for a list of recent graduates whose work you can look up. Seeing what other people have done to earn their PhD can make the project much less abstract and daunting. A concrete sense of expectations will help you envision and plan. When you know what you’ll be doing, try to find a dissertation from your department that is similar enough that you can use it as a reference model when you run into concerns about formatting, structure, level of detail, etc.

Think carefully about your committee . Ideally, you’ll be able to select a group of people who work well with you and with each other. Consult with your advisor about who might be good collaborators for your project and who might not be the best fit. Consider what classes you’ve taken and how you “vibe” with those professors or those you’ve met outside of class. Try to learn what you can about how they’ve worked with other students. Ask about feedback style, turnaround time, level of involvement, etc., and imagine how that would work for you.

Sketch out a sensible drafting order for your project. Be open to writing chapters in “the wrong order” if it makes sense to start somewhere other than the beginning. You could begin with the section that seems easiest for you to write to gain momentum.

Design a productivity alliance with your advisor . Talk with them about potential projects and a reasonable timeline. Discuss how you’ll work together to keep your work moving forward. You might discuss having a standing meeting to discuss ideas or drafts or issues (bi-weekly? monthly?), your advisor’s preferences for drafts (rough? polished?), your preferences for what you’d like feedback on (early or late drafts?), reasonable turnaround time for feedback (a week? two?), and anything else you can think of to enter the collaboration mindfully.

Design a productivity alliance with your colleagues . Dissertation writing can be lonely, but writing with friends, meeting for updates over your beverage of choice, and scheduling non-working social times can help you maintain healthy energy. See our tips on accountability strategies for ideas to support each other.

Productivity strategies

Write when you’re most productive. When do you have the most energy? Focus? Creativity? When are you most able to concentrate, either because of your body rhythms or because there are fewer demands on your time? Once you determine the hours that are most productive for you (you may need to experiment at first), try to schedule those hours for dissertation work. See the collection of time management tools and planning calendars on the Learning Center’s Tips & Tools page to help you think through the possibilities. If at all possible, plan your work schedule, errands and chores so that you reserve your productive hours for the dissertation.

Put your writing time firmly on your calendar . Guard your writing time diligently. You’ll probably be invited to do other things during your productive writing times, but do your absolute best to say no and to offer alternatives. No one would hold it against you if you said no because you’re teaching a class at that time—and you wouldn’t feel guilty about saying no. Cultivating the same hard, guilt-free boundaries around your writing time will allow you preserve the time you need to get this thing done!

Develop habits that foster balance . You’ll have to work very hard to get this dissertation finished, but you can do that without sacrificing your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Think about how you can structure your work hours most efficiently so that you have time for a healthy non-work life. It can be something as small as limiting the time you spend chatting with fellow students to a few minutes instead of treating the office or lab as a space for extensive socializing. Also see above for protecting your time.

Write in spaces where you can be productive. Figure out where you work well and plan to be there during your dissertation work hours. Do you get more done on campus or at home? Do you prefer quiet and solitude, like in a library carrel? Do you prefer the buzz of background noise, like in a coffee shop? Are you aware of the UNC Libraries’ list of places to study ? If you get “stuck,” don’t be afraid to try a change of scenery. The variety may be just enough to get your brain going again.

Work where you feel comfortable . Wherever you work, make sure you have whatever lighting, furniture, and accessories you need to keep your posture and health in good order. The University Health and Safety office offers guidelines for healthy computer work . You’re more likely to spend time working in a space that doesn’t physically hurt you. Also consider how you could make your work space as inviting as possible. Some people find that it helps to have pictures of family and friends on their desk—sort of a silent “cheering section.” Some people work well with neutral colors around them, and others prefer bright colors that perk up the space. Some people like to put inspirational quotations in their workspace or encouraging notes from friends and family. You might try reconfiguring your work space to find a décor that helps you be productive.

Elicit helpful feedback from various people at various stages . You might be tempted to keep your writing to yourself until you think it’s brilliant, but you can lower the stakes tremendously if you make eliciting feedback a regular part of your writing process. Your friends can feel like a safer audience for ideas or drafts in their early stages. Someone outside your department may provide interesting perspectives from their discipline that spark your own thinking. See this handout on getting feedback for productive moments for feedback, the value of different kinds of feedback providers, and strategies for eliciting what’s most helpful to you. Make this a recurring part of your writing process. Schedule it to help you hit deadlines.

Change the writing task . When you don’t feel like writing, you can do something different or you can do something differently. Make a list of all the little things you need to do for a given section of the dissertation, no matter how small. Choose a task based on your energy level. Work on Grad School requirements: reformat margins, work on bibliography, and all that. Work on your acknowledgements. Remember all the people who have helped you and the great ideas they’ve helped you develop. You may feel more like working afterward. Write a part of your dissertation as a letter or email to a good friend who would care. Sometimes setting aside the academic prose and just writing it to a buddy can be liberating and help you get the ideas out there. You can make it sound smart later. Free-write about why you’re stuck, and perhaps even about how sick and tired you are of your dissertation/advisor/committee/etc. Venting can sometimes get you past the emotions of writer’s block and move you toward creative solutions. Open a separate document and write your thoughts on various things you’ve read. These may or may note be coherent, connected ideas, and they may or may not make it into your dissertation. They’re just notes that allow you to think things through and/or note what you want to revisit later, so it’s perfectly fine to have mistakes, weird organization, etc. Just let your mind wander on paper.

Develop habits that foster productivity and may help you develop a productive writing model for post-dissertation writing . Since dissertations are very long projects, cultivating habits that will help support your work is important. You might check out Helen Sword’s work on behavioral, artisanal, social, and emotional habits to help you get a sense of where you are in your current habits. You might try developing “rituals” of work that could help you get more done. Lighting incense, brewing a pot of a particular kind of tea, pulling out a favorite pen, and other ritualistic behaviors can signal your brain that “it is time to get down to business.” You can critically think about your work methods—not only about what you like to do, but also what actually helps you be productive. You may LOVE to listen to your favorite band while you write, for example, but if you wind up playing air guitar half the time instead of writing, it isn’t a habit worth keeping.

The point is, figure out what works for you and try to do it consistently. Your productive habits will reinforce themselves over time. If you find yourself in a situation, however, that doesn’t match your preferences, don’t let it stop you from working on your dissertation. Try to be flexible and open to experimenting. You might find some new favorites!

Motivational strategies

Schedule a regular activity with other people that involves your dissertation. Set up a coworking date with your accountability buddies so you can sit and write together. Organize a chapter swap. Make regular appointments with your advisor. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something that you’ll feel good about showing up for–and will make you feel good about showing up for others.

Try writing in sprints . Many writers have discovered that the “Pomodoro technique” (writing for 25 minutes and taking a 5 minute break) boosts their productivity by helping them set small writing goals, focus intently for short periods, and give their brains frequent rests. See how one dissertation writer describes it in this blog post on the Pomodoro technique .

Quit while you’re ahead . Sometimes it helps to stop for the day when you’re on a roll. If you’ve got a great idea that you’re developing and you know where you want to go next, write “Next, I want to introduce x, y, and z and explain how they’re related—they all have the same characteristics of 1 and 2, and that clinches my theory of Q.” Then save the file and turn off the computer, or put down the notepad. When you come back tomorrow, you will already know what to say next–and all that will be left is to say it. Hopefully, the momentum will carry you forward.

Write your dissertation in single-space . When you need a boost, double space it and be impressed with how many pages you’ve written.

Set feasible goals–and celebrate the achievements! Setting and achieving smaller, more reasonable goals ( SMART goals ) gives you success, and that success can motivate you to focus on the next small step…and the next one.

Give yourself rewards along the way . When you meet a writing goal, reward yourself with something you normally wouldn’t have or do–this can be anything that will make you feel good about your accomplishment.

Make the act of writing be its own reward . For example, if you love a particular coffee drink from your favorite shop, save it as a special drink to enjoy during your writing time.

Try giving yourself “pre-wards” —positive experiences that help you feel refreshed and recharged for the next time you write. You don’t have to “earn” these with prior work, but you do have to commit to doing the work afterward.

Commit to doing something you don’t want to do if you don’t achieve your goal. Some people find themselves motivated to work harder when there’s a negative incentive. What would you most like to avoid? Watching a movie you hate? Donating to a cause you don’t support? Whatever it is, how can you ensure enforcement? Who can help you stay accountable?

Affective strategies

Build your confidence . It is not uncommon to feel “imposter phenomenon” during the course of writing your dissertation. If you start to feel this way, it can help to take a few minutes to remember every success you’ve had along the way. You’ve earned your place, and people have confidence in you for good reasons. It’s also helpful to remember that every one of the brilliant people around you is experiencing the same lack of confidence because you’re all in a new context with new tasks and new expectations. You’re not supposed to have it all figured out. You’re supposed to have uncertainties and questions and things to learn. Remember that they wouldn’t have accepted you to the program if they weren’t confident that you’d succeed. See our self-scripting handout for strategies to turn these affirmations into a self-script that you repeat whenever you’re experiencing doubts or other negative thoughts. You can do it!

Appreciate your successes . Not meeting a goal isn’t a failure–and it certainly doesn’t make you a failure. It’s an opportunity to figure out why you didn’t meet the goal. It might simply be that the goal wasn’t achievable in the first place. See the SMART goal handout and think through what you can adjust. Even if you meant to write 1500 words, focus on the success of writing 250 or 500 words that you didn’t have before.

Remember your “why.” There are a whole host of reasons why someone might decide to pursue a PhD, both personally and professionally. Reflecting on what is motivating to you can rekindle your sense of purpose and direction.

Get outside support . Sometimes it can be really helpful to get an outside perspective on your work and anxieties as a way of grounding yourself. Participating in groups like the Dissertation Support group through CAPS and the Dissertation Boot Camp can help you see that you’re not alone in the challenges. You might also choose to form your own writing support group with colleagues inside or outside your department.

Understand and manage your procrastination . When you’re writing a long dissertation, it can be easy to procrastinate! For instance, you might put off writing because the house “isn’t clean enough” or because you’re not in the right “space” (mentally or physically) to write, so you put off writing until the house is cleaned and everything is in its right place. You may have other ways of procrastinating. It can be helpful to be self-aware of when you’re procrastinating and to consider why you are procrastinating. It may be that you’re anxious about writing the perfect draft, for example, in which case you might consider: how can I focus on writing something that just makes progress as opposed to being “perfect”? There are lots of different ways of managing procrastination; one way is to make a schedule of all the things you already have to do (when you absolutely can’t write) to help you visualize those chunks of time when you can. See this handout on procrastination for more strategies and tools for managing procrastination.

Your topic, your advisor, and your committee: Making them work for you

By the time you’ve reached this stage, you have probably already defended a dissertation proposal, chosen an advisor, and begun working with a committee. Sometimes, however, those three elements can prove to be major external sources of frustration. So how can you manage them to help yourself be as productive as possible?

Managing your topic

Remember that your topic is not carved in stone . The research and writing plan suggested in your dissertation proposal was your best vision of the project at that time, but topics evolve as the research and writing progress. You might need to tweak your research question a bit to reduce or adjust the scope, you might pare down certain parts of the project or add others. You can discuss your thoughts on these adjustments with your advisor at your check ins.

Think about variables that could be cut down and how changes would affect the length, depth, breadth, and scholarly value of your study. Could you cut one or two experiments, case studies, regions, years, theorists, or chapters and still make a valuable contribution or, even more simply, just finish?

Talk to your advisor about any changes you might make . They may be quite sympathetic to your desire to shorten an unwieldy project and may offer suggestions.

Look at other dissertations from your department to get a sense of what the chapters should look like. Reverse-outline a few chapters so you can see if there’s a pattern of typical components and how information is sequenced. These can serve as models for your own dissertation. See this video on reverse outlining to see the technique.

Managing your advisor

Embrace your evolving status . At this stage in your graduate career, you should expect to assume some independence. By the time you finish your project, you will know more about your subject than your committee does. The student/teacher relationship you have with your advisor will necessarily change as you take this big step toward becoming their colleague.

Revisit the alliance . If the interaction with your advisor isn’t matching the original agreement or the original plan isn’t working as well as it could, schedule a conversation to revisit and redesign your working relationship in a way that could work for both of you.

Be specific in your feedback requests . Tell your advisor what kind of feedback would be most helpful to you. Sometimes an advisor can be giving unhelpful or discouraging feedback without realizing it. They might make extensive sentence-level edits when you really need conceptual feedback, or vice-versa, if you only ask generally for feedback. Letting your advisor know, very specifically, what kinds of responses will be helpful to you at different stages of the writing process can help your advisor know how to help you.

Don’t hide . Advisors can be most helpful if they know what you are working on, what problems you are experiencing, and what progress you have made. If you haven’t made the progress you were hoping for, it only makes it worse if you avoid talking to them. You rob yourself of their expertise and support, and you might start a spiral of guilt, shame, and avoidance. Even if it’s difficult, it may be better to be candid about your struggles.

Talk to other students who have the same advisor . You may find that they have developed strategies for working with your advisor that could help you communicate more effectively with them.

If you have recurring problems communicating with your advisor , you can make a change. You could change advisors completely, but a less dramatic option might be to find another committee member who might be willing to serve as a “secondary advisor” and give you the kinds of feedback and support that you may need.

Managing your committee

Design the alliance . Talk with your committee members about how much they’d like to be involved in your writing process, whether they’d like to see chapter drafts or the complete draft, how frequently they’d like to meet (or not), etc. Your advisor can guide you on how committees usually work, but think carefully about how you’d like the relationship to function too.

Keep in regular contact with your committee , even if they don’t want to see your work until it has been approved by your advisor. Let them know about fellowships you receive, fruitful research excursions, the directions your thinking is taking, and the plans you have for completion. In short, keep them aware that you are working hard and making progress. Also, look for other ways to get facetime with your committee even if it’s not a one-on-one meeting. Things like speaking with them at department events, going to colloquiums or other events they organize and/or attend regularly can help you develop a relationship that could lead to other introductions and collaborations as your career progresses.

Share your struggles . Too often, we only talk to our professors when we’re making progress and hide from them the rest of the time. If you share your frustrations or setbacks with a knowledgeable committee member, they might offer some very helpful suggestions for overcoming the obstacles you face—after all, your committee members have all written major research projects before, and they have probably solved similar problems in their own work.

Stay true to yourself . Sometimes, you just don’t entirely gel with your committee, but that’s okay. It’s important not to get too hung up on how your committee does (or doesn’t) relate to you. Keep your eye on the finish line and keep moving forward.

Helpful websites:

Graduate School Diversity Initiatives : Groups and events to support the success of students identifying with an affinity group.

Graduate School Career Well : Extensive professional development resources related to writing, research, networking, job search, etc.

CAPS Therapy Groups : CAPS offers a variety of support groups, including a dissertation support group.

Advice on Research and Writing : Lots of links on writing, public speaking, dissertation management, burnout, and more.

How to be a Good Graduate Student: Marie DesJardins’ essay talks about several phases of the graduate experience, including the dissertation. She discusses some helpful hints for staying motivated and doing consistent work.

Preparing Future Faculty : This page, a joint project of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the Council of Graduate Schools, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, explains the Preparing Future Faculty Programs and includes links and suggestions that may help graduate students and their advisors think constructively about the process of graduate education as a step toward faculty responsibilities.

Dissertation Tips : Kjell Erik Rudestam, Ph.D. and Rae Newton, Ph.D., authors of Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process.

The ABD Survival Guide Newsletter : Information about the ABD Survival Guide newsletter (which is free) and other services from E-Coach (many of which are not free).

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Your Dissertation Plan - 18 Free Tools

Find your perfect postgrad program search our database of 30,000 courses.

  • by Charlotte King
  • In Theses and Dissertations

A dissertation  requires solid organisational skills and effective time management  in order to achieve a high standard, so we’ve put together a list of some of the best free tools available to make the planning stages of your project easier.  

Choosing a topic

Before you even get near your research proposal , you need to have a topic in mind. Mind mapping is a great way to organise and visualise your early ideas when developing your dissertation topic. Mind42.com 's mind mapping tool allows you to collaborate with colleagues online, which could be useful for sharing with peers or your project supervisor. Mindmeister.com  also features collaboration and boasts mobile access with it’s free iPhone app, whilst Bubbl.us  focuses on speed with it's handy keyboard shortcuts.

Evernote  provides tools for your computer, mobile device, or web browser which capture your ideas, notes, and inspiration wherever you are. This free toolset lets users save text notes, web pages, photos, and screenshots with a comprehensive search feature so that you can retrieve your ideas quickly and easily.

Reading & research

Using Google Scholar  you can search a large index of scholarly articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions. To get the most out this research tool check out Google’s guide to Advanced Scholar Searches . Compiling a bibliography in the required format can be a time consuming task at the end of a dissertation, especially if you haven't kept track whilst writing . Fortunately there are free tools available which help you to store your citations from the beginning of your project and retrieve them in a number of commonly use formats. Bibdesk  is an Open Source Mac app with bibliography management and search features, as well as some useful import and export capabilities. Alternatively, you could use Zotero 's browser extension for Firefox which can automatically sync your data with multiple computers. It also features browsing for mobile devices, which means you can access your data in away from your computer. For Windows users, BiblioExpress  offers a simple reference manager that can format citations in common styles such as ACS, APA, and MLA.

Planning your time

Time management is crucial  in a large project such as a dissertation. It may be useful to plan backwards from your deadline, allowing extra time where necessary for unforeseen delays and revisions. Gantt charts are a very visual way to allocate time to your dissertation tasks and there are many free tools to help you build your own. This is especially great if you're accommodating some non-work time too . Google Docs has a Gadget  in it’s spreadsheet feature which creates Gantt charts for free. Similarly, if you already own Microsoft Excel you can build Gantt charts with it too.

Tomsplanner  is a dedicated web-based Gantt generator which is free for personal use, and Team Gantt 's free trial offers an alternative with a slick interface. If you’re not keen on Gantt charts you could simply plan your project in a standard calendar. Google Calendars  is web based meaning you can access it from any computer and most mobile devices. You could also share your calendar with your supervisor if you think you're likely to miss deadlines. Microsoft Outlook’s calendar and iCalendar on Mac could also be useful planning tools.

To-do lists

If you need to organise your dissertation workload on a shorter time scale,  TeuxDeux 's well designed interface helps you to plan your tasks on a weekly basis. There’s also a paid iPhone app for task management on the go.

HabitRPG  is an excellent option for those of you who need a bit of positive reinforcement alongside your planning. If a week is still too much to think about, check out Todokyo  which takes simplicity to the next level with a clean-looking daily list.


If you find yourself constantly distracted by the lures of email and social networking, you could try Freedom’s free trial . This Mac app blocks your web connection for up to 3 hours at a time, leaving you to concentrate on your dissertation. Alternatively you can block specific websites from Firefox using Leechblock , and Google Chrome users can do the same with StayFocusd .

Related articles

Planning A Good Research Project

How To Write A Thesis or Dissertation

Publishing Your Thesis or Dissertation

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Halley Jan. 10, 2020, 5:57 a.m.

Great article! Thank you :)

Charlotte King Jan. 13, 2020, 8:28 p.m.

Glad you liked it – hope you found it useful too!

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Our Favorite Paper Planners

Some of our favorite paper planners, displayed together on a surface next to a couple of pens.

You can find plenty of phone apps to help you keep track of your life, but stationery lovers know the power of writing it all down on paper.

You can’t beat the satisfaction of crossing something off your to-do list with a sharp pencil or a smooth pen—and shouldn’t everybody use their phone less anyway?

There are so many good planners that we can’t recommend a single standout; instead, we’ve found eight, in a range of styles, that people with different priorities will love.

We’ve researched 122 planners and tested 44 since 2017, and we’ve discovered that most (but not all) of the best planners cost $50 or less. We set out to satisfy a range of planning types—from simple scheduling to more artistic uses like journaling and sketching.

Our picks include an academic planner for students , a highly customizable traveler’s notebook , a simple book-bound planner , a minimalist calendar , a refillable ring-bound organizer , an option for memory keeping , a goal-tracking planner , and a bullet journal .

If you’re not sure which type of planner is for you, we cover how to choose the right planner ; you can also see how we made our picks .

Wherever possible we’ve chosen options that are widely available and come in different sizes and colors.

The research

Why you should trust us, for the school year: blue sky academic student planner, most customizable: traveler’s notebook, a multitasking book-bound option: mochithings medium ardium planner, a stripped-down calendar: jstory large weekly planner, best ring-bound: filofax the original organizer, for memory keeping: erin condren lifeplanner, an inspirational goal planner: panda planner classic, best bullet journal: leuchtturm1917 bullet journal, other good planners, what about hobonichi planners, how to choose the right planner for yourself, how we picked and tested, the competition.

For advice on what to look for in a planner and insight into why paper planners are so popular in this digital age, we spoke to Shu Yao, co-founder of JetPens ; Erin Condren , creator of the hugely popular Erin Condren LifePlanner; Sarah McNally, owner of McNally Jackson Books and Goods for the Study ; and Kristin Damian, who runs the planner-sticker company Krissyanne Designs .

This guide builds on the extensive work of planner lover and senior staff writer Jackie Reeve, who also follows the online planner community—planner enthusiasts share photos and tips for setting up their planners, decorating their planners, or using their planners for more than simple scheduling. She uses nearly half a dozen planners, from various brands, to compartmentalize and organize facets of her life.

Senior staff writer Kaitlyn Wells considers her productivity style to be “organized chaos.” After college, she found it difficult to maintain a paper planner habit, and she favors reminders scattered across her mobile device, sticky notes, and reporter’s notebooks. In recent years, she’s moved away from paper planners entirely in favor of calendar apps for their convenience. Still, she went into this guide excited to explore several variations on hacking one’s to-do list. She found several planners she likes and is confident you’ll find one you enjoy using, too.

Our pick for best academic year planner for students, the Blue Sky Academic Student Planner, with a starry, blue cover.

Blue Sky Academic Student Planner

An academic-year planner.

With an affordable price, space for seven classes a day plus extracurriculars and to-do lists, and a project tracker in the back, this is our favorite student planner.

Buying Options

Best used for: simple scheduling, goal planning

Why it’s great: The Blue Sky Academic Student Planner is the best out of the eight academic-year planners we’ve tested because it has the most useful features for middle school, high school, and college students, the cover is sturdy, and it’s inexpensive—at this writing, it’s the second-most affordable planner we recommend. It’s 8.5 by 11 inches and less than 0.5 inch thick, so it has plenty of space for writing and doesn’t add much bulk to a backpack, but it’s still big enough that it won’t get lost or squished surrounded by textbooks, notebooks, and folders on a desk. The front has space for a full class schedule, and each monthly page has lined space for each day, plus study tips and boxes for monthly goals and projects. The weekly pages are also lined (which helps keep everything visually organized) and divided into seven class subjects a day. It has room for extracurricular activities or jobs, weekly goals, and to-do lists, as well. The back of the planner offers a couple of project-tracker pages to help brainstorm and plan longer-term projects.

The Blue Sky Academic Student Planner, opened to the august page in the monthly planning section.

The Blue Sky Academic Student Planner’s cover is clear laminated plastic, and it’s tough. In our testing it didn’t bend or cut easily, and it was thicker and more durable than those of academic planners we tested from Erin Condren and The Happy Planner. It should survive a school year of getting tossed around (whether you’re going from classroom to classroom or shuffling around in your own room) and still maintain its shape. We found the coil binding sturdier and harder to dent than that of similarly priced planners from Mead and Five Star, and the book lies flat when opened, which makes it easier to read and easier for you to use every centimeter of the writing space. All that, and it costs only about 20 bucks.

If you’re not a student but prefer using a midyear to midyear planner, we like most Blue Sky academic-year planners we’ve tested, including the Blue Sky Day Designer Weekly and Monthly Planner . It’s a less-expensive, pared-down version of the original Day Designer planner we’ve tested and recommended in the past. The Stellar Blue Academic Student Planner is the only one that divides days up by class periods and includes room for class schedules and projects, but more cover designs and sizes are available if you don’t need those features.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The paper quality on the Blue Sky planner is the worst of our picks. It’s thin, and Sharpies can bleed through or you can leave impressions on the back of the page if you’re a heavy-handed writer, but for the price and utility it does the job. It is frustrating to have just a single cover design, too, and we’re not sure how long the Academic Student Planner will remain in stock for the back-to-school season—if you like it, don’t hesitate to pick it up as soon as you can.

Sizes: 8.5 by 11 inches

Colors: one print

Our pick for the most customizable planner, the Traveler’s Company Traveler’s Notebook, shown upright next to a pen.

Traveler’s Company Traveler’s Notebook

The most customizable planner.

You can fill this cross between a simple calendar and a beautiful journal with a range of inserts for any type of planning. It’s the most versatile planner we’ve found.

Best used for: goal planning, artistic planning, bullet journaling, memory keeping, simple scheduling

Why it’s great: Of all the planners we considered, the Traveler’s Company Traveler’s Notebook was the most popular with our testers. The simple leather folio holds thin notebooks inside (secured with an elastic band), and you can invest in whatever notebook inserts fit your planning needs. It’s the only system we found that works for all types of planning. There are over a dozen options for inserts on their site .

This is the original Traveler’s Notebook, a style of planner often interchangeably called the Midori (the company’s name before 2015). You can find many other brands of this style inspired by the original (they’re sometimes called “fauxdori”), and some of them are great options if you like more colors and patterns—we mention a few of these alternatives in the Competition section . But the original Traveler’s Notebook is more widely available. It also has a large following in the online planner community, and the Instagram hashtag #midoritravelersnotebook is full of inspiration. While testing, we discovered that several Wirecutter staffers already own the Traveler’s Notebook and love it.

A black-ink drawing of a city drawn onto the blank pages of a Traveler's Notebook.

Long-term test notes

Senior staff writer Jackie Reeve has been using the Traveler’s Notebook since 2016 and says it just gets better with age. The leather is soft and beautifully worn in, plus it’s easy to throw in her bag without damaging it. Several of our staffers still use and love theirs, including Wirecutter’s Erin Moore, who says it’s simple to repair the enclosing elastic and inner strings if they wear out over time. “I’ve had mine for seven years, and it’s still going strong,” she says. “The leather’s buttery and still smells great.”

The leather, which looks pristine when new, quickly becomes worn with visible scuffs and scratches. (We think this just adds to the character of the planner.) One of our 10 staff testers thought the regular size was too big for the portability he wanted, but using the passport size , and keeping fewer notebooks inside, would address those concerns.

Sizes: regular, 4.9 by 8.7 inches; passport, 3.9 by 5.3 inches

Colors: black , brown , camel , blue

Our pick for best book-bound multitasking planner, the MochiThings Medium Ardium Planner, in red, next to a pen.

MochiThings Medium Ardium Planner

The planner that multitasks.

This design is a better choice if you want a slimmer planner that also works for drawing, bullet journaling, or making lists. The weekly, monthly, and yearly calendars offer plenty of space for writing and planning.

Best used for: goal planning, artistic planning, bullet journaling

Why it’s great: The MochiThings Medium Ardium Planner was almost as popular with our testers as the Traveler’s Notebook. This model is one of the best options if you like to plan your day and jot things down because it has plenty of room for extra notes and lists. Like the Traveler’s Notebook, it offers a minimalist design, and you can use its pages for a few different things—sketching, bullet journaling, or making lists—but it’s slimmer and less expensive. You also can’t add or swap out inserts as you can with the Traveler’s Notebook. It’s similar to a Moleskine planner, but our testers think its calendars and page layouts are more useful. The Ardium Planner also comes in a small weekly size and a large daily planner, but the medium size is just right for carrying in a bag or leaving out on a desk.

A bunch of black-ink drawings of people on one of the blank grid pages of the MochiThings Medium Ardium Planner.

Wirecutter senior editor Kalee Thompson is on her sixth Ardium Planner this year (2023) and is still satisfied. “I really use this planner as my to-do list and a notebook,” she says, adding, “I like that it has so many pages at the back for general notes” plus a cloth built-in bookmark and an elastic bookmark. She also likes the pocket “for storing random little papers” and says the cover has a pleasing texture. Order early, though: Kalee notes that the colors often sell out quickly.

If you’re interested in drawing or painting in your planner, the Ardium Planner’s paper isn’t as creamy and doesn’t hold watercolor as well as the paper in some of our other picks (although it’s just as nice as the paper in the Traveler’s Notebook). One tester disliked the layout of the days of the week and the planner’s inability to lie flat.

Sizes: small, 4.5 by 6.1 inches; medium, 5.1 by 7.5 inches; large, 6.3 by 9.06 inches

Colors: gray, green, navy, red

Our pick for best planner for simple scheduling, the Jstory Large Weekly Planner, next to the Jstory Medium Monthly Planner.

Jstory Large Weekly Planner

Best for simple scheduling.

A bare-bones planner and our most inexpensive pick, this slim, cardboard-covered booklet has undated pages for each week in a year—and nothing else.

Best used for: simple scheduling

Why it’s great: If all you need is a slim calendar to keep track of weekly notes and appointments, the Jstory Large Weekly Planner looks modern and costs less than any other pick on our list. It’s a no-frills planner with simple boxes for each day on every page but no additional space for to-do lists or notes. The weekly planner is also available in medium and big sizes, so you should be able to find one that does the trick. The size we tested is thin and fits easily in a bag, but the layout still leaves plenty of room for writing, which also makes this planner a good option to keep on a desk.

The Jstory Large Weekly Planner, open up to undated weekly pages, with blank spaces next to rows for each day of the week.

Made by South Korean company Jstory , the Large Weekly Planner has dedicated weekly pages with a big, simple font. It’s undated, so you can start your year whenever you’d like, and it has two weeks on every open page layout. The book doesn’t lie quite flat when opened, but it comes close. You’ll find no bells and whistles here, but if you just want a weekly calendar (Jstory has monthly options in big , large , and medium , too) and don’t want to pay more than $10 or $15, this planner is as simple as it gets, and it has been more reliably stocked than our previous minimalist pick from Muji.

The card-stock cover is flimsier than those of any of our other picks, so it may not hold up to a year’s worth of aggressive tossing in a bag. We’ve also seen the available colors vary widely from retailer to retailer, but the brown kraft covers seem to be the most consistently available.

Sizes: big, 8.3 by 11.7 inches; large, 7.1 by 10 inches; medium, 5.9 by 8.3 inches

Colors: varies by retailer

Our pick for best refillable planner, the Filofax The Original Organizer, in blue, displayed upright next to a pen.

Filofax The Original Organizer (personal size)

The best refillable planner.

Though expensive, this Filofax is the highest-quality leather planner we tested, and it’s small enough to fit in a bag. You can also purchase refills for it from multiple other brands.

best dissertation planner

Filofax The Original Organizer (A5 size)

A larger refillable planner.

This bigger, A5-size Filofax is just as good as the smaller version but has more writing space. It works with any A5 inserts, so you can purchase refills from whatever brand you like.

Best used for: goal planning

Why it’s great: We recommend Filofax’s The Original Organizer (still made by the English company that made the high-quality leather organizers iconic in the 1980s) if you want a high-quality refillable planner for business. The layouts are fairly simple (not filled with prompts or partitioned sections), they come with a good amount of writing space for each day, and the planner has plenty of plain paper in the back for notes and lists.

We looked at several other business planners in stores, including synthetic-leather versions of the Day-Timer and Day Runner planners, and we tested leather and synthetic-leather planners from Franklin, Levenger, and Quo Vadis. The quality of the Filofax planner stood out—the leather looked and felt exceptional, and the stitching was neater. We also prefer the Filofax planner’s look, layout, and color choices.

A personal-sized Filofax The Original Organizer, opened on the To-Do list pages.

Filofax’s The Original Organizer comes in fewer sizes than other three-ring planners (only two for the model we tested), but it offers more insert options , including dated and undated calendars. Most people will probably want the dated calendar, but owners with unpredictable schedules (such as freelancers) may prefer an undated calendar so that they don’t waste pages if they don’t use the planner every day. Third-party companies on Etsy also sell inserts specifically designed to fit Filofax planners. We tested the Personal size, which would be good for carrying in a handbag. The Original Organizer is also available in a larger A5 size, which works with any A5 paper insert. Be cautious with the Filofax Personal-size inserts—some planner brands change the size slightly so that it doesn’t fit a Filofax, or they call it something else, even if the paper fits.

Senior staff writer Jackie Reeve, who has owned and used the Original Personal Organizer in the Union Jack print since 2016, notes that “the leather itself is in great shape, and there’s no real fraying at the stitching or along the edges.” One Wirecutter staffer has had problems with the rings misaligning on her Filofax organizers, but that hasn’t been a universal experience.

Our testers thought Filofax’s The Original Organizer was austere and expensive for a planner. But once you purchase the cover, you only need to buy inserts in subsequent years. If you’re looking for a more affordable ring-bound planner, or if you’d prefer faux leather to real leather, you might like the Simple Stories Carpe Diem A5 Planner (a former also-great pick). It comes in the same personal and A5 sizes as well as several bright colors, and it’s typically less than half the price of the Filofax planner. Jackie has had a Filofax planner since 2016, and it still looks new.

Sizes : ring-bound personal, 5.38 by 7.38 inches; ring-bound A5, 7.8 by 9.2 inches

Colors: 17 colors, including the classic leather, patent leather , and Union Jack print

Our pick for best hybrid planner that also works for journaling or album-keeping, the Erin Condren LifePlanner, next to a pen.

Erin Condren LifePlanner

The best planner for memory keeping.

This pick is a hybrid planner, journal, and album, with a big online community to help you find decorating inspiration and ideas.

Best used for: memory keeping, goal planning

Why it’s great: If you’re interested in using a planner for memory keeping—to document your days and motivate yourself with inspirational quotes and fun stickers—you’ll have the most options with the Erin Condren LifePlanner . At 7 by 9 inches, it’s bigger than most of our other picks, with more writing space per day than in any other weekly planner we picked. Our testers liked that it comes in a choice of weekly vertical, weekly horizontal, or hourly layouts—it’s the only planner we tested with all of those options.

We tested the classic spiral-bound planner, which you can customize with a wide range of removable, interchangeable laminated covers . The planner is sold through the Erin Condren site but also at Staples if you just want to pick one up in a store. The high-quality coil binding allows the pages to move smoothly, so when the planner is open, it sits flat on a desk.

What really separates the LifePlanner from other memory-keeping planners is the sheer number of accessories—covers, stickers, sticky notes, pens—available for decorating it. An Etsy search for “Erin Condren stickers” alone yields more than 125,000 results at the time of publication, and Erin Condren’s site offers plenty of other accessories . If you’re interested in the planner community, the LifePlanner has the most active posters on Instagram , in Facebook groups, and on YouTube channels . The LifePlanner isn’t refillable, but many fans hold on to their old LifePlanners, as one would a personal journal.

The Erin Condren LifePlanner, opened to a February organization page.

Senior staff writer Jackie Reeve has been using Erin Condren planners off and on since 2015, and she still enjoys their durability, layout, and range of available third-party accessories. She found the LifePlanner to be an ideal planner for PTA meetings. Her one function-related complaint is that in 2019 the company changed the layout of its pages slightly, so the perfectly sized stickers she had stockpiled from various Etsy sellers no longer fit.

In June 2020, founder Erin Condren took a leave of absence from the company after she helped her daughter plan a high school graduation march that skirted the school’s decision not to hold an in-person graduation during the pandemic. It coincided with the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, and many people saw it as taking advantage of that movement, since the organizers clearly understood that having a “protest” instead of a gathering would allow them to get around their town’s social distancing rules . Many Erin Condren fans and customers saw the stunt as racist because most of the students involved were white and wealthy, and they boycotted the company on social media as a result. Since then, the company has released planners celebrating identity, including Pride Month and Black History Month collections, and donated some of the proceeds to charity. This is still the best planner for memory keeping, but if you don’t want to shop from Erin Condren, we recommend The Happy Planner or the weekly or daily planners from the Black-owned Ivory Paper Company .

As for the planner itself, in our initial testing some of our testers wanted something more portable. It also doesn’t appeal to minimalists, as the pages are a bit decorated and precious, with inspirational quotes and motivational sayings on floral backgrounds—but this is true of most of the memory-keeping planners we researched and tested.

Sizes: coil-bound , 7 by 9 inches; coil-bound, A5 5.8 by 8.3 inches

Colors: 80-plus prints for coil-bound

Our pick for best planner for goal-setting, the Panda Planner Classic, in black, displayed upright next to a pen.

Panda Planner Classic

The best planner for personal accountability.

This is a good planner for helping you stick to your tasks and goals, particularly if you respond well to prompts. The cover and layouts are nicer than those of other inspirational goal planners we considered.

Why it’s great: The Panda Planner Classic has the most structured layout of all our planner picks. With prompts and partitioned sections such as “Today’s Priorities,” “Morning Review,” and “Things I Will Do to Make This Week Great,” it’s designed to answer the question, “What do I want to accomplish with my time?”—which is the heart of goal planning.

The Panda Planner Classic, opened to the weekly projects pages.

Testers who wanted something for goal planning really liked the prompts and the feeling of accountability that the Panda Planner Classic gave them. “It says ‘Exercise’ here, so I feel like I would have to exercise so I could fill it in,” one tester told us. They also preferred the layout, overall look, and cover quality of the Panda Planner over that of the Passion Planner, which also focuses on accountability. The company makes several other planners, too, including a larger, 8.5-by-11-inch version, the Panda Planner Pro , plus a weekly version (we haven’t tested either yet) for those who like to plan more than a day at a time. In 2018, we tested the original size against the Full Focus Planner, the Productivity Planner, and the Day Designer planner; the Panda Planner Classic was the best for its streamlined format, small size, and ease of use. The calendars are undated, with months, weeks, and days grouped together in different sections. This is by design , so if you miss a week you don’t end up with wasted dated pages and the guilt that comes with them. Planning isn’t perfect.

Senior staff writer Jackie Reeve tried the Panda Planner Classic for a year, and it completely changed the way she approached her to-do lists and goal planning. She eventually found it too small for everything she needed, so she moved to the bigger Day Designer . In that year, though, she turned several friends onto the Panda Planner Classic, and most have stuck with it because it’s so portable.

This is a busy-looking planner, and some people may be overwhelmed by the prompts. It also holds only three months’ worth of space in one book, so you’ll have to buy more than one each year. This planner isn’t for everyone, but it could be fantastic for someone who wants a planner that will also guide them. If you want a roomier goal planner that looks less hectic, we recommend the Day Designer , a former pick. For a more businesslike, task-focused goal planner, you might consider the Planner Pad , another former pick.

Sizes: classic , 5.25 by 8.25 inches; full size , 8.5 by 11 inches (holds six months instead of three); weekly , 8.5 by 11 inches (full year)

Colors: black, orange, cyan, purple

Our pick for best bullet journal, the Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal, with a teal cover, displayed upright next to a pen.

Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal

The best bullet journal.

Designed in collaboration with the creator of bullet journaling, this planner is perfect for getting started or if you’re looking for a better BuJo.

Best used for: bullet journaling, artistic planning

Why it’s great: Leuchtturm1917’s Bullet Journal is a collaboration with Ryder Carroll, the creator of bullet journaling—it’s the only bullet journal offered on his website . The front and back pages of this notebook have some instructions and tips on how to use a bullet journal. The other bullet journal we tested, Rhodia’s Goalbook, offers no tips, and our testers preferred a little direction for getting started. They also preferred the stiffer cover of the Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal and the pale color of the grid dots on the page, which are more pleasing to the eyes than standard grid paper.

It’s a good-size book (A5), and the paper is excellent quality. In our tests, it held ink and watercolor well, so this planner also works for artistic planning (if you don’t need blank white paper, calendars, or other types of formatting). It’s also reasonably priced.

The Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal, opened up to some of its blank pages, which feature a pale grey dot grid.

Wirecutter’s Erin Moore appreciates that the pages lie flat and the paper accepts fountain-pen ink well. “The page numbering is the highlight of this notebook,” she says. After hand-numbering a lot of journals over the years, “it’s nice to have the work done for you.” Erin notes that these books hold up over time and adds, “The archival stickers that come with it are a big help in sorting through my pile of identical black books.”

Almost all of our testers were overwhelmed by a true bullet journal with zero formatting. If you’re new to paper planners, bullet journaling might be an ambitious place to start.

Sizes: A5, 8.2 by 5.8 inches

Colors: black, blue, teal

If you like the idea of the Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal but are intimidated by its complete lack of structure: Consider the AmandaRachLee Doodle Planner , which features unique monthly themes and weekly spreads with line-drawing artwork that journalers can color in or build upon without the added work of freehand drawing in a traditional bullet journal. But though we like the fun, lighthearted design, this planner is more than an inch thick—comparable to a hardcover novel—making it one of the heftiest we’ve tested. Additionally, its weekly spreads start on Mondays rather than Sundays, and none of the monthly spreads have the holidays pre-written on them. That can be annoying for people who prefer to see a snapshot of what’s to come.

If you want an academic planner that’s more sophisticated than the Blue Sky Academic Student Planner : Consider the Appointed Year Task Planner , which has organizational features that place a premium on scheduling and events. Its 7-by-9.5-inch size and minimalist design look more professional next to the brightly colored and large Blue Sky 8.5-by-11-inch planner, and it features tabs dividing each month, making it easy to flip to the right section. But since the January section actually begins on December 26, the end of January’s calendar can be found on the start of February’s section—causing a cascading effect for the entire year. And like the AmandaRachLee planner, the Appointed planner starts each week on a Monday rather than a Sunday.

If you’ve researched options for artistic planning, goal tracking, or bullet journaling, you might be familiar with Hobonichi planners. This Japanese brand is known for its Tomoe River Paper , which is ultrathin (almost half the thickness of a piece of copy paper) and known for its bleed and feathering resistance with many different pens (even fountain pens). This paper keeps the Hobonichi planners slim and lightweight even though they are packed with a page for every day, and it makes them very appealing for artists and journalers who like portability.

Several Wirecutter staffers use Hobonichi planners and love them, and in our tests the Hobonichi Techo Original and the Hobonichi Techo Cousin fared quite well. We’re not featuring them as main picks because their availability is limited. JetPens stocks Hobonichi planners, and Hobonichi has an Amazon storefront . Several of the covers we looked at on Amazon had low stock. But shipping time is much shorter on Amazon, and you’ll have a a better user experience on Amazon than ordering from the Japanese site, which one staffer noted was very basic. If you find a planner and a cover you like in stock on Amazon or JetPens, or if you can find these planners locally at a stationery shop or bookstore, they’re worth a look.

A bunch of our favorite paper planners displayed randomly over each other next to a couple of pens.

Planners are for anyone who likes writing things down on paper, and they can be a particularly good tool if you’re unhappy with digital options for tracking your time and your task lists. As Sarah McNally, owner of McNally Jackson Books, told us, “You can approach it on your own terms. It’s calm and still, it doesn’t beep out reminders.”

For tracking appointments, you might be happy with a sparse calendar. If you take a lot of notes or want room to journal or draw, you may need a format with more blank space. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of planners. Some work for multiple types of planning.

Simple scheduling

A dateless page from an unnamed paper agenda, which features note spaces for each day of the week.

If you just want to keep track of your appointments and deadlines, if you don’t use a planner to take notes, or if you’re a minimalist, you might prefer a simple agenda. Planners come in monthly, weekly, daily, or hourly formats, but a slim monthly or weekly appointment format—like a paper version of Google Calendar—is probably all that most people need. Other planners, with more pages for notes, tend to be thicker, and most people probably don’t need those extra pages if they just want to keep a calendar.

Goal planning

A Panda Planner, opened to one of the daily pages, displayed on a wooden desk.

Goal planning is about asking yourself, “What do I want to accomplish with my time?” Consider this process to encompass everything from writing down your to-do list for the day to mapping out your five-year plan. It’s a different way of thinking about your time than simple scheduling, which is mainly about where you need to be when. Some planners use prompts to spark ideas and help you stick to your goals.

Artistic planning

The Traveler's Notebook, opened to a page with a drawing of plants made with black pen and watercolors, on a wooden desk.

If you like the idea of a planner, sketchbook, and journal all in one, you might be an artistic planner. The online planner community—a collective of people who often call themselves “planners” and talk about the act of “planning”—is active on YouTube (video) and Instagram . Artistic planners are one part of this community. This style of planning is a creative outlet and a form of self-expression.

Memory keeping

An Erin Condren LifePlanner that is open to pages with coloful inspirational messages and stickers, shown on a wooden desk.

The craftier side of the planner community, which is highly active on social media, likes to embellish the pages of planners with stickers, stamps, and photos. This type of planning is essentially a hybrid of scheduling and scrapbooking, as it involves going back and documenting the day that has happened, not just planning the day ahead. “It has become like ‘real-time scrapbooking,’” Erin Condren told us, noting that the largely female community is elevating boring, everyday tasks. “They use their planners to create a memory album of appointments, special events, and day-to-day activities.”

Bullet journaling

A Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal that is open to blank pages with colorful page-marking ribbons, shown on a wooden desk.

Bullet journaling , or BuJo for short, is another way to use a planner, and some of the planners that work for BuJo also work for goal planning and artistic planning. With this technique, you use a method of shorthand called rapid logging to keep track of your schedule and tasks. With BuJo, you employ short bulleted lists—typically on grid paper, in a daily format—to take notes about the day and track appointments and to-do lists. It’s an alternative to traditional journaling.

Three of our favorite planners from our testing, displayed open on top of each other on a wooden desk.

Paper planners encompass a broad range of options, from minimal, undated books with little formatting to neatly partitioned pages that give you space to flesh out your day, week, and year in detail. Some of the planners we looked at had no adornments or decorations inside, while others had pretty themes and swirly fonts with cheerful, motivational messages throughout. We looked at the whole spectrum and decided to make several picks in different categories.

We researched dozens of brands to narrow down our testing picks, and we asked Wirecutter staffers what they would want to pay for a new planner. You can generally expect to pay less than $50 for a good planner, with a few exceptions. A planner should fit your specific needs, and you may discover that a simple, inexpensive planner you find at a big-box store works better for you than our picks.

Four of the planners with different bindings we tested for this guide stacked on top of each other, shown from the side.

We knew of several brands through the planner community and what we personally used; we also talked to several staffers about what they used. Articles from BuzzFeed , Refinery29 , and The Spruce helped us broaden our search, as did the JetPens planner guide . Our interviewed experts and reader comments pointed us toward several brands we hadn’t previously thought of. The experts also helped us determine our criteria for picking planners to test. The following features are the ones to look for:

Plenty of space for writing: We wanted planners that had enough room for us to jot down tasks, appointments, and notes. We looked for tall, well-spaced lines or boxes wide enough to fit two or three words in a row.

A sturdy and low-frustration binding: JetPens’s Shu Yao noted, “Many planners are meant to last the entire year or academic year, so it needs to survive daily wear.” Coil bindings allow for smoother page turning than disc bindings, which have individual, disconnected discs that don’t move fluidly together. A ring-bound, refillable planner is especially useful if it holds a standard, easy-to-find paper size. Book-bound or hardbound covers are less bulky than the other types. We preferred planners that let the book lie flat when open.

High-quality materials: We wanted planner covers that held up to wear, paper that was pleasant to write on, and sturdy tabs that didn’t bend when flipped. Sarah McNally of McNally Jackson Books told us, “A planner is a physical relationship you are embarking on. You will touch it as much as a wallet for the next year.” Laminated, leather, or hard covers last longer than cardboard or card-stock covers. And the paper should be creamy and sturdy; Yao told us this is key when JetPens looks for planners to carry. You don’t want paper so flimsy that it tears when you turn the pages or lets ink bleed through to the next page.

Customization: We looked for planners that offered different covers, in various colors and designs. For ring-bound planners, we wanted a standard paper size so that we could swap in any inserts from any compatible brand.

A variety of sizes: We looked for brands that offered both smaller, portable sizes and larger desk sizes. Especially for refillable planners, which are often a more expensive initial purchase, we liked size options that were standardized across a few brands of planners and inserts (such as the A5 size, which fits 5.83-by-8.27-inch paper).

Availability: We decided to focus on brands that were readily available online and preferably in at least some physical stores. Our interviewed experts gave us some great suggestions for smaller planner companies, but many of those could be difficult to source and were too niche for this guide.

Some of our testers at a testing table, which has a bunch of different planners on it and loose papers for note taking.

In our original testing in 2017, we had nine Wirecutter staffers help us test 19 different planners to make our original picks, then in 2018 we tested a new batch of 10 planners. In 2020, we tested eight academic-year planners. In 2023, we tested six additional planners against our existing picks, including weeklies, ring-bound options, and multitasking journals.

Our testers were a mix of paper-planner owners, people who wanted to get a paper planner, and those who had tried paper planners and been dissatisfied. They gave us notes on what they would personally look for in a paper planner (size, writing space, fonts, the feel of the materials) and how they wanted to use one (simple scheduling, goal planning, and so on). Our testers looked at each blank new planner and gave their feedback, and in some cases they changed their criteria after examining a planner in person. This is what happens to a lot of people—they buy a planner and realize later that it isn’t right for them—so we tried to make picks that worked for what people actually wanted, not what they thought they wanted.

Some black-ink and watercolor drawings made on the blank pages of the Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal during testing.

On all the planners we tested, we paid close attention to the paper quality and how well the sheets held ink from Sharpies and Uni-ball gel pens. We looked at the construction of the bindings and how sturdy the covers were, and we considered how useful the layouts were and how much writing space they offered. For the planners that could work for BuJo and artistic planning, we tried painting on them with basic children’s watercolors to see how the paper held water and color. In 2017 we also sent a few planners home with Wirecutter’s Kim Ku to draw and paint in (you can see examples of her sketches and paintings throughout this guide).

Refillable planners

The Simple Stories Carpe Diem A5 Planner is a former also-great pick, and if you don’t like leather or want something less expensive than a Filofax planner, it’s a great choice. It comes in fewer colors than Filofax’s The Original Organizer, and most binders and inserts have a feminine design. In stores we’ve seen these only at Hobby Lobby, but they’re still easier to get than many of the imported planners we’ve tested and recommended. It’s also available in a personal size.

The Kikki.K Leather Personal Planner was very popular with our staff, and this brand is a hit on social media, especially with fashion bloggers. Kikki.K is an Australian company with long shipping times and only some US availability at Nordstrom (mainly of the company’s hardbound designer planners, not the classic leather version). If you don’t mind the shipping wait, these planners offer fantastic quality.

The Happy Planner from Me & My Big Ideas is another affordable memory-keeping planner. We didn’t like its disc-bound binding—opening it all the way around to look at one page at a time wasn’t as smooth as with a coil-bound planner. However, one of our staffers long-term tested one for a year and told us the format really worked for her, and she didn’t mind the discs. In summer 2020 we tested the Classic Student Happy Planner ; although we loved the bright, rainbow colors and useful pages, it was bulkier than the Blue Sky Academic Student Planner, and we thought the design might not be as universally appealing. You can technically refill both of these planners, swap covers, or add inserts, but they’re so often on sale at craft stores that most people just buy a new one each year.

The Levenger Circa Weekly smartPlanner felt more useful than the Franklin planner we tested, but it’s expensive (a leather cover is sold separately) and doesn’t have many options for customization, since it doesn’t give you the flexibility to swap out inserts.

We reconsidered the classic Franklin Original Weekly Ring-bound Planner in 2018 after initially dismissing other versions we saw in office supply stores. More cover options are available online than we saw in stores. We tested the compact and classic sizes and found the Franklin inserts to be especially cramped for writing space compared with what you’d get with the Filofax, Levenger, or Quo Vadis planners. The format works for simple scheduling if you’re only keeping track of your working hours and don’t need to include evenings, weekends, or any real notes or lists. Considering the size and bulk of a ring-bound planner, though, you have better options if you just need a calendar.

Spiral-bound planners

The Day Designer planner is a former pick, and it’s senior staff writer Jackie Reeve’s personal favorite for everyday use, but it’s bigger and bulkier than the Panda Planner Classic. If you like a weighty planner you can leave on your desk, this one has a hard-board cover, sturdy spiral binding, and daily page layouts with space for appointments, to-do lists, and notes.

The Planner Pad is another former pick, and we recommend it if you’re looking for a goal planner with more task-focused prompts. It’s simpler than the Panda Planner Classic and the Day Designer planner, and it cuts out some of the more inspirational prompts those two offer—there’s no space for daily gratitude here, for example.

Our testers weren’t wild about the layouts of the Blue Sky Weekly and Monthly Planner , which have a pattern on every page. But Blue Sky offers endless print options, so you may find one you like. And we tested the Blue Sky Day Designer academic-year planner in summer 2020 and liked the extra functionality compared with regular Blue Sky options.

The Erin Condren Academic Planner had many of the features we were looking for in a student planner, including space for class schedules and exams, plus room for several subjects each day. But it’s almost twice the price of the Blue Sky Academic Student Planner, and it’s much heavier and bulkier. It would be awkward to carry in a full backpack.

We tested the Black-owned Ivory Paper Company’s 12 Month Daily Planner , which is similar to the Day Designer planner. It was a nice book with a pleasing cover, but the paper felt like copy paper, and the page layouts were less sophisticated—it was hard to see how this planner cost more than a Day Designer, which isn’t cheap. Our biggest issue, though, involved Ivory Paper Company’s order fulfillment. You can personalize the planner and specify the start month—both features we like—but as a result your order takes a couple of weeks to arrive (not unlike the situation with other planners we’ve tested, such as the Kikki.K planner). When we finally received our order, it was the wrong planner: We had ordered the weekly planner, with vertical boxes similar to those of the Erin Condren and Happy Planner, but we received a daily version instead. We haven’t tested the company’s customer service yet by asking for a replacement, though, and overall it’s not a bad option at all if you want to support a smaller, Black-owned business.

We tested the small-size Five Star academic planner , and the cover was sturdy. The layout was also more detailed than that of the Mead Academic Planner, but the fabric covering the spine (to add a pen holder to the book) kept it from opening as flat as we’d like. Overall the Blue Sky Academic Student Planner was more functional.

The Mead Academic Weekly Monthly Planner we tried in 2020 arrived with a dented coil that made it hard to open smoothly, and the design was plain and basic. For a few dollars more, we preferred the organization of the Blue Sky Academic Student Planner.

The At-A-Glance weekly appointment book is a classic business planner available at office supply stores, but it was a bit too big, too businesslike, and too narrow for us to write in the hourly format.

We recommend Field Notes notebooks as our pick for the best pocket notebook for jotting things down, but our testers didn’t like the Field Notes 56-Week Planner . They said the look of it was less appealing than that of other models, and they noted the lines on the paper were too dark for what they wanted in a planner. They also thought the cardboard cover would show too much wear after minimal use. One tester who liked the size did not want a planner with a coil binding.

The Mood Tracker Planner features goal and habit trackers like our Panda Planner pick, but its three-column layout is too narrow for jotting down notes.

Book-bound planners

We tested the Lemome Weekly & Monthly Planner in summer 2020 after seeing it rise in popularity over the past year. It has a 1950s prep-school charm to it, with a black cover, gold lettering, and a pen holder. After the MochiThings Ardium Planner, it’s the next-best book-bound planner we’ve tried. It’s not very expensive, but the layout is notably basic, and it comes in only one color.

We looked at regular-size Moleskine planners in a store but didn’t test them because some of our staff testers, who have owned them in the past, told us that the writing space was too small. We did test the smaller, pocket-size weekly version (now discontinued) just to see if it worked as an especially portable planner, but our testers said it was unusably small.

The Passion Planner was unpopular in testing because of the inside page design, the cramped writing space, and a cover that showed greasy thumbprints. One staffer liked the visual design of the layouts, but we preferred the Panda Planner Classic and the Planner Pad for goal tracking.

Our testers thought that the cover of the Rhodia’s Goalbook bullet journal was too fragile (it was already dented at one corner from shipping) and that the grid dots on the pages were too dark. On top of that, it contains only grid dot paper, with no instructions or tips, and our testers found that design to be too freeform.

The Full Focus Planner is another option similar to the Panda Planner Classic and the Planner Pad, with prompts to help keep you accountable and productive. In our tests, it wasn’t as intuitive to learn to use, and that might be a barrier for people to stay with it.

The Productivity Planner is also laid out with prompts and involves a system for tracking your time and output, but of all the planners we’ve tested, it’s the most complicated to use—it has 34 pages of instructions at the start of the book. It also lacks simple calendar layouts to track appointments or to plan ahead for projects and goals. If you like the idea of daily accountability to help you manage your time, without traditional planner features like monthly calendars, this option may work for you, but it doesn’t work for most people.

Poketo’s Project Planner is a larger planner designed for mapping out long-term projects, with more writing space and the ability to look at yearly, monthly, and weekly project goals. It’s available in a few colors, but it had a flimsy cover (a problem for something that might get tossed around in a work bag). The paper quality also wasn’t as good as that of other planners we tested—the pens we used showed signs of ghosting and bleeding on the page.

Our former pick for simple scheduling, the Muji Kraft Paper Monthly Planner has been continuously plagued with stock problems and surprise redesigns for the past three years. Though it’s now back in stock, we haven’t tested the latest version, so we can’t recommend it.

The Leuchtturm1917 Week Planner features the same cream-color paper as our Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal pick, but the dark ink used to print its weekly spreads is slightly visible through the page, which can be distracting. Plus, the four-column layout design is narrow and difficult to write in.

The Ohh Deer Daily Planner , roughly $20, offers only enough room for four months’ worth of entries, so you’d have to get three per year, making it one of the most expensive planners we’ve tested. And though this planner is sold in several cover designs, each one features a slightly different interior layout that isn’t disclosed on its product page.

The Papier Planner works well for big-picture weekly and monthly goals but lacks sufficient room for jotting down daily to-do lists and notes.

Planners we considered but didn’t test

There are so many planners, we couldn’t test them all. Our interviewed experts recommended several intriguing planners for us to test, but most of them were produced by particularly small, niche companies or imported from overseas, which made their availability even tougher than for Kikki.K and Hobonichi planners. For example, Sarah McNally raved about the Treuleben and Bindewerk planners, but they were hard to find in the US or had limited stock when we were working on this guide.

We looked at three alternative traveler’s notebooks: The Chic Sparrow , Freckled Fawn , and Foxy Fix traveler’s notebooks looked nice, but we were concerned about stock availability.

Shu Yao recommended several planners from JetPens that would work for simple scheduling—the discontinued Maruman Mnemosyne N163 Memo Pad, the Raymay Notebook Refill , and the Kokuyo Campus Diary Free Schedule —but they were out of stock at the time of our research or they were too simplified. Yao also recommended the Stalogy Editor’s Series 365Days Notebook for bullet journaling, but it didn’t look as nice as the ones we tested.

We looked at the Day-Timer and Day Runner planners, as well as the Franklin Covey Ava leather planner ; we passed on testing them because the quality and design weren’t very good.

We passed on a range of memory-keeping planners. The Happiness Planner , Purposeful Planners (with some faith-based sections), Get to Work Book , and Simplified Planner offerings are all coil-bound and about the same size as the Erin Condren LifePlanner but have goal-tracking features like the Panda Planner Classic. All of these companies are smaller, so we were worried about stock.

Inkwell Press and Ink+Volt make some hardbound planners that we didn’t test due to the same concerns about stock availability, and in working on our 2018 update we found that Inkwell Press no longer sold hardbound planners.

Ban.do planners don’t cover a wide-enough appeal, and although they’ve been stocked previously at Nordstrom, they no longer appear to be.

Since we’ve been writing this guide, we’ve taken into account reader comments and researched other planners that were new (or new to us). In addition to the above, we’ve considered planners from Action Publishing , BestSelf , Brepols , Clairefontaine , Dodo Pad , Fabriano Boutique , Gallery Leather , Shinola , Unbound , and Uncalendar . We also researched planners from The Apollo Planner , Clever Fox , Jibun Techo , Nolty , September Leather , and The Simple Elephant . We passed on testing all of them because the planners were either hard to get (due to limited stock or overseas shipping) or didn’t surpass our current picks—or the new test models we chose—in meeting our criteria.

This article was edited by Ben Keough and Erica Ogg.

Erin Condren, founder of Erin Condren , email interview , September 18, 2017

Kristin Damian, founder of Krissyanne Designs , email interview , September 20, 2017

Shu Yao, co-founder of JetPens , email interview , October 6, 2017

Sarah McNally, owner of McNally Jackson Books and Goods for the Study , email interview , October 9, 2017

How to Choose a Planner& Planning Strategies , JetPens , September 9, 2021

Treye Green, 11 Awesome Planners That Will Get You Organized , BuzzFeed , October 9, 2016

Meet your guides

best dissertation planner

Jackie Reeve

Jackie Reeve is a senior staff writer covering bedding, organization, and home goods at Wirecutter since 2015. Previously she was a school librarian, and she’s been a quilter for about 15 years. Her quilt patterns and her other written work have appeared in various publications. She moderates Wirecutter’s staff book club and makes her bed every morning.

best dissertation planner

Kaitlyn Wells

Kaitlyn Wells is a senior staff writer who advocates for greater work flexibility by showing you how to work smarter remotely without losing yourself. Previously, she covered pets and style for Wirecutter. She's never met a pet she didn’t like, although she can’t say the same thing about productivity apps. Her first picture book, A Family Looks Like Love , follows a pup who learns that love, rather than how you look, is what makes a family.

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  • Research Advice

Ph.D. Student and Dissertation Planner Notion Template

Notion is a notetaking and organization app and is the BEST one I have found! You can create beautiful and easy work with pages and templates for almost anything! I have been using Notion to organize all of my graduate school research and life. I like having a digital copy of all my work and a digital space to organize my to-do lists and notes! In this post, I’m showing you how I use Notion as a PhD student and giving you a tour of the PhD student and dissertation planner Notion template!

I created a Ph.D. student Notion template for easy tracking of research and coursework. This template is a space for only Ph.D. and dissertation work. For a Ph.D., you have required classes and a range of research-related tasks that go toward your degrees, such as publications, dissertation chapters, presentations, and more! The Ph.D. student Notion template organizes it all!

Before we get into what is included in the Ph.D. Student Notion template, I have a few other templates that might interest you! If you’re looking for an in-depth research lab notebook template, check out my research notebook template! I also have an “all-in-one” grad student Notion template. This template keeps everything grad school-related and personal life organized in Notion! It also has over 20+ pages of professional and personal development resources and trackers.

Weekly Schedule and Time Blocking Database

The first part of the PhD student Notion template is the weekly schedule database where I time block my week! I like using the time-blocking method to keep my week organized. In time-blocking, I designate specific times to specific tasks, such as research, writing, studying, etc. I will add these to my weekly schedule in between fixed events such as classes, meetings, and other recurring weekly events. Below I’ve included an example time-blocking weekly schedule!

best dissertation planner

Ph.D. Milestones at a Glance

The most powerful part of the PhD student Notion template is the PhD milestones at a glance! This is where I can store all of my relevant PhD work such as projects, conferences, manuscripts, and dissertation chapters. Each element in the databases below contain a template for I to log my progress, take notes, and store information! I can easily create a timeline for setting deadlines for myself using the year and quarter, or I can view your progress at a glance by categorizing by type (chapter, conference, etc)

best dissertation planner

In addition to having everything available at a glace, I’ve included a PhD master task list. This is where I import all of my PhD milestone tasks. Then I use the relation tool in Notion databases to relate the task, to the milestone in my PhD milestones at a glance databases. This way, I can see all of my tasks in list form, but I can also view them if I click on one of my PhD milestones.

best dissertation planner

Degree Tracker and Coursework Organizer

The last major section of the PhD student Notion template is the degree tracker and coursework organizer. Here, I have a databases where I imported all of my classes for my degree and then again using the relation tool, I related the courses to the degree database so I can see the progress bar change as a I complete classes. Like with the PhD milestones at a glance database. I use the coursework database to store anything related to each class. I simply click on the class and use the page that appears to take notes, store information, etc.

best dissertation planner

I’ve also included a database for literature review as well!

This Notion template for grad school is much simpler than others I’ve made and seen online. I think it’s nice sometimes to have the PhD work in a separate Notion template so it doesn’t get mixed up with other things. This way, when I go on this template, it’s only coursework and research related tasks! If you’re looking for a template that allows you to plan and organize everything in your grad school life, consider checking out my all-in-one grad student Notion template!

best dissertation planner

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John Harvards

20 Best Dissertation Planner Notebook [2023]

Are you looking for the best Dissertation Planner Notebook? Based on expert reviews, we ranked them. We've listed our top-ranked picks, including the top-selling Dissertation Planner Notebook.

We Recommended:

Dissertation Planner: Dissertation Writing Notebook - Doctoral Candidate Journal 120 Pages for Ph.D....

  • Livie, Dina (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 120 Pages - 04/05/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Dissertation Planner Notebook: Mandala style dissertation dot grid notebook | Bullet Journal |...

  • Publications, Creative Research Mind (Author)
  • 200 Pages - 09/24/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Dissertation Notebook & Planner: PHD Scheduling For Undergraduate & Masters Degree Students

  • Lightouch (Author)
  • 200 Pages - 03/06/2022 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Dissertation Notebook: Dissertation Notebook | Diary | Log | Journal

  • LLC Publishing, Sanders Industries (Author)
  • 200 Pages - 11/15/2019 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Dissertation Planner: Dissertation Writing Notebook - Doctoral Candidate Journal 120 Pages for Ph.D....

  • Republica, Timeless (Author)
  • 205 Pages - 08/24/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Soon to be Ed.D.: Weekly Planner: Dissertation Weekly Planner Blue

  • Notebooks, Ivory Tower (Author)
  • 52 Pages - 08/25/2019 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Dissertation Planner: Dissertation Writing Notebook - Doctoral Candidate Journal 120 Pages for Ph.D....

  • Po Study, Charlie (Author)
  • 131 Pages - 02/09/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Dissertation Planner: Notebook Journal For Undergraduate, Masters Students for Keep on track of...

  • Design, Chor muang (Author)
  • 120 Pages - 05/15/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Dissertation Planner: Notebook Journal For Undergraduate, Masters Students for Keep on track of...

  • 120 Pages - 05/14/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Dissertation notebook Planner: 200 pages lined (8.5x11) Dissertation Planner For Doctorate research...

  • Moun, Cher (Author)
  • 200 Pages - 10/18/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

100 Days of Dissertation - Have a page for each day to write your thesis/research: 100 days...

  • Notebooks, Kay PHD (Author)
  • 101 Pages - 02/04/2020 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Dissertation Diary: Student notebook to help plan your dissertation

  • Press, Dissertation (Author)
  • 120 Pages - 07/29/2020 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Composition Notebook (Dissertation): 200 College Ruled Lined Pages (7.44' x 9.69') (You Should Be...

  • 200 Pages - 12/04/2018 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Dissertation Planner: Daily Planner (Large)

  • 365 Pages - 02/15/2019 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Dissertation Planner 2019: Daily Planner

  • 365 Pages - 11/04/2018 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Dissertation Planner 2019-2020: Academic Daily Planner

  • 366 Pages - 07/22/2019 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Dissertation Slayer: Composition Notebook: Blue Text (Dissertation Slayer Notebook)

  • 150 Pages - 12/05/2018 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Having trouble finding a great Dissertation Planner Notebook?

This problem is well understood by us because we have gone through the entire Dissertation Planner Notebook research process ourselves, which is why we have put together a comprehensive list of the best Dissertation Planner Notebooks available in the market today.

After hours of searching and using all the models on the market, we have found the best Dissertation Planner Notebook for 2023. See our ranking below!

How Do You Buy The Best Dissertation Planner Notebook?

Do you get stressed out thinking about shopping for a great Dissertation Planner Notebook? Do doubts keep creeping into your mind?

We understand, because we’ve already gone through the whole process of researching Dissertation Planner Notebook, which is why we have assembled a comprehensive list of the greatest Dissertation Planner Notebook available in the current market. We’ve also come up with a list of questions that you probably have yourself.

John Harvards has done the best we can with our thoughts and recommendations, but it’s still crucial that you do thorough research on your own for Dissertation Planner Notebook that you consider buying. Your questions might include the following:

  • Is it worth buying an Dissertation Planner Notebook?
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We’re convinced that you likely have far more questions than just these regarding Dissertation Planner Notebook, and the only real way to satisfy your need for knowledge is to get information from as many reputable online sources as you possibly can.

Potential sources can include buying guides for Dissertation Planner Notebook, rating websites, word-of-mouth testimonials, online forums, and product reviews. Thorough and mindful research is crucial to making sure you get your hands on the best-possible Dissertation Planner Notebook. Make sure that you are only using trustworthy and credible websites and sources.

John Harvards provides an Dissertation Planner Notebook buying guide, and the information is totally objective and authentic. We employ both AI and big data in proofreading the collected information.

How did we create this buying guide? We did it using a custom-created selection of algorithms that lets us manifest a top-10 list of the best available Dissertation Planner Notebook currently available on the market.

This technology we use to assemble our list depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to the following:

  • Brand Value : Every brand of Dissertation Planner Notebook has a value all its own. Most brands offer some sort of unique selling proposition that’s supposed to bring something different to the table than their competitors.
  • Features: What bells and whistles matter for an Dissertation Planner Notebook?
  • Specifications : How powerful they are can be measured.
  • Product Value : This simply is how much bang for the buck you get from your Dissertation Planner Notebook.
  • Customer Ratings : Number ratings grade Dissertation Planner Notebook objectively.
  • Customer Reviews : Closely related to ratings, these paragraphs give you first-hand and detailed information from real-world users about their Dissertation Planner Notebook.
  • Product Quality : You don’t always get what you pay for with an Dissertation Planner Notebook, sometimes less, and sometimes more.
  • Product Reliability : How sturdy and durable an Dissertation Planner Notebook is should be an indication of how long it will work out for you.

John Harvards always remembers that maintaining Dissertation Planner Notebook information to stay current is a top priority, which is why we are constantly updating our websites. Learn more about us using online sources.

If you think that anything we present here regarding Dissertation Planner Notebook is irrelevant, incorrect, misleading, or erroneous, then please let us know promptly!

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Q: What is the University of Edinburgh dissertation planner?

A: Dissertation Planner: step-by-step The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland , with registration number SC005336 About the Planner: This planner is designed to help you through all the stages of your dissertation, from starting to think about your question through to final submission.

Q: What are the best notebooks for work?

A: From a bullet journal to a reusable smart notebook, we’ve rounded up the best notebooks for work that’ll help you get organized and put your ideas into action. Campus’ Twin Ring Notebook is your typical notebook, but better. It’s durable enough that it’ll last through all of your random ideas and meeting notes at work.

Q: What is the best notebook to take notes in a meeting?

A: The Lemome Notebook (view on Amazon) is also a great option, which offers a professional look with its faux leather cover, page dividers, and an elastic band—perfect for taking detailed notes at meetings.

Q: How to choose the right notebook for You?

A: A high-quality notebook lasts longer and helps increase creativity and productivity. When you’re looking for a journal to write down your ideas, pay attention to binding and paperweight. A twin ring or stitched and glued binding helps keep your notebook together longer while a paperweight of 70gsm or higher is usually thicker and more durable.

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Top 6 Best Academic Planners for 2023/2024

Chriselle Sy

The Best Academic Planners At-a-Glance

How is an academic planner different from a regular planner, 1. it’s designed for students, 2. it fits your needs, 3. the start date aligns with your schedule, 4. check how many months the planner has, 5. it has plenty of space.

  • 1. Class Tracker Ultimate Student Planner – Best Academic Planner Overall
  • 2. Paperage 17-Month Academic Planner – Best Large Grad Student Planner
  • 3. Lafefo Academic Planner – A Well-Designed and Affordable Academic Planner
  • 4. The Centered Student Academic Planner – Best Planner for Students Who Are Visual Learners
  • 5. Blue Sky Academic Planner – Best Affordable Student Planner
  • 6. Live Whale Undated Planner – Most Flexible Planner for Grad Students

Recommended Accessories for a Graduate Student Planner

1. paper is more tangible, 2. fewer distractions, 3. writing by hand offers many benefits, 1. use your planner, 2. work out an organizational system, 3. use digital alarms and reminders, 4. develop your time management, what should be in an academic planner, what’s the difference between an academic planner and a regular planner, how do i organize my academic planner, do students use planners.

There’s no denying that graduate school is a busy time that may sometimes have you feeling out of your depth. When you add work and family, it can get even more challenging to balance.

Luckily, there are digital apps, calendars, and planners designed to make life easier for even the busiest individuals. If you’ve been struggling with making those digital options work, it might be time to give good old pen and paper a try.

Paper planners aren’t for everyone, but the best academic planners (below) might change your mind. We’ve also included a buying guide for the best planner for college or graduate students. Let’s get started!

You can use a planner to track your tasks, priorities, events, meetings, and any other important things you might need to remember.

However, an academic planner is designed and made specifically for students. They generally start right before the academic year (around June or July). They also tend to have different features and tools on the pages that are more targeted toward students.

If you start in the fall, you can choose an academic planner. If you start in the spring semester , a traditional planner might be best, even though you won’t get features like class schedule pages. If you prefer a regular planner, you can simply print or write out your own schedule and insert it into your school planner somewhere!

How to Find the Best Student Planner

Finding the right grad school planner can feel challenging – not all planners are made the same! Additionally, a planner can be deeply personal, so what works for others may not work for you. Consider some of the criteria below to find your perfect planner:

Compared to a traditional option, academic planners have certain features that make them better for students, like detailed pages for class schedules. Designers also make other considerations, such as offering flexibility, adding prioritization methods, and more.

Check out product pictures to see what the inside of the planner looks like and determine whether the features you need are included. Look at product reviews to see what others have thought about their purchases.

Additionally, you can look into some of the additional tools each planner can offer. Some have pages for mind maps, habit tracking, goal-setting (and tracking), budget tracking, to-do lists, and contact lists.

Consider whether the planner includes the organizational tools you need. Many students will purchase a planner for its function over its form, but it’s possible that a better-looking planner will motivate you to use it more often. We recommend balancing your aesthetic tastes, learning style, and time management methods.

‘Normal’ planners start in January, while academic planners may start in different months (such as June or July). If you start on a non-standard date, consider using an undated planner. Undated planners allow more flexibility, letting you plan only for the weeks and months you need.

Some planners offer six months of pages, a typical 12, or even 18 (for some college student planners)! The amount you require is a matter of preference – so it’s up to you to decide!

The best planners for grad school will have plenty of space. As a grad student, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll be incredibly busy. Making sure that your academic planner has plenty of space to accommodate school activities, schoolwork, tasks, meetings, and even your real-life stuff. You may even get enough space to help accommodate some notes!

The Best Planners for Students in 202 3

1. class tracker ultimate student planner  – best academic planner overall.


Key Information :

  • Size : 7 x 8.5 inches
  • Months : 12
  • Starting Month : July
  • Paper Type : Thick, but thickness unspecified
  • Cover Type : Soft-touch laminated cover; coil bound, rounded corners
  • Cream and pale pink
  • Cream, ocean blue, and seafoam
  • Cream, pale pink, and salmon
  • Cream, poppy, and bubblegum
  • Cream, violet, and bubblegum
  • Ocean blue and seafoam
  • Pine and cream
  • Class schedule pages
  • Notes pages
  • Goals pages
  • Self-care tracker

If you’re looking for a tried and tested option, the Class Tracker Ultimate Student Planner  is an excellent option. This dated planner has monthly and weekly pages that start in July and end in June of the following year. It includes various features to make your life easier, such as weekly pages with self-care trackers, class schedule pages, goal pages, notes pages, monthly pages, and more.

This planner (featured by Wired, CNN, and College Life Made Easy) has plenty of space for you to write everything you need. To help maintain focus, the pages have an unassuming design to restrict distractions.

Another element that makes The Class Tracker Ultimate Student Planner one of the best planners for college students is its undated option  – perfect for people who want to start at their leisure. The undated planner has more cover options and the same features as the dated planner.

2. Paperage 17-Month Academic Planner  – Best Large Grad Student Planner

Pasted image 0

Key Information:

  • Size : 9 x 11 inches; also available in 5 x 8 inches
  • Months : 17
  • Starting Month : August
  • Paper Type : 100 GSM acid-free
  • Cover Type : Polypropylene plastic; spiral-bound
  • Colors Available : Black, blush, indigo, lavender, sky blue, yellow
  • Gold foil month tabs
  • Class schedule
  • Goal tracking
  • Plenty of room

The Paperage 17-Month Academic Planner is the only planner on this list to feature more than twelve months. It’s also the largest on this list, sitting at 9 x 11 inches. With such a size, you get plenty of room to write everything you need while still having tons of space left over for notes, color coding, and organizing.

Alongside the monthly and weekly pages, Paperage has also included pages for goal tracking, class schedules, and notes. For easy navigation, Paperage has thoughtfully included gold-foiled month tabs.

Overall, the Paperage planner is one of the best academic planners for college or grad school students who need plenty of room for all of their tasks, appointments, meetings, and more.

3. Lafefo Academic Planner  – A Well-Designed and Affordable Academic Planner


  • Size : 6.1 x 8.7 inches
  • Paper Type : Thick, acid-free; GSM unspecified
  • Cover Type : Hardcover; twin-wire binding
  • Colors Available : Black and gold solar system design
  • Elastic closure, back pocket
  • Monthly tabs for easy navigation
  • 2023-2025 holiday pages
  • Two contacts pages
  • Yearly overview
  • Notes section

If you’re looking for a weekly academic planner that’s on the affordable side, the Lafefo Academic Planner  is one to consider. Although this option only comes in one unisex design, it offers the features that most student planners do.

Inside the twin-wire-bound covers, you’ll find monthly tabs for easy navigation, monthly and weekly pages, a yearly overview, a notes section, two contacts pages, 2023-2025 holiday pages, and a hidden back pocket to hold receipts and small notes. The Lafefo Academic Planner also has an elastic closure to secure everything.

4. The Centered Student Academic Planner  – Best Planner for Students Who Are Visual Learners


  • Size : 7 x 9 inches
  • Paper Type : 120 GSM
  • Cover Type : Linen-bound hardcover; twin-wire binding
  • Colors Available : Forest green, sailcloth (cream), starling blue, varsity blue
  • QR-code access to 52 video tutorials to help with student life
  • 50-sheet to-do list pad
  • Back cover pocket
  • Elastic closure
  • Focus and gratitude tracking

The Centered Student Planner  is the definition of premium – and it shows in the price. Fortunately, you do get what you pay for, as the paper is a thick 120 GSM and prevents any bleed-through.

You also get a variety of features such as gratitude tracking, focus tracking, next week prioritizing, tips, and a clip-in bookmark. Even better, an included 50-sheet pad of to-do list pages helps you prioritize even further.

One of the best things about this planner is that it comes with a scannable QR code that will take you to the 52 video tutorials designed to help you manage school. The videos may be more targeted toward college students, but grad students can definitely benefit.

The Centered Student Planner is one of the best planners for students, whether they’re in college or in graduate school. It’s especially great for those looking for positive psychology cues to help with mental health (it follows the Centered Student system ).

5. Blue Sky Academic Planner  – Best Affordable Student Planner


  • 5 x 8 inches
  • 7 x 9 inches
  • 8.5 x 11 inches (letter size)
  • Paper Type : Thick, but GSM unspecified. Beware minor bleed-through
  • Cover Type : Polypropylene plastic; Twin-wire binding
  • Colors Available : Black
  • Reference calendars
  • Contact pages
  • Month tabs for easy navigation
  • Yearly goals

The Blue Sky Academic Planner  is one of the best planners for college and grad school, especially for students seeking something simple and affordable. You don’t get all the bells and whistles that some planners offer, but you’ll have plenty of space to write what you need. This planner only comes in black, but offers four sizes: 5 x 8 inches, 7 x 9 inches, 8 x 10 inches, and 8.5 x 11 inches.

6. Live Whale Undated Planner  – Most Flexible Planner for Grad Students

Live Whale Undated Planner - Most Flexible Planner for Grad Students

  • Size : A5 (5.83 × 8.27 inches)
  • Months : 12 months
  • Starting Month : N/A; Undated
  • Paper Type : 100% recycled 120 GSM with satin reinforced edges
  • Cover Type : Hardcover, vegan leather
  • Grey/silver accents: Black
  • Yellow/gold accents: Blue, Pink, Purple, Red
  • Vision board pages
  • Dreams and goals pages
  • Health and wellness pages
  • Expense tracker pages
  • Three ribbon bookmarks
  • Hidden back pocket
  • Riveted pen loop

The Live Whale planner is one of the best college planners for students who need extra flexibility. Because it’s an undated planner, start planning any time you’d like. If you stop using the planner for any reason, come back and start fresh whenever you want.

This planner offers monthly and weekly layouts to help you stay organized, as well as plenty of other features that might come in handy. The paper is 100% recycled and thick at 120 GSM, making bleed-through unlikely. Thoughtful design decisions went into the color and accent choices for this planner, making it an aesthetic choice for those who aren’t into busy prints or flashy colors.

Even if you have the best planner for Ph.D. students, it can still sometimes feel as though you’re struggling to stay organized. If you find yourself on this boat, the following list of accessories might be able to help.

Why Have a Planner When You Have Electronics?

Digital planners often work with some of the  best note taking apps  on tablets. However, there are many reasons to choose physical planners for college students (rather than digital alternatives). These reasons include:

A digital student planner works perfectly fine, but sometimes the best academic planners for grad students are paper-based. A physical paper planner feels much more tangible and might better remind you of your tasks, deadlines, and meetings.

When you have a book to look at, it can help make your schedule and priorities feel more “real.” Plus, it’s just nice to have something you can chuck in your backpack  and keep with you wherever you go!

A planner app or to-do list on your phone has its benefits, such as giving you reminders and notifications when something important is imminent. However, the downside to a digital solution is that the chances of distraction are far greater. Getting a notification while checking your calendar could lead to wasting an hour on social media.

Another fantastic reason to choose a paper planner over an app or other electronic service? There are few-to-no distractions.

Finally, numerous studies and articles state that handwriting is simply superior  to typing when it comes to memory retention, deeper comprehension, and learning.

Choosing physical planners for a college student or a grad student can help you more deeply comprehend the importance and urgency of the tasks at hand. It can also help you commit important dates to memory (though digital reminders are great for dates that shouldn’t be missed).

Top Tips for Staying Organized in Grad School

It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed when you’re starting – or are in the middle of – grad school. Things can get hectic fast. Without time management and organizational skills, you might find yourself struggling to keep up with necessary tasks. To help you out, we’ve put together some of the best tips for staying organized in grad school.

It’s not enough to have an academic planner: You need to use it! Make it a habit to check your planner in the morning so you know what you need to do that day. Always add new tasks, deadlines, and meetings as they come up.

It takes time to get accustomed to using a planner, so stick with it! If you struggle to remember to use yours, keep it in plain sight so you remember.

A color-coding system can help you instantly recognize items at a glance. Use various tools and stationery like Post-it notes, flags, stickers, and colored pens to make important events (as well as coursework, research, and notes) stand out.

Just because you’re using a paper planner doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use technology to supplement your daily planning. Digital reminders and alarms will help you remember when the most important things are happening.

To stay organized while earning your master’s  or Ph.D., you’ll need to work on your time management. Everyone has a style that works best for them, so find yours and stick to it.

It’s also a good idea to do as much as you can without procrastinating (if it’s possible). Procrastination is one of the biggest reasons that many grad students get derailed! While there is such a thing as productive procrastination , too much can lead to problems!

Frequently Asked Questions

Features included in an academic planner may vary, but you can generally expect:

  • A monthly calendar spread with space to write important dates and deadlines
  • Weekly calendar spreads with plenty of room to write down assignments, coursework, important meetings, and more
  • Note pages if you forget your other notebooks
  • Some academic planners may also have pages for your class schedule.

There’s not much difference between a regular planner and an academic planner. Regular planners start in January, while academic planners often start before the fall semester (June-July). Academic planners may also have more space for writing down tasks, as well as a few pages for your class schedules.

Organizing your academic year planner is a personal experience and can depend on your preference. However, you can try techniques (such as color coding with pens, using Post-it notes, highlighting important dates and deadlines, and using stickers to draw your attention). If you experiment, you’ll eventually find your preferred method of organization!

Yes! Many students (of varying levels) use planners to help them stay organized and stay on top of deadlines and important dates.

Having the right tools can make academic life a lot easier, especially if your schedule is exceptionally busy. A planner might take some getting used to, but getting into the habit can make a massive difference in how well you organize and manage your time.

We hope this list of the best academic planners has helped you find the right productivity companion. If you think we missed a great addition to this list, tell us in the comments below!

If you prefer digital planners, check out some of the best planner apps for students !

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Dissertation Organiser Planner Ideas and Journal Notebook: 200 Pages (8.5x11 inch) For Scholars Doctoral and PhD Research. A perfect Notebook to ... for your dissertation or theses writing. Paperback – Notebook, August 24, 2021

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best dissertation planner


  1. Student Dissertation Thesis Planner Booklet A4

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  1. Mastering Research: Choosing a Winning Dissertation or Thesis Topic

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  5. How to make Dissertation? Complete Details about Dissertation / Thesis for Bachelors/ Masters Degree

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  1. 7 Essential Apps For Writing A Dissertation Or Thesis

    Grammarly offers both a free and premium version. For dissertation writing purposes, we recommend the premium version as it includes a plagiarism checker, which is very handy. Get Grammarly (Free or Pro) #2: Evernote & Penultimate No doubt, you'll be taking an endless stream of notes throughout the research process.

  2. What Is a Dissertation?

    A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program. Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating ...

  3. Dissertation Calculator

    Try Experts@Minnesota. Do a preliminary study of the literature related to your topics to understand previous research, key themes, issues, variables, methodologies, limitations, terminology, controversies, and gaps in the current research. Identify significant researchers and scholars working in the area.

  4. Dissertation Planner: Plan & Research

    Revise & Reward To Recap... Researching and writing your dissertation is a huge, complex undertaking. Before beginning, check with your advisor and your department/college about specific dissertation research-and-writing conventions in your discipline.

  5. Free Dissertation & Thesis Template (Word Doc & PDF)

    Our free dissertation and thesis template covers all the essential elements required for a first-class piece of research. The template's structure is based on the tried and trusted best-practice format for formal academic research projects such as dissertations and theses.

  6. Dissertation Planner: Getting Started

    Prepare & Propose Plan & Research Write & Edit Defense & Closure Help & Resources Welcome to the University of Kentucky Libraries' Dissertation Planner! This dissertation planner is designed to help doctoral students chart the steps to complete a dissertation and earn a doctoral degree.

  7. A Guide to Dissertation Planning: Tips, Tools and Templates

    5 min read A Guide to Dissertation Planning: Tips, Tools and Templates Dissertations are a defining piece of academic research and writing for all students. To complete such a large research project while maintaining a good work-life balance, planning and organisation is essential.

  8. PDF Dissertation Planner: step-by-step

    This planner is designed to help you through all the stages of your dissertation, from starting to think about your question through to final submission. At each stage there are useful prompts to help you plan your work and manage your time. Throughout the planner there are also blank spaces that you can use to plan your dissertation.

  9. Research Guides: Dissertation Planner: Prepare & Propose

    Overall, dissertation committee members should: represent a range of expertise related to your research interests and methodological choices; advise you throughout the process; and. comment on written materials from the proposal stage through the conclusion of the dissertation. Keep in mind this caveat: Forming your committee need not be driven ...

  10. Dissertation Planner: Dissertation Planner

    This Dissertation Planner is a step-by-step guide to help you write a dissertation from starting to think about your question through to final submission. At each stage you will find useful tips and support. You can return to the planner by bookmarking the URL. Please contact us to provide feedback or if you have any questions.

  11. Dissertation Strategies

    Pre-dissertation planning strategies. Get familiar with the Graduate School's Thesis and Dissertation Resources. Learn how to use a citation-manager and a synthesis matrix to keep track of all of your source information. Skim other dissertations from your department, program, and advisor. Enlist the help of a librarian or ask your advisor for ...

  12. Your Dissertation Plan

    If you need to organise your dissertation workload on a shorter time scale, TeuxDeux 's well designed interface helps you to plan your tasks on a weekly basis. There's also a paid iPhone app for task management on the go.

  13. Our 8 Favorite Paper Planners of 2023

    Our picks include an academic planner for students, a highly customizable traveler's notebook, a simple book-bound planner, a minimalist calendar, a refillable ring-bound organizer, an option...

  14. Planning a dissertation: the dos and don'ts

    For the typical undergraduate, who may be prone to procrastination, a dissertation requires not only the creation of a large piece of writing, but it also may require research to be conducted, data to be analysed, and an extensive bibliography to be compiled. That's why being thorough with your dissertation plan is essential.

  15. Amazon.com: Dissertation Planner

    1-48 of over 1,000 results for "dissertation planner" RESULTS Ph.D DISSERTATION PLANNER by AMEELA K BOYD 5.0 (3) Paperback $3500 FREE delivery Thu, Mar 9 Dissertation Organiser Planner Ideas and Journal Notebook: 200 Pages (8.5x11 inch) For Scholars Doctoral and PhD Research. A perfect Notebook to ... for your dissertation or theses writing.

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    I created a Ph.D. student Notion template for easy tracking of research and coursework. This template is a space for only Ph.D. and dissertation work. For a Ph.D., you have required classes and a range of research-related tasks that go toward your degrees, such as publications, dissertation chapters, presentations, and more! The Ph.D. student ...

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    Dissertation Planner (1 - 60 of 311 results) Price ($) Shipping All Sellers Digital Dissertation Planner | Student Planner | A4 PDF Templates | Academic Planner | University Planner | Dissertation | Digital Planner (1) $5.17

  18. Student Dissertation Thesis Planner Booklet A4

    Our dissertation planner has everything you need to guide you through the process - from start to finish. With over 15 resources it includes our checklist, project plan, write-up, reading lists, article summary sheets, quotes, reference lists, supervisor meeting logs, presentation planners and so much more.

  19. Soon to be PhD: Dissertation Weekly Planner: Blue

    6-Month Dissertation Notebook & Planner: Research and Writing Stage, Large, 8.5x11, 120 pages: Notebook, Organizer, Thesis, Gift for PhD and EdD Students, Graduate Students 314 Creative Group Paperback

  20. Best Dissertation Planner Notebook

    A: Dissertation Planner: step-by-step The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland , with registration number SC005336 About the Planner: This planner is designed to help you through all the stages of your dissertation, from starting to think about your question through to final submission.

  21. Top 6 Best Academic Planners for 2023/2024

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  23. Microsoft Planner Review 2023: Features, Pros And Cons

    Microsoft Planner is a task management tool included in the Microsoft 365 subscription for businesses. It natively integrates with other Microsoft products, such as Word, Excel and Teams, making ...

  24. Dissertation Organiser Planner Ideas and Journal Notebook: 200 Pages (8

    Dissertation Organiser Planner Ideas and Journal Notebook: 200 Pages (8.5x11 inch) For Scholars Doctoral and PhD Research. A perfect Notebook to ... for your dissertation or theses writing. ... Books Advanced Search New Releases Best Sellers & More Amazon Book Clubs Children's Books Textbooks Textbook Rentals Best Books of the Month Best Books ...