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Project Management for Research Toolkit

Project Management for Research Toolkit

A research endeavor is not just a scientific activity; it is a project. 

This toolkit introduces and makes available a variety of tools for managing your research projects including recommendations for general project management software and toolkits to help you and your team manage activities from grant writing to implementation and project closeout.

Explore and find the tools you need to make your research project a success.

Table of Contents

Toolkit 1: Grant Writing & Project Development
Toolkit 2: Implementation
Toolkit 3: Closeout, Transfer, & Applications  
The Tools 
Project Management Software

Toolkit 1: Grant Writing & Project Development

Gantt Chart       Milestones/Timeline Tool
High Level Process Map     Budget Tools
Data Management Plan     Risk Assessment and Mitigation Plan
Project Charter               Work Breakdown Structure

Toolkit 2: Implementation

Gantt Chart     Data Management Plan
Project Charter     Milestones/Timeline Tool
Work Breakdown Structure     Issue Management Tool
Communications Plan            Pareto Chart

Toolkit 3: Closeout, Transfer, & Application

Project Closeout Checklist 
Communications Plan

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The Tools 

Budget Tools 

The proposal budget should be derived directly from the project description. It should follow the format specified by the sponsor. The Office of Sponsored Programs Budget Preparation webpages provide descriptions of the standard budget categories, lists of typical components of those categories, OSU rates where appropriate, and other details to help ensure your budget is complete.

Budget Preparation Resources from Office of Research

The 398 grant form from the NIH is a template that includes standard categories required for an NIH grant (and many others) that you can use to develop a preliminary budget.

PHS 398 Forms
PHS 398 Budget form for Initial Project Period Template
PHS 398 Budget Form for Entire Proposal Project Template

Communications Plan

The Communications Plan facilitates effective and efficient dissemination of information to the research team members and major stakeholders in the research project. It describes how the communications will occur; the content, security, and privacy of those communications; along with the method of dissemination and frequency.

Communications Plan Template
Communications Plan Example

Data Management Planning Tool (DMP Tool) 

The Data Management Plan defines the responsibilities related to the entry, ownership, sharing, validation, editing, and storage of primary research data. A data management plan must not only reflect the requirements of the protocol/project but also comply with applicable institutional, state, and federal guidelines and regulations. The DMP Tool details your agencies expectations, has suggested language for REDCap, and exports a properly formatted plan.

Go to DMP Tool
DMP Tool instructions 
Data Management Services at The Ohio State University 

Gantt Chart

A Gantt Chart is a popular project management tool; it is a type of bar chart that illustrates a project’s schedule. The chart allows for organizing and viewing project activities and tasks against pre-established timeframes. 

Gantt Chart Template
Gantt Chart Instructions
Gantt Chart Example

High level Process Map

Graphic display of the flow or sequence of events that a product or service follows; it shows all activities, decision points, rework loops, and handoffs. It allows the team to visualize the process and come to agreement on the steps of a process as well as examine which activities are duplicated.

Process maps are used to:

  • Capture current and new process information
  • Identify the flow of a process
  • Identify responsibility of different business functions
  • Clearly show hand-off between functions
  • Identify value added and non-value added activities
  • Train team members in new process

Process Map Template
Process Mapping Guide
Process Map Example 1
Process Map Example 2

Issue Management Tool 

The Issue Management Tool helps you capture the details of issues that arise so that the project team can quickly see the status and who is responsible for resolving it. Further, the Issue Management Tool guides you through a management process that gives you a robust way to evaluate issues, assess their impact, and decide on a plan for resolution.

Issue Management Tool Template
Issue Management Tool Instructions
Issue Management Example

Pareto Chart

A Pareto Chart is a graphical tool that helps break down a problem into its parts so that managers can identify the most frequent, and thus most important, problems. It depicts in descending order (from left to right) the frequency of events being studied. It is based on the Pareto Principle or “80/20 Rule”, which says that roughly 80% of problems are caused by 20% of contributors. With the Pareto Principle Project Managers solve problems by identifying and focusing on the “vital few” problems. Managers should avoid focusing on “people” problems. Problems are usually the result of processes, not people.

Pareto Chart Template
Pareto Chart Instructions
Pareto Chart Example

Project Charter 

The purpose is to define at a high level what the Project Team will deliver, what resources are needed, and why it is justified. The Project Charter also represents a commitment to dedicate the necessary time and resources to the project. It can be especially useful when organizing a multi-disciplinary, internally funded team. The document should be brief (up to three pages maximum).   

Project Charter Template
Project Charter Instructions
Project Charter Example

Project Closeout Checklist

Completing a project means more than finishing the research. There remain financial, personnel, reporting, and other responsibilities. These tasks typically need to be completed within a timeline that begins 60 to 90 days before the project end date and 90 days after. Specifics will vary depending on the project and the funding source. The Office of Sponsored Programs “Project Closeout” webpage provides a description closeout issues, a list of PI Responsibilities, and other details to help ensure your project is in fact complete. 

Project Closeout Checklist
Project Closeout Resources from Office of Research 

Milestones/Timeline Tool

Milestones are an effective way to track major progress in your research project. A Gantt Chart is an effective tool for setting and tracking milestones and deliverables. It is a type of bar chart that illustrates a project’s schedule.

Gantt Chart Template
Gantt Chart Instructions
Gantt Chart Example

Risk Assessment and Mitigation Plan

The Risk Assessment and Mitigation Plan first assists the research team in anticipating risk that may occur during the research project before it happens. It then specifies when to act to mitigate risk by defining thresholds and establishing action plans to follow. As a fundamental ethical requirement research risks are to be minimized to the greatest extent possible for all research endeavors. This includes not only prompt identification measures but also response, reporting, and resolution.

Risk Assessment & Mitigation Plan Template
Risk Assessment & Mitigation Plan Example 

Work Breakdown Structure

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) organizes the research project work into manageable components. It is represented in a hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the research project team. It visually defines the scope into manageable chunks that the team can understand. 

Work Breakdown Structure Instructions and Template
Work Breakdown Structure Example

Project Management Software

Project Management software can help research teams track tasks, delegate work, share documents, and monitor the progress of a particular experiment. Among the options available, here are three recommendations. Two are free; one charges a small monthly fee. Each one has a different interface, but all have the features necessary to manage your projects.


OpenProject is an open-source project management software similar to Microsoft Project, though many find OpenProject easier to use. It has tools to create dashboards, Gantt Charts, budgets, and status reports. Activities can be assigned to team members and progress monitored. OpenProject also has a tool for Agile Project Management. While the software is free, OpenProject must be installed and maintained on a local server, and there will probably be costs associated with this. Talk to your departmental or college IT staff.

Go to OpenProject


Basecamp is a secure Web-based project management system that offers an intuitive suite of tools at a minimal cost: ~$20/month or free for teachers. Basecamp facilitates collaboration between research team members with features such as to-do lists, messaging, file sharing, assignment of tasks, milestones, due dates, and time tracking.  

Go to Basecamp


Trello is a project management tool that organizes tasks, activities, responsibilities, and people on projects. The software can help manage research projects by keeping everyone on time and on task. It uses a distinctive interface based on cards and lists and may be especially useful for smaller projects.

Go to Trello

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