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Applying and tailoring PRINCE2 methodology to academic projects

PRINCE2 stands for Projects in Controlled Environments.  It is not a software but it is methodology put together as best practice. Most postgraduate studies involve writing a research proposal and thesis under supervision of an academic professor or lecturer thereafter ensuring successful presentation and completion.

In companies and organisations, proposals are handled as responses to Requests for Proposals (RFP’s) or Expression Of Interests (EOI) with drop dead deadlines, and for transparency purposes usually advertised with terms of references, so that capable providers respond.

That is fine, but what about scholars? Especially students who are required to do scholarly academic work regarded as projects? How can students and postgraduate’s students’ benefit from PRINCE2 methodology and PMBoK standards in research proposal?

This is one area which has been on my mind for some time now because the most beneficiaries of PRINCE2 methodology are companies and organisations. I think students and postgraduates can equally benefit from industry standards in project management like the PRINCE2 and PMboK combined in developing and implementing their research projects.

The fact that PRINCE2 and PMI PMboK are generic and can include academic research projects as well. Most postgraduate students struggle to complete their academic proposals in time be it at BTech, Masters or PhD. Anything which is work can be projectised just as well as a proposal. 

We will discuss how we can structure an academic proposal as a project. The common understanding is that a proposal is work in itself so it can be projectised either as a waterfall or agile approach or as a project management methodology?

Is a project methodology same as a framework? Can PRINCE2 be applied also in personal life projects? What are the characteristics of a project?

Now, here is the meat of our discussion, an academic proposal usually constitutes of the following:

1.         Title

2.         Brief Introduction

3.         Background and statement of the problem (this in the light of a thorough literature review)

4.         Research question or hypothesis, aim and objectives

5.         Study design (type of study)

6.         Data collection methods and instruments

7.         Data analysis methods – if applicable statistical planning must be fully addressed, or the candidate should provide evidence that statistics are not required.

8.         Mechanisms to assure the quality of the study – e.g. control of bias, safe storage of data

9.         Participants in the study – all people involved in the study, and the role they play, should be identified.*

10.       Ethical considerations

11.       Resources required for the study, including budget if applicable

12.       References

13.       Appendices (copy of questionnaire, consent forms, etc.)

This work can be better organised into phases or blocks:

Mapping the PRINCE2® processes against the research project timeline to show where they are involved and which act as major decision points / controls at each stage end.

Emphasis is given to where there should be Highlight and Checkpoint Reports issued during each stage for progress reporting to the supervisor.

These and other progress controls will be covered in more detail in the actual PRINCE2 training and treated, tailored as need arises. PRINCE2 management stages can be aligned to and be responsive to the research project and technical work, and in this case the technical work is the research proposal.

Typically the supervisor of the research project will act as a sponsor. If the research project involves many facets and stakeholders then it will be import for the student to present research proposal at various presentations opportunities like research colloquium or peer presentation study groups.

 In conclusion, a project management methodology like PRINCE2 can provide an extra research project assurance to supervisors/sponsors and all affected stakeholders.

In academic research projects deliver results which can be used in industry and unfortunately students receive awards as marks or grades to successfully complete their respective qualifications. In industry it’s always customer – supplier relationships which yield positive results win-win situations to the satisfaction of all. 

This article was written by Dr Laban Mwansa, MSP®, PMP®, PRINCE2® Practitioner, Agile®, Laban is a consultant and trainer in project management and specifically trainer/coach in PMP®, PRINCE2® Practitioner, and PRINCE2 Agile® in Zambia, South Africa and Europe for many years. He was in the executive committee of ICTAZ as technical chair. He is also the managing partner of Betaways Innovation Systems and can be reached at:, +260975280392 or WhatsApp +27817029669. He is also a professional project management member of PMSA and PMI-USA.

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