Skip to main content
Edward Flagg
Department of Physics and Astronomy

Best Practices

Some practices are so universal in importance and effectiveness that everyone should do them, regardless of one's specific research project. The lists below are not exhaustive. There are many practices that could be added. You should consider what practices would be helpful to you and add them to the list.


  • Write down a daily plan, even if it's just a couple bullet points. Don't just say it to yourself - actually write it down.
  • Record difficulties/challenges in your lab notebook.
  • Bring your notebook to meetings with your adviser.
  • Build a glossary of terms and techniques that you don't understand.
  • Research an unknown item from the glossary.
  • Review your notes from the last meeting with your adviser. Remind yourself what problems and solutions were identified.
  • Make a weekly plan; assign tasks to specific times. This can supplant the daily plan if it is detailed enough.
  • Track time spent on different tasks; make sure your effort aligns with your priorities. Note: your main priority is to earn a Ph.D. If you are a TA, you should not be spending more than 20 hours per week on teaching tasks. If you are, let your supervisor know.
  • Write a progress report and send it to your adviser. Answer the following questions:
    • What were your goals for this week?
      • Which goals did you accomplish?
      • Which goals did you not accomplish? Why?
    • What obstacles or difficulties did you overcome? How?
    • What challenges remain and what are your proposed solutions?
    • Which of the daily practices did you do? Which did you not do?
    • What are your goals for next week?
    • How do these goals help achieve one of your major goals or middle goals?
  • Read at least one journal article related to your research (e.g., for journal club). Ask a senior student or your adviser if you don't know what to read.
  • Compare your progress on your middle goals to your semester plan.
  • Update your semester plan noting completed goals/deadlines. If necessary, modify it to account for setbacks and changes in plans or priorities.
At the beginning of a semester