Part of taking a course in project management is doing research and writing papers to dive into different aspects of project management. Your professor may offer a list of topic suggestions or you may brainstorm some in class but that isn’t always the case. If you need to write a research paper related to project management, here are some examples of potential project management research topics you can use. These are designed to not only help you think of what to write a paper about but are good things to think about during the course of your career.
Career Choices for Project Managers
Not everyone who studies project management ends up with the job title of “Project Manager”. An important part of your studies is understanding the different career options you have and also realizing that project management is needed everywhere; you may not end up working at a Fortune 500 company managing huge accounts. You can look at the different options you and your classmates have by researching the various career fields you can all go into.
To begin your research, make a list of companies you would potentially like to work for. Then, look up for job listings for those companies on sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, as well as the company websites. Do not specifically look for roles listed as “project manager” or even ones that have “project management” as a job duty. Anything that discusses planning, budgeting, tracking goals, managing a team, keeping up with customer expectations, etc. could be right up to the alley of somebody with a project management degree. You may be surprised by the wide range of job titles and career niches you’ll find when you look for potential jobs.
A good thing to keep in mind while researching (for your research project and in your actual job search) is that you could end up working for nearly any company, from a small business to a non-profit to a large, international company. You may even find yourself doing freelance consulting and managing. As you research, you’ll find that you have more career options than you initially thought.
Project Failure vs. Project Success
A project manager’s main job is to plan, execute, and close specific projects. They have to define what exactly the project is and what needs to be done, build a work plan for how to get the project done, and see the project through until the end. Project managers also manage budgets related to the project, manage and motivate team members who are also working on the project, help projects to fit within business goals, communicate realistic information to other teams, customers, and managers about when the project will be finished, keep everyone up to date on progress, and troubleshoot any problems that may arise. That is a lot to do!
Every project manager obviously wants their projects to be successful. Successful projects keep customers happy, give teams a good reputation, and help a business to reach their goals and experience success. Should a project go poorly, this can have some unfortunate repercussions. Companies could lose money, customers could be lost, teams could lose out on the chance to manage other projects in the future. Doing research on the key elements to project success and also the main causes of project failure can help you to better manage projects in the future.
When it comes to project failure, there are many reasons something might go wrong. A good way to research failures is to look at examples from your own life or the lives of your friends, family, and classmates. Think of a time you had to plan something or do a group assignment and it didn’t end how you wanted it to. What were the reasons? Some examples of reasons you may think of include poor preparation, bad leadership, poor communication, and priorities in competition. These are some good reasons to start examining. Look at the opposite of the failures to help thinking of ways projects can be successful.
Here is one example of how you can look at a failure and turn it into success: Poor planning and preparation get a project off to a bad start. You need to have a clear plan and schedule before you even begin working on any project. Once everyone is on the same page and expectations are clear, you can start scheduling out different stages of the project and setting milestones. Project failure will turn into project success once you know exactly what you are doing and how you are going to do it.
Another example: When you have competing priorities, it can be impossible to do well with any of them. When a project manager takes on too many tasks at once this can be overwhelming and stretch them too thin to do a good job. This applies not only to when you have multiple projects at once but when you have personal priorities that get in the way of your potential for project success. If you are distracted by something at home and not focused on your job, you’re not going to be able to have a successful outcome.
One way to keep from getting overwhelmed is to delegate tasks. If there are other project managers within your company that can handle projects, let them! You don’t need to manage every single one. You should also let your team handle tasks and while you should be available to help and to provide oversight, don’t feel like you have to be a “helicopter manager”. Let your team do their jobs and understand that you can take a break or let someone else take over temporarily if you feel you aren’t up for the task.
You can also find case studies with real examples of projects businesses have worked on. Look for ones that were successful and ones that were not. Blogs, articles, and other research papers are also a good place to look for project examples. The best way to see what works and what doesn’t is to look at projects that have already been successful (or not).
Working in Different Settings
As mentioned, you could find yourself working nearly anywhere when you have a degree in project management. You may even move around between companies or teams over the years. It’s a good idea to research how to effectively work in a variety of settings in order to set yourself up for success.
Working in a different country or working in an international company with team members from around the world is an example of a setting where people may have difficulty working. Research tips on working in a foreign country. Also, look up effective ways to work in a multicultural setting.
As the world becomes more globalized, the chances of working with people who do not share your cultural background are very high. It is important to be respectful and to understand cultural differences that may come up in a work setting. If you are thinking about moving to a specific country for work, the topic of your research paper could be the ways project managers work in those countries.
Project managers work for all kinds of companies. Wherever you end up, it is important that you understand the company culture, what services or products they sell, what is the “norm” for dress and behavior in the company’s industry, etc. A project manager who works with a creative team that designs toys for children is going to have a very different work experience than a construction project manager. Both are equally valid jobs and are great careers for those with project management skills but the work experiences are just not going to be the same.
If you know exactly what industry you want to go into, research that industry. A vital part of project management is knowing how to work with and manage teams. If you don’t “speak the same language” as a team of computer programmers, you’re not going to be able to delegate work to them and get them on board with your project ideas.
If you are working with a team that designs apparel and you don’t know the first thing about fashion or clothing trends, you may have a difficult time being seen as someone whose project ideas and plans should be respected. You may not be going to school for clothing or software design but if you want to work for a company who does those things, do your research on the industry.
Start Researching Now
Project management research topics are abundant. You can research a specific company, look at methods used by large businesses and how they could be modified and applied to small businesses, or look at examples of projects in a particular industry. Project management is an expansive field with many career options so why wouldn’t there be just as many potential research topics? These are just a few ideas to get you started but the sky is truly the limit when it comes to what you choose to research.