Engaging, Interactive, Practical Hands-On Workshops.

Experience Breakthroughs.    Prepare for and Pass Milestones.

Grasp Threshold Concepts.    Navigate Your  PhD.    Publish Better Research.

Designing your PhD


Want to avoid an unproductive first year? Do you get bogged down in details or struggle to adopt a big picture view of your PhD? Feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of academic research? Or simply want a more systematic approach to take ownership of your PhD journey?


  • Recognize different PhD Starting Points

  • Assess your Understanding of and Feelings about Academic Building Blocks

  • Consider the Role / Importance of building blocks in your Project

  • Bring together the moving parts of your PhD 

  • Create a 1-page Visual Summary to improve Connections & Consistency


In this workshop you’ll learn how to use the research design canvas to understand academic research, make sense of your PhD, and navigate your Thesis journey.

So What? Framing and Justifying your Research


Struggling to convince others why your research is needed? Confident in doing research but less so at framing it? Want to write more effective introductions? Written pages and pages on your literature review but don’t know what it means? Or simply want an intuitive method for articulating convincing arguments from your literature review?


  • Create a Hook to deliver a succinct, clear, convincing message

  • Connect your Research Questions to a Body of Literature

  • Create a Structure Visual Summary of your Literature Review

  • Identify Weaknesses or Gaps in your Arguments / Justification


In this workshop you’ll learn how to use The Research Framing & Justification Canvas to adopt a systematic approach to connecting your research questions to an existing literature..

Joanna, First Year PhD

The relationship between Political Women, Corruption, and Catastrophe

I found the Canvas incredibly useful. Having some experience in the start up sector, I have previously used the Business Model Canvas, but had never considered the application of a canvas to research. Personally, I found that it enabled me to pinpoint causes of stress and anxiety that aren't necessarily apparent when I talk my research through with others. I believe I have a very strong grasp on my phenomenon, research questions, and contribution, and because of this sometimes appear to be further ahead in my thinking than I actually am. The canvas highlighted to me possible incongruence between my paradigm and methodology. As I am considering doing thesis by publication, I also realised that there is perhaps some disconnect between the multiple methods that I would like to use. Moreover, I was able to recognise a tension between my personal paradigm and the paradigms that are most commonly used in my field and perhaps necessary for my research.

“The Canvas was a helpful tool in showing the relationship between different "moving" parts of my doctoral research. I had recently begun to question the plan for my thesis mapped out six months ago in my Research Proposal. The canvas prompted me to think more deeply about the gap between themes and issues in the literature which is largely theoretical and the themes and issues revealed in my data. This enabled me formulate a new set of research questions to explore the phenomenon."

Jenny, Second Year PhD

The Ethical Role of General Counsel in Commonwealth Public Governance

“I found the workshop a really useful way to clarify my thinking on the logic of my PhD. Basing it around the Research Design Canvas was a good hands-on way to think and talk through how the different parts of my thesis fit together, and highlighted gaps that still need development. Great timing to do it a couple of months before my Confirmation Seminar!"

Wendy, Second Year PhD

Bridging the gap between community-based adaptation and climate change policy: Can principles of deliberative democracy enable an evolution towards multi-scale climate-smart development?

Sunil, First Year PhD

Universal Health Coverage in India

In my career as a researcher prior to my PhD, my experience was that in general workshops on research design are high on theory but provide participants with very few practical tools that they can use right away to improve the quality of their research. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised when Ben introduced the research canvas during his workshop. Working with this tool over the next hour helped me to clarify my thoughts about various aspects of my research and highlighted areas that needed further reflection and work. Most tools in the market will give you useful advice on specific aspects of your research journey without linking all of them together thereby leading to a coherent proposal. The canvas on the other hand helps to put everything into perspective and aids in seeing the connections or the lack of it between different aspects of your research. Yet another useful aspect of the canvas is that it is not a one time exercise that is to be completed but rather an analytical tool that you can come back to as you progress through your research and have newer insights that confirm or challenge the initial hypothesis with which you set out on your research journey. I am going to be using the canvas as a tool during the course of my PhD and fairly confident that this is going to help me to successfully navigate through the PhD processes in the coming months and years. For me this has become a valuable reference point to come back to as I progress through my research and I recommend its use to those embarking on a PhD.

“I just want to thank you for the Canvas session you gave on 1 May. For me it was the best payoff for time invested in a Researcher Development course so far. I have urged other students to attend. The Canvas I filled out at the session became the framework for the Confirmation seminar I gave on 12 May. I am mature age, STEM, with no language problems, but what you presented enabled me to crystalize and link my thoughts.”

David, First Year PhD

River Architecture and Scale as Drivers of Genetic Spatial Structure in Aquatic Organisms

Anoymous Feedback from previous Workshops

100% of respondents said it was a valuable use of their time.

100% of respondents said that they had a better understanding of the parts of a research proposal.

100% of respondents said they would recommend the workshop to their peers.

100% of respondents said that they had a better understanding of:

  • The 10 key building blocks that form the basis of a Thesis / research

  • How the parts of my Thesis / research fit together

  • Key questions I need to answer and where gaps in my thinking are


"It's very useful for a beginner PhD to know how to put the research proposal in the canvas, it really helped me."

"It is very practical and focused."

"I found this is one of the best workshops, which is really useful for me."

Enquire about a workshop for...


What will we learn?

How to summarize your entire project on a single page by creating your own personal canvas that you can use again and again throughout your research journey

To recognize your strengths as well as gaps in your knowledge and understanding

An intuitive method for thinking about, designing, and evaluating your research that helps you to better understand connections between components of your Thesis or Dissertation

To answer questions succinctly and clearly to improve how you communicate your research to others

How to more confidently and systematically approach milestones such as confirmation seminar, research proposal submission, and first year report

Is the workshop suitable for all HDR students?

Yes. PhD, Professional Doctorate, Research Masters, and Honours students will all benefit. Students recognise the importance of different building blocks and role in their specific topic.

What stage should students be at?

Any. Students will benefit in different ways depending upon where they are in their journey and what challenges they are facing.

How long does the workshop last?

2-3 hours. Longer sessions are available to utilize the power of the canvas in more depth.

How many participants can join a session?

12-24 works best, but the workshop can be modified to accommodate different numbers.

Supervisors & Faculty

What will we learn?

How to develop a shared language to make discussion and communication with students easier.

How to save time wasted reading overly long or poor quality documents by empowering students to structure their work more systematically and express their ideas more clearly and succinctly.

How to utilize the canvas during supervisions to make them more enjoyable, purposeful, and successful for both supervisor and student.

To model great research design and help students explore and create their own design and understand the implications of research issues for their own Thesis.

To help students effectively prepare for and successfully pass milestones such as introductory and confirmation seminars.

Is the workshops suitable for supervising different programmes of study?

Yes. Supervisors can adapt their use of the canvas to suit different types of HDR students


Will the workshop be useful for experienced supervisors as well as ECRs?

Yes. It will make ECRs more confident and it saves time for experienced academics

How long does the workshop last?

2-3 hours. Longer sessions are available to utilize the power of the canvas in more depth.

How many participants can join a session?

12-24 works best, but the workshop can be modified to accommodate different numbers.

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