Heilmeier’s Catechism

George Heilmer (somewhat) famously proposed a list of questions that you should be able to answer before starting any new research or development project:

  • What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon.
  • How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?
  • What’s new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful?
  • Who cares?
  • If you’re successful, what difference will it make?
  • What are the risks and the payoffs?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How long will it take?
  • What are the midterm and final “exams” to check for success?
  • Every second year graduate student should have a worksheet containing this list as they prepare to propose their thesis project. It’s equally applicable to grant applications, product design in industry – damn near everything you do in science really.

    quoted from Wikipedia, after being mentioned by Titus Brown