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Writing a project design

It is important that the archaeologist formulates research questions before embarking on an archaeological investigation. These are written using the desk-based assessment and wider reading in the period/s represented on the site. If there is a research framework for the region, this is also referred to in the project design.


The project design is not set in stone but will be helpful as providing a focus for future activity. After what would be called the evaluation process in commercial archaeology (which can include the desk-based assessment, field-walking, topographical survey, geophysical survey) the project design is often amended to take account of the new information that has come up. 

Going the extra mile

An archaeological project design should include the following:

  • The location of the site, including its grid reference
  • Background: any previous archaeological investigations in the area and any historical background you have already researched
  • The questions you want to answer by doing an investigation
  • Your methodology: type of archaeological technique, such as field-walking or excavation.
  • What will happen after the investigation: need to plan for specialist support, who is going to write it up and how, where will the archive be deposited.
  • Who is going to be doing the work
  • Health & Safety: any specific risks on the site, taking into account the level of experience of the investigators.

You should also refer to the relevant research framework. The Solent-Thames Research Framework covers Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. The County Archaeologist may be able to advise on other relevant research frameworks, or where to go for advice on specialist subjects.

Further reading

More advice on what to include in project designs can be found under codes, guidelines and standards on the Institute of Field Archaeologists website or find Management of Archaeological Projects in the free publications section of the English Heritage website.


Click here to go to the next step: topographical survey.


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