Graduate Research Plan Statement
With this statement, you must demonstrate that you can conceive and begin planning an original research project. Your task: "Present an original research topic that you would like to pursue in graduate school. Describe the research idea, your general approach, as well as any unique resources that may be needed for accomplishing the research goal (i.e., access to national facilities or collections, collaborations, overseas work, etc.) You may choose to include important literature citations. Address the potential of the research to advance knowledge and understanding within science as well as the potential for broader impacts on society. The research discussed must be in a field listed in the Solicitation."Source
Important: Before you begin writing
Precisely follow the official instructions for this statement, found only in the online application form in Fastlane GRFP https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/Login.do. You will enter your research title and keywords into Fastlane. This step gives you extra writing space as this statement is limited to two pages. Also remember that you are required to address both the Intellectual Merit (the potential of your research to advance knowledge) and Broader Impacts (the potential of your research to benefit society) of your research plan. Use separate statements for each. More on the review criteria.
For your consideration
As appropriate to your discipline and research topic, you may propose a qualitative or quantitative or mixed methods study. While it seems that the words "general approach" signal writing flexibility, I still highly recommend that you (a) work from an outline or worksheet, (b) propose rigorous methods, and (c) write in a scholarly fashion. I believe that in order to be competitive in the GRFP selection process, your research statement must read like a two-page research abstract.
- Your rationale for selecting a research topic and methods should be informed by the literature (or bodies of literature if you are proposing an interdisciplinary project). Research plan worksheet
- Select a graduate research topic that relates to your stated career goals.
- The scope of the research project must be doable for a graduate student.
- Be realistic about needed resources (e.g., travel, equipment, supplies) and how to cover costs.
- Select appropriate and rigorous data collection/analysis methods for a quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods study. Borrow a research methods book from your mentor.
My Best Advice Remains: Work closely with your mentor(s) on this statement.
Addressing your role in a larger research project
Reviewers understand that quite often students work on lab teams funded by external grants. If your graduate research topic is part of a larger research project, make certain that you explain this. Devise a rigorous plan, then specify how your findings will contribute to the overall research project. Be clear about your role and responsibilities. IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not copy and paste sections from a grant proposal - that is plagiarism. Final tip: Reviewers understand that student researchers need to acquire and hone additional research skills. If your proposed research topic will be a challenge with your current skill level, don't fret. Briefly explain how you will gain the necessary skills to conduct your research successfully (e.g., graduate courses, summer research, training and/or mentoring.)
Questions a Reviewer Might Pose Related to the
Graduate Research Statement
- Has the student presented a well-organized statement? Writing clear? Definitive?
- Is the topic creative, innovative or potentially transformative?
- How did the student justify the need for this research topic?
- Is the "general approach" appropriate for the topic? Are methods rigorous?
- Has the student identified possible pitfalls or limitations with this topic?
- Is this student ready conduct a graduate research project on this topic?
- What is the mentor's expertise and how strong is the mentor's support of this research?
- Do the references letters confirm that the student will have adequate research resources?
- How will the student publish/present scholarly findings within and across disciplines?
- If the student proposed international research or field study, is it relevant?
- How will this research help the student acquire new knowledge and skills?
- Potentially, how might this research advance knowledge within and across disciplines?
- More on Intellectual Merit through the Eyes of a Reviewer
- What are the inherent broader impacts (or societal benefit) of this research topic?How will society benefit from this research topic - directly and/or indirectly? Does the topic address a significant global problem, societal need or NSF priority?
- What broader impacts (or societal benefit) may be realized through the research activities? For example, will research activities broaden participation of people from underrepresented groups?
- Are the proposed, complementary BI activities realistic? Sustainable? Specifically, what groups will be reached and how will they benefit from the BI activities?
- Does this applicant propose to teach public audiences about science and discoveries?
- Might this study enhance research and education infrastructure (e.g., facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships)?
- What is the applicant's record of broader impacts efforts to date? Is this applicant likely to be proactive and consistent with BI activities in the future?
- If the GRFP makes an investment in this student, how will this student help the NSF work toward "desired societal outcomes"?
- More on Broader Impacts through the Eyes of a Reviewer.
Graduate Research Statement: From Outline to First Draft
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Advice from Fellows
An important reason to apply is that a significant part of the application is about assessing your confidence in yourself. Even if you don't receive the fellowship, applying can boost your confidence that you have the tools and ability to plan and propose research, which is essential to succeed in graduate school.
'11 Fellow, Plant Sci
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