GRFP Essay Insights: Application Resources for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program
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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 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.

Other suggestions:

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

Intellectual Merit:
Broader Impacts:


Graduate Research Statement: From Outline to First Draft
Social network discussions
Advice from Fellows

…once you finish the NSF GRFP application, your graduate apps will be a snap.

Adam Daily

'12 Fellow, Biomedical Engineering

University of Texas at Austin


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