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Proposal

Many applications ask for a description of your proposed course of study or your research or creative project. This can take many different forms. In general, this statement should reveal that you care deeply about your chosen discipline and that you have the background and skills needed to support your ideas and plans.

Know your audience

  • Are you writing this proposal for a general audience or for experts in your field? Consider how you need to adapt the way you write about your work for these very different kinds of readers. If you don’t know who your readers will be, ask the Center for Scholar Development to help you figure it out.
  • Do you know what issues or topics particularly interest the program you are applying to?  Do your research to find out and then show how you and your work relate to their interests. Your goal is to convince the reviewing committee that an investment in you will advance the goals of the granting foundation.

Make it compelling

  • Think about the larger implications of your work. How will this impact the world for the better? Show us why it matters to the world at large that you get to do this.
  • Why is it important that you do this work now and in the proposed location? Make a case for timeliness if you can.
  • What is exciting about what you do, to you or to others? What do you love about it? Try to convey this enthusiasm in the essay.

Explain your motivation

  • Why have you chosen this course of study or this creative or research project? What motivates you to pursue it? For whom does it matter? Why does it matter?
  • Why do you want to undertake this program/project in this particular setting (at this particular institution, in this particular country, with these particular faculty/mentors)? Explain what’s unique about the opportunity you are pursuing.

Show academic preparation and intellectual merit

  • Do you have the background to undertake this project? Show how your preparation, academic qualifications, and long-range goals have prepared you for your next steps. 
  • Show evidence that you have the concrete skills to pursue sophisticated work. If you are embarking on a new field of study, show how it is grounded in your prior experiences.
  • Show evidence that your questions are of interest to others in your field. Show that you understand the nuances of your field. 

Demonstrate feasibility

  • Show evidence that what you propose is realistic and feasible within the constraints you will face. If appropriate, explain how you plan to do what you propose with details of budget, timetable, and so on. This can go far to persuading your reviewers that you’ve actually thought this through and know what you are getting into.
  • If relevant, provide information on the host institutions and individuals (professors or other professionals with whom you wish to study or work). If appropriate, have they sent or are they willing to send a letter confirming their support of your proposal?