Tips to Fellowship and Grant Writing

(Some obvious) suggestions for writing grant and fellowship proposals

  • Read the directions and guidelines carefully.  Most grants have specific information they want conveyed (and in a particular order).
  • If possible, review other students’ applications.
    • Consider them as a model, but keep in mind what would work for me, what does not work for my project.
    • Start early and go through many, many drafts.
      • Work closely with your advisors.
      • Also get “fresh,” “unexpert” readers to read your drafts.
  • The first paragraph of each piece is the most important one.  It must succinctly convey the significance of your research or professional profile.
  • Connect with the purpose of the fellowship (show your fit), but do not ‘pander.’
    • For example, the Fulbright wants “to promote mutual understanding between nations.”  However, most projects are awarded based on intellectual merit rather than showing how your study of magnolia pollen will help resolve the situation on the West Bank….  The review committee understands that your connections with scientists as a Fulbright will support the goal.
    • This also means avoiding the obvious—I love Italy and the countryside is so beautiful.
    • Personal heritage usually is not a reason for why you should be selected (‘my family comes from Silesia!’)— use personal expertise to show that you are ready to work there.
  • Write clearly and directly.  You are writing for a very well educated audience of fellow scholars, but necessarily ones in your field.  No jargon.
  • Make sure the significance of your project is clear.
  • Address feasibility.
    • A two page research proposal will be much briefer than your dissertation proposal.  Concentrate on your best ideas, the ones that explain why you need to do research in country X, here.
    • Demonstrate how the work can be accomplished during the period of the grant.
    • Discuss the outcomes of the work—what happens next?  How does it fit into your larger program or professional development?
  • Pay attention to style.  You do not need many statements in the first person since it is obvious that you are the author of the piece.
  • The quality of your proposal reflects the quality of your research.  Check grammar and syntax very carefully (have others proof-read as well).

Check out:

Kenyon’s Grant Proposal Writing Resources, Tips, and Tutorials

The Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) Tutorial for Grant Writing (generally, this site is an awesome resource, use it yourself and recommend to your own students)

Lezlie Knox, Department of History and Fulbright Program Advisor
9 February 2011

Special thanks to Dr. Knox for letting us share this!

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