Summer Steps: Preparing for a Research Grant

If you are thinking you may want to apply for a research grant next year, there are a number of steps you can take during the summer to strengthen that application. This applies to all students, but may be especially helpful for rising sophomores considering a Chappell Lougee, or rising juniors considering honors.

Developing a good proposal requires a back-and-forth approach with both topic and faculty mentor—the project grows and changes in conversation with faculty and in the attempt to write a proposal. So these steps do not necessarily happen in order but rather you are constantly moving among these poles—as your project changes, you may need to identify new faculty and read different works, for instance.

Articulate your idea

What are you interested in learning about, or creating? What threads from your classes do you wish to follow? What methods are you drawn to and would like to use in the service of your own idea? What will be the heart of your original contribution? Sit down and write to yourself the same way you might explain it to a friend.

Contextualize your project within what others have done

Putting your project in a broader context is one of the hardest parts of the proposal, and the part that will most benefit from reading and research done during the summer. The proposal will ask you to address how your work connects to, is inspired by, argues with, challenges, extends, builds on, and engages with existing expertise. For arts projects, design, and other creative projects, you’d discuss existing artwork that you are reacting to or inspired by, both in terms of theme and technique. For a project with several themes, you’ll want a literature review that addresses multiple themes. And so forth. It's difficult to add this reading on top of your usual courseload, but during the summer, you have time to read and reflect.

Identify the faculty who are most expert in your idea

If possible, visit relevant faculty during spring quarter to explain your idea and ask their recommendations for what you need to read over the summer. Then you can return in the fall with more concrete ideas, and can ask one of them to sign on as a mentor. (You can try contacting faculty during the summer, but many are traveling and away from campus, or may not be able to meet with students they don’t already know during the summer.)

Prepare to carry out your project

Prepare. Are there spring public lectures you can attend? Are there fall classes that will give you more background and expertise? Is there a relevant class on research methods offered in the fall? If you will do interviews or surveys, do the online training and study what a Human Subjects proposal is over the summer. Explore student grants, examine the UAR proposal writing guidelines and begin drafting a proposal. You can contact Academic Advising Directors over the summer for guidance on writing the proposal.