The project proposal is the most important part of the Fulbright application. For research grant proposals, you need to cover the basic information about your project—the what, where, when, how, and why—emphasizing its specificity and feasibility. Since you need to include a great deal of information, much of it technical and discipline-specific, in a two-page essay, the biggest challenge is clarity.
The national Fulbright screening committee will be composed of a wide range of people from different academic and professional backgrounds. It is important that your project be understandable to different types of readers, so you should write for a general academic audience.
Fulbright committee places a great deal of emphasis on the method or plan you have for executing your project. What do you plan to do and how exactly will you do it? You will need to do your best to convince the committee that you have a solid research idea and a plan for carrying it out. In addition, you must show that the project can be completed in one year, and that you have the necessary skills, organization, and contacts/support to complete it.
Before you begin your essay, answer the following questions.
What: What are you planning to do? What is the background of the question you’ll ask or the topic you’ll investigate? What are your goals?
Where: Where will you be conducting the project? What sort of place is it? What are conditions like there?
When: When will you start and end the project? What is your time line? When will you move to different stages?
Who: Who is involved in the project beside yourself? With whom will you be affiliated? With whom will you be studying? With whom will you be working?
How: What are you actually going to do? What methods will you use? What skills or experiences do you already have that will allow you to complete the project? What skills do you need? Are there any challenges you anticipate? How do you hope to address them? How will you engage with the host country in addition to the project itself?
Why: What is the motivation for your project? Why is it important? What do you hope to accomplish? What are the consequences or intended outcomes of your project? How will it make a contribution to the field or to people’s lives, to you, and to the host country?
Once you have written out some answers to these questions, you will have the raw material you need to write the proposal. You can then figure out the best way to organize your answers into a coherent and convincing proposal.
There is no single “right” way to organize the who/what/where/why/how information. However, the following outline often works well for Fulbright proposals. This is by no means the only way to organize the proposal; it is presented here to help you get started. Ultimately, you should be able to find ways to adapt it to fit your unique voice and project.
- The first paragraph should give some sense of the central problem or issue you wish to address and why it matters. Conclude this first paragraph with a short statement of what you specifically propose to do about this issue or problem. State the big picture and then present your contribution.
- Next, provide some sort of background or current status of the issue/problem, on a local and/or global scale. This is often where students can identify the where and/or why of the project.
- Now that you’ve given a sense of your project and its context, provide an account of the plan itself—what you will do, with whom you’ll be working, and how you will go about doing what you need to do. Timeline, affiliation information, and methods, along with other specifics, should be included here. When writing this section, it’s a good idea to work closely with your academic adviser to try to strike a balance between specificity and clarity for a more general outcome on the one hand and the more technical aspects of your proposal on the other.
- Once you have discussed the timeline, methods, and details of the project, you’ll want to discuss the skills or experiences that will enable you to accomplish it in the time and conditions described. Your goal is to provide enough specific information about your experiences and qualifications to convince the committee that you can complete this project successfully. This is where you might want to address any research experience you have, relevant coursework, your familiarity with the culture, any necessary language skills and/or how you will handle language obstacles if they exist (will you learn the language?) Also address how you will handle any cultural issues/challenges.
- Conclude your proposal by providing an account of both the short-term and long-term goals of the project. What will be accomplished at the end of the project? How will the completion of your project contribute to your future goals? How will they contribute to your host country and to your field of study/focus?