Kerri Riveley is a Faculty Writing Fellow at the Drexel Writing Center and the Project Coordinator of the DWC-DFO Partnership, in which a team of dedicated faculty support fellowship applicants in their writing processes as they craft their essays. In addition to writing center pedagogies, Kerri’s research interests lie in extra-institutional and self-initiated writing practices.
Recently, we picked Kerri’s brain about the personal statement. Since then, we’ve continued the conversation to bring you insights about another common (and critical!) element of the fellowships application process: the project proposal.
How much background do I need to provide for my proposed project?
The requirements are different for each fellowship and so, it is important to remember to follow the guidelines provided by the institutions. For example, for Fulbright some background to a project is definitely necessary. A few of the elements that must be in this application are: cultural connection, affiliation with your host country/university, your past research, and your future goals. As an applicant to the Fulbright fellowship, it is your responsibility to connect all of these elements together and explain their relevance with the country that you plan to go to, as well as to the US.
The reader needs to understand the significance of the project that you plan to undertake and its relation to the host country and, to America. This essay is where some background can show why the project is worthwhile to you. At the same time, you don’t have the space to delve into great details about the project, so it’s a tricky thing to balance. For example, if a student is planning to go and study water filtration techniques in India, he/she should show the relevance of the project to the population of the host country as well as to future research in America.
How much emphasis should be placed on the researcher’s goals and/or the budgetary use of the grant, when writing the project proposal?
In my experience, there haven’t been a lot of applicants who explicitly detail out the budgetary breakdown in their project proposal. The money received as a part of the grant is looked at as more of a means to an end. The main focus of this essay is the research that the student is conducting or the project that he/she is working on. In certain applications, it may be required to break down the budget to explain how and where the money will be used. This, however, will be typically asked for in sections other than the essays.
Between the two notions – research is more important for the betterment of humanity, or research should be done for the advancement of the scientific community – which carries more weight when it comes to applying for fellowships?
Some fellowships are interested in the betterment of humanity while others are focused on the advancement of the scientific community. It is, therefore, very important to know the goals and mission of the fellowship that one is applying to. A single project can be put forth in multiple ways to match the requirements of the different fellowships and be in line with the expectations.
The notion “Make me care,” is something that we often hear when it comes to the project proposal. What does a student need to consider when thinking about his or her audience?
It is important to research the background of the readers because chances are they are not in the same discipline as you. Knowing your readers can help determine the kind of terminology to use in your project proposal, what terms to define and concepts to explain. For example, for NSF the grant statement is expected to be a little more technical than a Fulbright essay. Parallels can be drawn between writing for Fulbright and writing for the New York Times magazine: the essay should be accessible to the average, educated reader, and interesting enough of a topic to elaborate on with some detail. Also, it is helpful to get feedback from your advisors and peers. People from your field can point out things that do not make sense technically while people outside your field can help determine if the essay is too technical.
What is the practice of the DWC when working with students on drafting and revising their essays? What can student expect from a session? Can students use multiple sessions and/or get feedback from more than one staff member of the DWC?
At the Writing Center, we understand that writing is a grueling, self-reflective and almost an emotionally draining process. We are here to help you through it, to revise, to come into a better context of who you are and what drives and motivates you. I believe everyone has the ability to tap into that aspect of themselves.
We work one-on-one with each applicant. DWC sessions are very student centered which means that the applicant decides what he/she wants to work on. If they are concerned regarding the general flow of the essay, the transitions or the wordiness of the essays, we work with them to address these concerns. The sessions are very conversation based and there are a lot of questions that go back and forth while solving the issues. It isn’t that the students bring in a paper and we revise it for them. It is a slow gradual process where the student is the person who decides what needs to change and how. There are a lot of revisions and we work with the student to figure out gradually what works best. Students are also welcome to work with multiple tutors and have multiple sessions.
If you are fellowship applicant, we highly recommend that you take advantage of this resource and sign up for a session with the Drexel Writing Center.