The GRFP funds you, not your proposed project. You are not even obligated to do the exact research project that you propose! The purpose of the research plan essay is to show the reviewers three things:

  1. You understand the scientific challenges that your field is working on.
  2. You appreciate why addressing one of those challenges is socially important
  3. You know how to design a doable, scientifically sound research project.

The reviewers always comment on whether the methods are appropriate to your research question or hypothesis. So, choosing an appropriate methodology should be one of your focuses. You should rely on your advisor to help you choose methods that your reviewers will judge appropriate (see our module “Mobilize Support” for detailed guidance on how to identify and strategize with your advisor and letter writers).

Right now, we will focus on how to frame the importance of your research project, and how to explain the broader impacts of your research in a way that convinces your reviewers that your research career will make a difference.

Upon completing this module you will:

  • Use the “Upside-down pyramid” approach to motivate your research project
  • Understand what makes a broader impacts plan compelling, and design your own
  • Design each element of your research plan, and identify gaps in your plan that you need to fill before the application deadline
  • Develop a storyboard for your essay