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The GRFP funds you, not your proposed project. In fact, winners don’t even have to execute the project they propose! So why does NSF require a research plan essay? It’s there to show reviewers that:

  1. You understand the scientific challenges important to your field;
  2. You appreciate the societal significance of addressing those challenges; and
  3. You can design a project that is scientifically sound and operationally feasible.

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 foci. You should rely on your advisor to help you choose methods that your reviewers will judge appropriate. If you haven’t already, get in touch with them right away to schedule a meeting to discuss your research plan. Now is also the time to get your letter writers on board. Course #4 includes lessons (“Get the Most out of Your Advisor” and “Get Great Letters”) that will help you strategize with your advisor and your letter writers. Check those 2 lessons out while you continue to recruit faculty support.

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

We recommend that you complete the lessons below in order. You will work on the Research Plan Worksheet throughout this course. Once you finish it, submit it via a quiz you will find below. Once you complete all the lessons and submit your worksheet, you should start drafting your research plan essay. When its done come back here and submit your draft through the corresponding quiz, which you can find at the bottom of “course content.”