Although this article is primarily aimed at university students writing proposals for scholarship applications – many of these principles and techniques are applicable to other types of proposals, as well.
In the first post of this series I talked about the outline for the typical scholarship proposal:
Research Outcomes and Significance Paragraph(s)
We covered the first three topics in posts 1 to 3 of this series. If you missed any of them, then I suggest you go back and read those first. Just click on the relevant item in the list above to jump back to those posts.
The last item in the list is the topic of today’s post and, in some ways, it’s the hardest to write. In addition, as with the conclusions to a paper or report, it’s usually the part that receives the least attention despite its importance. It’s understandable – fatigue usually kicks in near the end of anything you write. That’s actually good news for you; if most people are doing it poorly, doing it well yourself will put you ahead of the competition.
Why is the closure so important? Well, in fact, it’s a lot like sales. You may give the greatest sales pitch in the world, but if you can’t close the deal, you don’t make the commission. A good “closer” in the sales world ends up convincing the customer to actually pull out their credit card or checkbook. Writing a scholarship proposal is no different – you are selling yourself and your research plan. At the moment the reviewers finish reading it – you want them to be so pumped about it that they’d reach for their own wallet to give you money.
So, what do you put in these paragraphs to “close the deal”? It’s quite simple – you describe in specifics how this project will advance the state-of-knowledge in this field. If you’ve done your job well in the pitch paragraph, the groundwork for this is already there. Remind them of the project’s value and importance that you presented earlier (using very different words, of course). The thing you must add here is what the impact of this new knowledge will be. Who specifically will use this knowledge and how will they use it? Will lives be saved? Will the secrets of the universe unfold? Will someone’s (or some group’s) quality of life be improved? The key here is to be very specific. Most people use blanket ‘motherhood’ statements and generalities here – to stand out from the crowd you have to present specific impacts. If you can quantify them – even better!
One beneficial outcome that many students neglect to mention is the impact on their own knowledge and experience. Many granting agencies place a lot of weight on the quality of the student training experience in adjudicating grant proposals – it makes sense that these same granting agencies should place equal weight on this in the scholarship competitions. If you can effectively express how this project will increase your skills and knowledge – and why it is important to have those new skills and this knowledge, then it can only strengthen your application.
One final word of advice in terms of being competitive in the scholarship competition. Publish early and publish often. You should be presenting papers (or posters) in at least one conference per year throughout your graduate program. Strangely, although conference papers don’t count for much in assessing professors (except in some select research areas) they do matter a great deal to graduate students competing for scholarships. For example, if you can have a few conference papers to your credit from your Masters or early on in your PhD program, you will be far more likely to get scholarships later on. If you can get a journal paper or two out during your Masters or PhD, you’ll be considered a star in many fields of research. This will also set you up well for your post-doctoral career.
Good luck – and let me know if you get the scholarship! 🙂
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If there’s a topic you would like to see covered on this blog, again please let me know by commenting below.