When students pursue a scholarship in foreign universities, they are supposed to submit a letter of motivation or a statement of purpose. The journey to your PHD studies starts right from that point and that letter of motivation is the first milestone that paves the path to your higher studies. It shows your bent of mind and plays an indispensable role to convince the subject supervisor or academic staff. The proposal shows your bent of mind and draws a picture of the applicant. It does have the potential to induce the supervisor to select you in the presence of hundreds of other applications. If you are already working on the mission of higher studies, writing an effective proposal is not an enormous task because you have a sketch of your topic in your mind.
Plan ahead. Spend a reasonable time on writing a proposal. Keep a calendar of deadlines for scholarships. Don’t forget that letter of motivation is the most important document in your application. Read all of the application instructions carefully pay attention to the details in the entire scholarship application before you complete it. Read the eligibility requirements carefully and find out whether you fulfill it or not. Know your audience. Make sure the goals you express in your application match the goals of the scholarship program to absolutely convince the reviewers. Don’t give unnecessary details and don’t boost yourself and try to be clear and concise.
Things to do before you write the proposal:
- Work out what topics are being talked about the most and the least
- Narrow down your interests to a couple of options.
- Why would this be interesting to people in my field?
- Does this work have application of some kind?
- What do I need to have access to / be able to do before I start?
Structure of the proposal:
The very first problem that strikes you is where to start and what to write in your proposal? What should it contain and how many details should be given? In fact, opening paragraph serves a very imperative role as it is the first thing that is explored and it immediately makes a picture of the applicant. The introductory paragraph should be strong, clear and precise. It is preferable to use “I” instead of “we”. You should write the sentences in active voice and try to avoid passive sentences as they convey a weak message. The language should be persuasive and dialogue style sentences should be used.
The second important aspect of your proposal is literature review in which you draw a picture of your topic and what have you previously done regarding that in your MA or MPhil or while thesis at any stage. Here, you will explain the hole that is found in the knowledge and how would you fill that. It leaves a good impression if your work is not 3 to 5 years old. You need to illustrate your contribution and what would you do in future to further improve the current position of the knowledge.
Thirdly, you need to explain the methodology that you are going to use in your research. Here, you are going to explain the procedure that you will use to do in your area of research. Don’t use jargon and completely avoid acronyms even if you define them. It will waste the time of reviewers and it may be annoying at times.
That last part of the proposal if closing paragraph. You can call it a summary of your proposal. Students when they reach this point feel fatigued and pay less attention to it. You should do it contrary to the common practice and do it very carefully as it may catch the attention of the reviewer.
The role of your writings or published papers:
If you are writing and getting published by reputed journals or attending conferences to read articles, it can a bonus point to convince the reviewers. The more you are published, the higher chances you have to get selected.
Do’s of writing a proposal:
- Be aware of how little time a reviewer may spend reading your application.
- Make sure that the key points about you appear quickly.
- Use headings and short sections or point form.
- Get the best possible reference letters you can.
- Make sure your referees have as much information as possible about you (current CV etc.)
- Start with a sentence or two that explains your project in the simplest terms.
Don’ts of writing a proposal:
- Avoid jargon and technical language; write your proposal for a general audience.
- Avoid colored paper, elaborate fonts or glossy covers.
- Write clearly. Avoid ambiguities. Check spellings.
The very last and very important way of getting selected is that never be reluctant to reapply. If you are rejected by many reviewers and supervisors, you will be selected by one because failure definitely leads to success and fortune favors the braves. Remember that our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.
Humera Rahim | Research Scholar in Chemistry and Freelancer Writer