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Tips on How to Write a Research Statement for Graduate School & Scholarships

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A research statement is similar in many ways to a personal statement, but this is an essay mainly about your research goals and career objectives. Universities and scholarship entities may evaluate your application for Master or Ph.D. program admissions based on your research statement among other documents.

Keep in mind that if required, this is one of the most critical components of your application. You should show that you are genuinely interested in studying an issue and that you are worth their time and money.

Writing an excellent research statement is indeed tricky, but there are things that can help you prepare your statement. In this post, we are sharing pointers that have helped us in writing our study research objectives for our respective Fulbright scholarships, graduate school and research grants.

The following are some tips you should keep in mind while writing your research statement:

Define your broader area of interest with a focus on some specialization: Define from the outset your more general field of study. Remember, don’t make it too broad as to include everything in the world in it. For example, if you want to study human rights in your Master, don’t say international relations.

Once you define your broad area of interest, you should specify your specialization. For instance, what is it that you want to focus on in Human Rights? it could be gender rights, women rights, etc. The more specific you are, the better. The problem with many research statements is that they are too broad and overgeneralized. Keep in mind that you can’t study everything in your field. Be focused on one single issue or a question.

Is there a puzzle/question that remains unresolved? Say what problem or puzzle in your study is understudied. However, support your claim with evidence from the literature. Sometimes, the admission or scholarship committee get hundreds of thousands of applications. Those who say something unique, stand out from the crowd. If you don’t want to waste your time on writing dozens of statements, consider this tip.

Structure of the essay: A clean essay is easy to go through. State your broad and specific interest in the first couple of paragraphs—this will be considered the introduction to your essay. Briefly give reasons for your interest.  Depending on the word limit, each body paragraph should address a specific point. The end should wrap up and explain the impact of the study on your country, the world, and you academically and professionally.

Include relevant research/work experience: Don’t forget to talk about your relevant work experience. What you studied, what you liked and what you did not. If something didn’t go well for you, explain why. This is important to mention because the point of this essay is also for the selection committee to know you better.

Impact of the study: Mention how your research will impact the broader field of study, your community or country, or even the world. Don’t just make assumptions, but state your claim carefully and with supporting evidence. Here you can also tell briefly how this particular study will impact you professionally.

For a scholarship, give valid reasons to fund you, including your post-study expectations. Of course, it is hard to know where you are going to be, but you should have a broad idea of what you want to do after getting your degree. Hopefully, your future goals will align with the interests of the scholarship.

Why is the program good for you and what would be your contribution? Tell them why does the program fit your objectives. Also, briefly state what you would bring to the program. This may range from increasing the diversity of campus and community life to contributing new perspectives to the classroom.

Keep to the word limit and other requirements: Although there is a standard format for a research statement, different institutions may have different requirements. Don’t disregard the rules. You don’t want your essay to be ignored for something as silly as the number of words.

Good luck!

Paulina A. ArancibiaAslam Kakar: Paulina is a Ph.D. Candidate in Ecology and Evolution and Aslam a Ph.D. Student in Global Affairs, Rutgers University  

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