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Guidelines for Writing your Research Application Essay

Essays should be no more than 1,100 words (approximately 4 pages, double-spaced, in 12 point font or equivalent size, standard margins). One additional page may be included for references, images, or figures, if applicable.

The following are guidelines for writing your Research Scholarship application essay. These ideas will help you to think about how to structure your essay and what to include in it. They are not meant to be step-by-step instructions, nor are they given in any particular order of importance. If there is anything unusual about your timeline, project, or circumstances, please talk about this as well. In addition to reviewing these tips, you may wish to attend an information session before writing your essay.

Write your essay in your own voice

It is very important that reviewers get a sense of your passion and understanding for your project. Do not cut and paste from papers or other proposals - it will be obvious to reviewers if you do and it will not convey your own understanding of your research. Write clearly and in your own voice describing your project and its relationship to research in your field of study.

Balance your essay

Be sure to talk about theproject itself as well as the educational benefits of the research. As you are writing the personal side of the essay it may help in your draft to tell the story of your motivations for getting involved. But in your final essay, pull out only those points that are relevant to your current experience.

Be specific about your role in the research

It is important that reviewers learn how you are contributing to the research, particularly if you have a role in a larger, ongoing project.

Describe how your faculty mentor guides/supports your growth and learning

If your research is of your own design, be sure to include how your faculty mentor helps you to make progress in your work. How does your mentor guide you so that you gain the perspective of the larger project as you contribute your work to it?

Describe how your research fits into a bigger picture

Include enough detail to convey your knowledge of the topic and so that reviewers can imagine what you are doing. Reviewers will be from a variety of fields, so it is best to address your essay to an intelligent non-expert. Define field-specific terminology and be sure to give the big picture of your research area. It will also be important to include enough detail that someone in your discipline will have confidence that you understand the field in which you are working well enough to be able to contribute to the project in a meaningful way.

Show your enthusiasm and commitment to the work

Your essay should convey an interest and commitment to the research. Awards cover either a six or nine month period - be sure that your essay provides evidence that you will stick with the project for that period of time, and that the project has enough depth to keep you engaged during that period. Reviewers will find your interest or passion in the research compelling, so find a way to convey that in your essay.

Talk about the impact of the research experience on your education, and describe any challenges to your participation in research

One of the goals of the Mary Gates Endowment is to invest in scholarships that help students to achieve their educational goals. Your essay should describe how the research will help you to further your own goals, and how it may help you address any difficulties you face in achieving those goals.

Properly cite the figures, graphs and/or images that you refer to in your essay

If you refer to a figure, graph or image in your essay that is not your own, be sure to credit the source. Essays with figures, graphs or images lacking proper citations will be marked down by reviewers. Information on proper citation format can be found at:

UW Libraries Citations Guide
Odegard Writing Research Center Resources

Please refrain from citing excessive sources not relevant to your project.

Ask your faculty research mentor and someone who is not involved with the research to review your essay

Your mentor will provide you the best feedback on your essay's representation of the research you are doing and how it fits into a larger framework. Someone else - a peer, another instructor, or adviser - will be able to tell you if your essay is clear to an intelligent non-expert, and if you have conveyed a sense of enthusiasm and commitment for the work you describe. Be sure to leave yourself enough time to get feedback from these key people before submitting your application.

Additional Information for Previous Awardees

We expect that previous awardees have a deeper than average understanding of their research, are working at a high level, and can clearly articulate previous accomplishments as well as opportunities for new learning and achievements during a second award period.  We also expect a strong connection between the research and a student’s longer-term goals.

Acknowledge your prior award and cite the major learning goals and/or accomplishments you achieved under that award

Reviewers will want to know what you have already accomplished, as well as your plans for the new award period.

Describe what challenges you currently face, and how this new award will help you to take the next steps in your education

Be sure to describe your role in the research, and how it may have changed since your prior award. What new challenges do you need to overcome to take your work to a higher level? Will you be taking on additional responsibilities? If you are starting a whole new project and/or working with a new mentor, you may want to address the reason for the change, how the new experience will provide new opportunity for learning, and how your new mentor will contribute to that learning.

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