Writing the Research Statement

There are basically 4 parts to a research statement. They are listed below, but note that they do not necessarily have to be confined to this order or arrangement. The four main parts should be relatively proportional, with(usually) a slight emphasis on II (Project Statement). It’s hard to do everything in the space allotted; that you can do so is part of the application.

I. Statement of Problem/Issue

A. What sort of issue are you addressing, and why is there a need for it? This could mean situating your project within current research (what gap are you filling? whose work are you building on?) or within a larger social problem, AND/OR explaining how the project is essential to your academic needs.
B. How is your problem statement in line with the goals of the Nanovic Institute?

  • Your problem statement should aim for clarity and concision. You should also aim for it to be interesting to read. Maintain a scholarly and professional tone, and get to the point – no ‘catchy’ generalities, etc.
  • If you’ve done relevant research to contextualize the project, cite it (properly).

II. Project Statement

A. What is your specific project?
B. How does it answer (or begin to answer) the problem that you have described?
C. Explain your specific goals.
D. Give a “Statement of Need”: a compelling and logical claim as to why this project should be supported.

III. Research Design and Methods

A. How will you complete this project?
B. Where will you go? What program will you be participating in? What archives will you visit? Who will you meet with?
C. What methods will you use to complete your research?
D. What are your expected outcomes?

‐ This is where you want to display, as concretely as possible, the work that you’ve done already: name names and places specifically, and use appropriate language to describe methods; if possible, explain who it is that you’ve contacted and what arrangements are in place.

IV. Credentials

A. Why are you capable of carrying out the project? Why are you and your skill‐sets ideally suited to do this project?
B. What work have you done in the past that has helped you to be ready for this project?
C. How will this project (and the funding you’re asking for) help you in future endeavors?

V. Wrap‐up

A. Re‐assert your project and its suitability to the Nanovic’s goals and the particular grant you a re seeking.
B. Re‐assert your statement of need.

Additional Tips


  • Have some, but the right kind: be clear, thorough, and concise. Every sentence should do work for you – everyone loves that you are a creative and special individual, but people giving you money prefer that you be competent and professional.
  • That said, remember, you are making an argument and that you are in a competition. Don’t assume that the people reviewing the grants are familiar with your areas of interest or that they think they are particularly important – you want to interest them and ultimately you need to convince them.
  • Don’t be afraid of repetition. Also, don’t be afraid of repeating yourself. . . That is, as long as what you’re repeating is important.
  • Say it with me: “Use the language of need, not the language of want.” Everyone wants free money, and frankly, almost no one needs it, but you should do your best to convince the people giving out the money that you fall into the latter category. In addition to needing funding, explain why you need to do this project. Familiarize yourself with the phrase “cost prohibitive,” and with adjectives like “essential,” “critical,” etc.
  • Know your audience. The Nanovic (or any other grant‐granting institution) has specific goals, as does each particular grant. Wherever possible, incorporate the specific language that the Nanovic uses to describe its goals as well as the language that the particular grant you are applying for uses to describe its intended uses.
  • Edit your proposal.

Visually, it should be simple and clean

  • Use the white space of the page to help demarcate the different parts of your statement.
  • All tables (such as the budget proposal) should be clear and easy to understand.
  • Typographical errors make you seem incompetent or, at best, lazy. I recommend against having them.
  • Be sure to follow ALL guidelines for length, formatting, etc.
  • Avoid acronyms, jargon, and abbreviations. Assume that your audience is a group of competent scholars but not experts in your field.
  • Number your pages and be sure that your last name appears on the header of each page.
  • When you cite, do so correctly.