ADVICE FOR DRAFTING YOUR PROJECT PROPOSAL
The research or project proposal is the single most important part of your Maryland Summer Scholarship (MSS) program application and requires careful preparation and revision. You should work closely with your faculty mentor(s) as you develop and refine your MSS proposal.
The proposal is an essay of about two single-spaced pages that presents your strongest, clearest case for what you hope to do with a MSS grant and why you are qualified to undertake your proposed work. Additionally, students may submit an optional but strongly recommended 1-page maximum supplementary statement of plans indicating how the student's proposed summer research project will be modified if necessary to accommodate possible Covid-related restrictions on in-person or in-lab research or travel. Students recieving MSS award offers will be required to submit this supplementary statement of plans to adapt their research.
Your proposal should reflect what is most distinctive and individual about your project. However, all proposals need to communicate the same sorts of information to their readers. You will find below concise discussions of the key characteristics of a successful MSS project proposal. These are guidelines, not required formats, but in your early drafting you might find it helpful to structure your proposal along the points suggested here.
A word about footnotes: feel free to include as many references as you need, but please provide these in the form of endnotes on a separate page following your proposal.
Key Characteristics of MSS Project Proposals
1. Introduction – one or two paragraphs
The aim of your introduction is to state, CONCISELY, ENGAGINGLY, and PERSUASIVELY the basic reasons and goals for undertaking your project. You should introduce your topic, explain thoughtfully and clearly why it is important using specific information and data, and briefly state what key questions or matters you aim to address through your proposed work. What do you hope to accomplish/learn as a result of your efforts? What will be the impact of your project? Aim to write clearly, engagingly and directly. Avoid unnecessarily long or broad introductions; bring your project topic into focus quickly.
2. Context or Background – one paragraph
After introducing your project topic you need to demonstrate its significance by providing contextual or background information. This must be done concisely, so focus on key pieces of information and data to establish a relevant context for your topic. Use statistics or other factual information and cite your sources when appropriate (citations should be included on a separate third page if necessary).
3. Your Research Questions and Plan – two or three substantial paragraphs
It's important to discuss in detail how you propose to carry out your project. What are the study/research questions or hypotheses that will guide you? What background reading or other preparation will you undertake before the beginning of the project? What are the steps you envision will be necessary to carry out your project? Does your project involve off-campus work in the US abroad? What is the expected product of your research – a paper, performance, presentation, etc.? If appropriate, incorporate a time-line to show how the different aspects or phases of your project will unfold. Feasibility is a very important criterion in the MSS selection process – you need to give your readers confidence that you know what it will take to complete your project successfully.
4. Your Mentoring Plan – one paragraph
MSS projects must be mentored by at least one Maryland faculty member. You should briefly discuss who your mentor is, including his/her departmental titles and area(s) of expertise. It is important to state clearly why this mentor is appropriate for your project and to describe clearly the mentoring plan you have jointly developed for the summer (e.g., weekly meetings, online/email contacts, etc.). If your project involves significant work off-campus (in the US or abroad) at another institution, you may want to enlist the support of an on-site mentor as well and describe their role in supporting your project.
5. Your Key Qualifications and Background for this Project – one paragraph
How do your prior or current studies, research experiences, internships, extracurricular activities, study abroad or other forms of learning support your ability to carry out your project? Be specific about the language skills, quantitative skills or other abilities you possess that will enable you to carry out your project.
6. Your Broader Reasons for Undertaking this Project – one paragraph
How will the project contribute to your planned academic and or professional trajectory? Will your summer work become part of a larger project (Honors thesis, continuing research, publication, presentation or performance) in the following semester or academic year?
Checklist – Key Proposal Characteristics
- Does the opening paragraph introduce your project topic and research aims clearly and engagingly?
- Do the opening paragraphs clearly establish the significance or relevance of the project?
- Does the proposal show a strong grasp of important, relevant background literature or other context?
- Does the proposal use appropriate evidence, information or data to communicate the significance of the project?
- Does the proposal clearly discuss research questions and methodologies that will be used? Are these questions and methodologies appropriate?
- Do you clearly describe your qualifications (academic, practical, professional etc.) for undertaking the \ proposed project, particularly in relation to any specialized skills the project may require?
- Does the proposal establish a clear, practical plan for accomplishing its stated study/research objectives?
- Does the proposal clearly show how the proposed research is related to your future academic or professional aspirations?