Research Design Methodology Advice and Concerns

Dear Fulbright Applicants: 

FPA draft review is now fully underway. We have had an outstanding number of requests for feedback this year and are working diligently to provide each of you that submitted essays for review with personalized comments. 

In the meantime, however, we have noticed a concerning trend in many applicants’ development of methodology for the full grant. If you are applying for the Fulbright research grant, please take the time to think about how you have selected, and write about, your methodology, and consider the following:

Structure: Where is your methodology?

In grant writing, you should not bury your methodology. You should dedicate part of your statement to specifically outlining how you will conduct your research. This should come after your background section, which includes your research thesis, but before your results and outcome(s) sections. Some applicants find it helpful to divide their proposal into several components with headers that indicate the focus of their sections. This helps the reader quickly digest information and prevents them from having to scour your document when questions pertaining to individual sections arise. 

Go back to your draft now and look at your methodology structurally.

  • Can you easily find your methodology section?
  • Is it all in one place?
  • Does your methodology section succeed your research thesis and background, and precede your results and outcomes?

Content: What is your methodology?

You cannot “create” your own methodology. Please be aware that there are standards, in every discipline, for conducting research. Do not select a research method without knowing how to use it. That is, you cannot just decide to use interviews to collect data unless you understand how to empirically gather information using surveys as a research tool–Do you know about interviewer bias? Do you know what an IRB is and if your research will need IRB approval? Do you know how to select a representative sample? If these are foreign concepts to you, we suggest that you “research” your research methodology, take a class on research methods or experimental design, or ask a professor for help. 

  • Go back to your draft now and look at your methodology substantively.
  • How are you collecting information?
  • Are your methods appropriate for your discipline and the nature of your research question(s)?
  • How will you analyze your information? Quantitatively or qualitatively?
  • Are you aware of, and have you addressed, the limitations of your methodology?

If you would like more information on developing your research methodology, we highly recommend the following text:

Mitchell, M. L., & Jolley, J. M. (2009). Research design explained. Pacific Grove, Calif: Brooks/Cole.

Attached to this e-mail we have provided you with two excerpts from Research Design Explained [1] [2] focusing on survey design and archival research. We encourage ALL APPLICANTS to look over these attachments. 

The Take Away

Most importantly, show that you are knowledgeable and resourceful. You do not need to have Ph.D. in statistics to win a Fulbright. You do need to show that you have done your homework. That you know about your research methodology, that you are aware of your limitations, and that you know who to contact when research design questions arise. 

If you need help, contact a faculty member, schedule an appointment with a research librarian in Lau, at least google your methodology; get informed! 

Think about the STRUCTURE and the CONTENT of your methodology.

Revise. Revise. Revise.