How to Write a Research Timeline for Fellowship Applications

Dec. 12, 2016

Now that it is the middle of application season, we have gotten a number of questions about writing timelines for fellowship applications. Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure that your research fits within the timeframe of the grant. For example, the Inter-American Foundation Fellowship begins June 1, 2017 and ends March 31, 2018. Proposed research must be between 4 -12 months and fall within that timeframe, so the latest the research could begin would be November of 2017. 

    • We have found that there is rarely a perfect time to apply for fellowships; students are always a little early or a little late. Therefore, if necessary, you can also use the timeline to describe the work that you need to do to prepare for the necessary research. For example, you can include how you will learn a certain research technique or a useful coding language.
  • A major concern of reviewers is the feasibility of your research. Use the timeline to demonstrate that you are cognizant of the time your research will take. You can do this most convincingly if you have done a pilot project. For example, reviewers will believe that you can assess the health of six acres of saguaros in three weeks if you have already assessed two acres in a week and a half. If you have not had the chance to do a pilot project, then ask several people about the feasibility of your timeline – and then believe them when they say it will take more time than you expect.
  • The timeline can give you an opportunity to demonstrate that you understand the specific details of how you will carry out the research. If you have a more general timeline, then be sure to give the specific details at another point in the proposal. How much detail is too much? Write a draft with as much detail as possible and then cut text in a subsequent draft. For example, here are two beautiful examples of specific details from timelines of funded proposals:
    • “I will use a mixture of German, Turkish, and Arabic at first, depending on the strengths of the group. Later as I develop more in Surayt and Kurdish I may use those increasingly, as appropriate.”
    • “At the beginning of the growing season I will remove intact 10cm diameter by 10cm deep cores with representative vegetation from each of three thaw-progression habitats: permafrost-underlain palsas, recently thawed Sphagnum bog, and graminoid-dominated fen.”
  • Use a chart. Proposals are generally filled with words, so a nice chart can be enjoyable for a reviewer. Gantt charts are simple depictions of what you plan to do. You can create them in Excel. Just google it.

Timelines for fellowship proposals are not complicated when they are completed. But creating one is difficult because if you are applying at approximately the right time in your academic life, you are probably not quite ready to create one; the details of precisely how will accomplish the work you want to do are still fuzzy. However, you will find that writing a timeline will be incredibly beneficial to you as you move forward, regardless of if you receive the grant or not.


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