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NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

  1. Oct 1, 2011 #1
    In the likely case this has been asked before, please direct me to the thread. I couldn't find it.

    Anyway, I was hoping to get some opinions on the proposed plan of research statement part of the NSF GRF application. I can't seem to get a consensus on what it should be. In particular, does the committee really expect the applicant to have a full-fledged research plan for the next 3 years *before* even entering graduate school? Or are they looking for a general outline of what you intend to study? I have very specific projects in mind on which I could see myself working and could describe relatively well, but I'm not certain that's what I will be doing. I think it's more likely I'll be working in some given field and won't pick a specific topic until a year or two in, as is the case with most graduate students.

    The obvious answer to my question is: "read the guidelines on the NSF application." Indeed, these are pretty clear and seem to imply they want something quite specific. However, I have been told from others who have been through the process that this isn't true and that if you don't have a specific project in mind, it's OK to describe your interests and where you think they might take you.

    This is probably helpful: I'm a (pure) mathematics major.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 1, 2011 #2
    This is actually a good question, and I'd be interested in hearing a clarification myself.

    I know a few general topics I'd like to work on, but from what I understand, most people don't pick a specific research topic until at least after a year of grad school. The NSF GRFP seems to want something specific, which is what caused me to decide that I would not bother applying.

    If people here insist that something general can be chosen, I may reconsider and apply.
  4. Oct 3, 2011 #3
    So the impression I'm getting is that the NSF does want to see something detailed and well thought out. However, it seems like the reason for this is not so much that they expect you to know exactly what project you'll be working on, but so they know you can coherently and intelligently describe a potential project. That is, they want to see you know what you're talking about.

    I would still like to hear from some people who have been through the process though. In particular, it would be nice if someone could confirm or deny what I said above.
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