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Developing Your Research Training Plan (Advice from the Archives)

by | Aug 20, 2018 | About GradFund, Advice from The Archives, Best Practices, Proposal Writing Advice

Advice from the Archives Series Note: Occasionally, we dig into the archives to uncover a post we feel holds relevant and timely information worthy of a repost. If you are interested in learning more about research grants and fellowships to support your graduate study, be sure to visit the GradFund Knowledgebase.

There are several graduate awards that fall into the category of “training fellowship”, with one of the most popular being the set of the National Institutes of Health’s F31 fellowships. These awards differ from traditional research fellowships in that they are offered to not only support research, but also to promote faculty mentorship that will enhance the student’s ability to be an independent researcher.

The F31 awards require the submission of a research training plan. The goal of this document is to demonstrate your research training potential and the scientific merit of the project. Key components of the research training plan are the Specific Aims and the Research Strategy:

Specific Aims

This one-page document is a summary of the goals and expected outcomes of your research. These goals might include testing particular hypotheses, solving specific problems, refining a clinical practice, developing a new technology, etc.  You will also address the impact of your results on the research field and should be clearly relevant to the interests of the Institute or Center under which you are applying.

Research Strategy

This six-page document is where you discuss your project in terms of significance (how you are advancing your field) and approach (methods, strategy, and analysis for achieving your specific aims). In the significance section, situate your research in the field, and explain how your project will improve scientific knowledge, advance your field, and/or remove important barriers to progress. In the approach section, You should remember to address the ways that data will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted, resource sharing, potential problems and alternative strategies, hazards and precautions, and any courses you plan to take to support the research training.

An Introduction section is only necessary when resubmitting an application and an Innovation section is only necessary in some F31 cases.

Pay close attention to your specific funding opportunity to see if there are requirements to talk more about your training plan in the research section. In general, connect to the purpose of these fellowships, which is to develop a successful independent researcher working on an NIH-supported interest.

For more information, Rutgers graduate students can access the NIH Self-Paced Proposal Writing Tutorial. This tutorial contains a workbook that you will find by scrolling down to the end of the page, and a forum that allows you to ask questions. You are also encouraged to schedule a meeting with a GradFund mentor or fellowship advisor.

Originally posted on August 13th, 2015 by Melissa Olekson. Lightly edited and updated above by María Elizabeth Roldan

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