Somewhere along the way through grammar school, many of us learned that the introduction tells the readers what you’re going to tell them, the body of the document tells them, and the conclusion tells the readers what you’ve told them (using new language to keep things interesting). As graduate students applying for grants and fellowships, the conclusion is where the adage breaks down: Proposal writers have to clearly articulate an argument for their research, proposal essays have non-negotiable page limits, and reviewers are busy scholars with significantly less patience for reiteration than your high school English teacher. Under these constraints, GradFund has a series of suggestions to help you bring your proposal full-circle without repeating yourself.
One of the most natural and effective ways to wrap up a proposal is to explain your contribution to the discipline and goals of the funding organization. Every proposal should make a specific argument about the contributions of the research. This argument often makes the most sense toward the end of the document, after the reviewer has become acquainted with the research question, hypothesis or argument, the literature informing the applicant’s approach to the question, and the methods, approach, and data analysis that will allow the researcher to answer the question. A strong argument for the research contributions articulates the specific ways that the work will advance the body of literature described near the beginning of the proposal in the literature review, so concluding with this argument naturally connects the two ends of the document.
This argument can sometimes lead directly into other key ideas that should be established in the proposal. The most common example, and another oft-used device for ending, is for the applicant to explain why funding at this time, from this particular funder or award, is critical to their ability to make the above-stated contribution to the field. While this doesn’t always bring the proposal back to its introduction, it leaves the reviewer with a strong impression of the importance of his or her evaluation of the proposal on the future of your scholarship.
Some writers find that, after explaining the contribution they will make to the discipline, they need to explain their qualifications and the ways in which they are the best people in the world to undertake their specific projects. This can also be an effective way to close the document and leave the reviewer confident in your abilities.
All of these different types of information should go somewhere within your proposal, but which one serves as the ultimate “conclusion” depends on the narrative flow of your specific document. For help evaluating your conclusion, and the rest of the fellowship or grant application, Rutgers graduate students can schedule an individual meeting with GradFund at any time!