Goldwater Essay Tips

As each element of the application is being developed, keep in mind that the Foundation’s reviewers will be evaluating the likelihood that a student will pursue a career and become a research leader in one of the supported fields. The Research Essay provides the reviewers with particularly important insights into an applicant’s background, experience, skills, temperament, and interest in pursuing a research career.

The strongest Research Essays students submit are based on a prior or current research experience. A Research Essay should include a description of the issue or problem, a discussion of the research methodology, and a discussion of the student’s findings. It is very important that the essay detail a student’s specific contributions to the project and indicate the specific skills/expertise the student developed as a result of participation in the project. To demonstrate that a student “thinks like a scientist,” the essay might, as an example, describe future work the experimental data suggests or describe an entirely new work that is based on the skills and insights the student learned from the experience.

The Research Essay should not simply be a “slightly expanded” abstract that was used for another purpose. While the Research Essay might start out as an abstract, it needs to be much more. In addition to describing the research question, methodology, analysis and results, the Essay should clearly describe how the student was involved in the work and what specific contributions he/she made to the work. Future directions for the work or a new research initiative built on skills learned should be included.

Research Essays should be written with the understanding that Goldwater reviewers are experienced science reviewers, but may not necessarily be an expert in a specific research area.

Students should work with their faculty mentor(s) to ensure the Research Essays are scientifically accurate, use appropriate scientific format, and provide an appropriate balance among the various elements that make up the Research Essay.

If a student has not been involved in a research project, the student can develop a Research Essay on a “proposed” research project that might, for example, be based on an independent investigation of theory or on a topic of interest in the student’s field. A research problem should be put forward, an idea for a research protocol that would address the problem should be presented, methodology should be discussed, and anticipated results described. Linking the project to the skills the student has acquired through coursework or other work would be helpful to the reviewers.

The Research Essay should include appropriate bibliographic information and references.

  • Research Essay Formatting Guidelines:

    Research Essays should be single spaced and use 12 point or larger Arial font. Margins should be 1 inch on all sides. Page length, including bibliographic information and references, must not exceed 3 pages. The Research Essay must include the applicant’s name and the name of the nominating institution in the header at the top of each page. Single or double column format may be used. As appropriate, utilize graphs, tables, and figures in the essay to explain results or to provide interpretation that lead to next steps.

    Research Essays should be saved as PDF files. Although the upload site accepts JPG and PNG file formats, PDF files are preferred. Instructions for uploading the Research Essay to the Goldwater site are provided in the online application. Students are responsible for uploading the Research Essay.

Writing your research proposal for Goldwater Scholarship (by Rochester Institute of Technology)

Keep the following suggestions in mind when writing your essay:

  • Most winning Proposals for the Goldwater have essays that centered around the applicant’s current research. You may want to consider starting by discussing your current research.
  • Demonstrate your interest in the project by making the case for its importance, its potential applications, and future breakthroughs. Go from there to develop a research proposal of future work.
  • The challenge facing all writers is to get the good ideas out of their heads and into the heads of their readers. To achieve this, effective writers must: Be clear. Be concrete. Be concise.
  • Think of your application essay as a part of a larger whole (including the letters of reference and the application form).
  • No essay can be successful without a clear focus. An effective thesis sentence announces clearly the central idea to be developed in the rest of the essay.
  • You must have a passionate interest in what you propose to do. The best essays are written about something the author truly cares about.
  • Your essay must go through many drafts, so start early! Show your work to a number of readers whose comments you respect. Consult especially your research advisor and ask your readers to
  • tell you what questions your essays raise that you might not have considered.
  • Revise until you feel that you have made your application into effective reflections of who you are and what you want to do.
  • Keep to word limits and all other guidelines and remember to proofread the entire application.