Tips for Writing the Research Objectives Essay

In order to apply for the Irish Fulbright Student Award, you have to write two essays: a Research Objectives essay and a Personal Statement. The Fulbright Commission of Ireland will provide an outline of what information should be included in these essays. They are relatively short, about fifty lines of text if I remember correctly, although application procedures may be different in other countries.

In this post, I will share some of my tips for writing the Research Objectives essay. These are my tips only and are not endorsed by the Fulbright Commission of Ireland. My thoughts and ideas regarding the application procedure are entirely my own. I’m simply sharing with you what I believe to be the most important things to consider when applying for a Fulbright. Other people may have different interpretations so don’t limit yourself to what I say here.


FIRST things first, if you are thinking about applying for a Fulbright award you need to understand what the Fulbright program is about. You will find this information on any Fulbright site but I found this essay (here), written by Kieran McCarthy, particularly useful. As I understand it, the Fulbright Program is designed to facilitate cross-cultural exchange in order to reduce global conflict. You won’t necessarily discuss this information in your essay but it’s important to be aware of the aims and motivations of Senator J. William Fulbright. In my opinion, if you are not committed to achieving Fulbright’s aims and objectives then there’s no point in applying for the award.

BEFORE you even begin writing your application, it’s worth considering what potential contribution your work will make to your country, your institution and the wider world. This, I believe, is a significant part of the application process. Fulbright aren’t going to give just anyone an award. They will probably choose proposals that have the potential to make a difference in society. Every proposal has the potential to make a difference, you just have to figure out what that is.

PLUS, as you may know, if you receive a Fulbright Student Award you are subjected to a two year home residency requirement, meaning you have to return to your home country for two years after your time in the US . This is understandable considering Fulbright will probably offer you an award on the basis of its potential to make a difference in your home country. And your home country won’t benefit from the study you conduct in the US if run back to the states as soon as you finish up in your home institution!

ANYWAY, this part of the application process can be one of the most difficult but I can guarantee you that every proposal has the potential to make some kind of contribution to society. It’s not all about “filling the gap” or “contributing to knowledge and understanding”. So spend some time thinking and talking about this. Your supervisor and academic friends will be a great help so talk to them.

NOW you need to start writing your application. I advise you to start early because you will write multiple drafts. You should also share your writing with someone. My supervisor was fantastic and really pushed me to promote myself a bit more – I’m a typical, modest, Irish girl who doesn’t like to “brag”. I also spoke with a previous Fulbrighter at my institution and she was a great help.

THE structure of you application is paramount. I’ve been very fortunate to secure four grants and I am convinced that it’s down to the grant writing template that Dr Karen Kelsky created. It can be found here. (I find this entire site fantastic – from CV tips to conference proposals, it has it all). The ‘Foolproof Grant Template’ can be frustrating at times because the structure is so rigid but it will really help you to organise your thoughts and ideas more clearly. I cannot stress how useful this template was for me.  That being said, Fulbright will probably give you a fairly comprehensive outline of what information should be included in the essay. For my Research Objectives essay I didn’t stick entirely to the ‘Foolproof Grant Template’ but I did for other grant essays. You just need to be flexible.


SO that’s it. I hope it helps somewhat. Check out other blogs and see what others have to say also. And if you’re applying this year – the application process will be open soon – best of luck!!!

This was me on the day that I received my award. If I can do it anyone can!


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