Keep a few basic points in mind.

According to the Watson Foundation, “the proposal should describe your plan for the 12-month fellowship year, including a description of your proposed project and details as to how you intend to carry it out. In addition, you should include information about what it is that prepares you to undertake your project. The specific content of the proposal is up to you, but we require that it not exceed five double-spaced typewritten pages in no less than 11-point font.”

Tell where you’re going—and be as specific as possible.

Let’s say that you want to study Irish folk music. Which parts of the country will you want and need to visit? Will you want to spend most of your time in Dublin or up in the north? How do the musical cultures of those places seem to differ?

Sketch an itinerary—and once again, be as specific as possible.

Which places will you visit first, and why? How long do you think you’ll stay in each place? Will your visit coincide with any special events or holidays? If you’re returning to a place you’ve already visited, be sure to explain how this trip will be different.

Explain what you’d like to do—and tell how you intend to do it.

What exactly are you trying to find out or accomplish? Are there particular hypotheses you’d like to test or explore? If so, how will you conduct your investigation? What kinds of people will you want to talk with? You don’t need specific contacts, but you should be able to explain what you’d like to be doing on your Watson.

State your qualifications.

What experiences have prepared you for this project? Have you already begun to study the traditions or cultures you’ll be exploring? Will you be drawing on a set of skills or a body of knowledge that you’ve already begun to master? If so, don’t keep it to yourself. The Watson people want to feel that you’ll be challenging yourself, but they also want to know that you’re capable of meeting and handling those challenges.

Think about language barriers.

You don’t need to speak the language, but you shouldn’t underestimate any language barriers you will face, and you must present some sort of plan for overcoming those obstacles. Some fellows have hired translators, while others have taken special summer courses. There’s no right or wrong way to go with this one—just make sure that you don’t overlook the issue.

Think about your budget.

The fellowship is very generous, but there are limits to what you can do with $22,000. Be careful not to blow most of your funds on travel. And make sure that you know how much it will cost for you to live in the places you’re planning to visit. If you’re going to Western Europe or Japan, where the cost of living can be high, these issues will be of particular concern to you.

page created by Tim Spurgin -- last modified 8/23/04