A key set of research skills involve designing research questions and proposals, and building support for your research plans. Developing such skills can be relevant not only to research oriented careers, but also to careers where you are responsible for proposing or developing new projects, programs, products, services, or policies. Before you can propose effective research or other interventions, it is important to ensure you understand the problem space and what tools and resources will be available to you as you navigate the space. It is also often necessary to obtain approval and/or funding for a project before it begins.

Steps You Can Take

Write a Research Prospectus

Doctoral students may be required to prepare a formal research prospectus as part of their progress to degree completion. Even if the prospectus is not required, there is intellectual and professional value to be found in writing one. A research prospectus, like a grant proposal, shows that you know how to define the scope of a project, understand the steps needed to complete it, and recognize the kind and scale of resources needed—skills valuable in academic and other professional careers.

Guidelines and expectations for the research prospectus vary by field, but many include or address the following types of categories: research problems, research questions, assumptions, theoretical issues, literature review, general research plans, anticipated difficulties, and anticipated contributions. Your department may retain a file of prospectuses submitted by previous students, or you may wish to consult more advanced students to track down samples.


Write Grant and Fellowship Proposals and Secure Funding

Mastering the skill of grant writing is vital to the completion and promotion of your research, as well as to success in a variety of academic and professional careers. To support their research, graduate students at Berkeley often write proposals for University or external funding, including from organizations such as the American Association of University Women [AAUW], the Fulbright program, National Institutes of Health [NIH], National Science Foundation [NSF], Social Science Research Council [SSRC], and many more. By learning to frame your project for different audiences and purposes, you will develop a vocabulary for both the academic and professional applications of your research methods and findings. Establishing a successful grant history will in turn prove your ability to attract sponsors and build financial support for the work you undertake—a highly desirable skill in both academic and professional careers. Workshops on writing research grant proposals are offered by the Graduate Writing Center.

 For a list of major University and extramural funding sources, see “Graduate Fellowships and Awards,” Berkeley Graduate Division. For more lists of funding opportunities, you can also refer to the UCLA GRAPES database, the Berkeley Research Development Office, and the Berkeley Sponsored Projects Office. In addition, university centers such as the Geospatial Innovation Facility or Digital Humanities at Berkeley typically offer more targeted information about funding sources for students working in those fields.

Berkeley also offers a variety of mentoring programs, including one—the SMART (Student Mentoring and Research Teams) program—which is directly designed to facilitate graduate research by offering funding and undergraduate research assistance on a proposed project. Another, Berkeley Connect, is a year-long competitive research fellowship for graduate students in designated departments to advance their research while mentoring groups of undergraduate students.

The UC Berkeley Research Development Office provides a general list of proposal-writing resources that also contains specific information about preparing  proposals for major grants from institutions like the NIH and NSF. Field-specific grant-writing resources are often provided by professional associations. 

See also these resources:


Learn to Avoid Bias in Research

Issues of bias are prevalent in research and the production of knowledge. All graduate students, regardless of discipline, should learn about bias in quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis. Take some time to research bias in your own field of research. For example, if your work uses computational tools, it is important to learn about the prevalence of bias in algorithms and computer code, which you can learn about in this report created by the Civil Liberties Union for Europe. You can also learn about bias in medical research (see, for example, the article titled “Reducing Bias and Improving Transparency in Medical Research” or about researcher bias in qualitative research methods (see, for example, the article titled  “Interviewing the Investigator.”

Learn more about bias in academia and diverse career paths, how to intervene to create equitable and inclusive environments, and how to avoid bias in the Equity and Inclusion competency of this guide. 


Attend Research Talks, Colloquia, and Seminars Both Within and Beyond Your Discipline

Attending research talks, colloquia, and short seminars is a useful way to gain a sense of other disciplines and their research approaches without committing to a semester-long course or expending the energy required to survey the literature of a field. The UC Berkeley Events calendar—searchable by day, week, or month—is a good place to look for the many events that occur each day on campus. You may also wish to look on the websites of specific departments, centers, or concentrations related to your interests, as well as local institutions like museums and libraries.

Attending research talks, colloquia, and seminars also provides great opportunities for networking with potential future colleagues, mentors, and employers. For more on how (and why) to build networking skills, see the Career Exploration and Preparation competency in this guide.