A Former AAPA-PAEA Research Fellow’s Checklist for Your Fellowship Application

By: Morgan Luck, EdD, PA-C 

Dr. Morgan Luck, 2018-2019 AAPA-PAEA Research Fellow

Like many PAs who have spent years in clinic before transitioning to academia, I felt unprepared to tackle my newfound research responsibilities. Fortunately, my experience as an AAPA-PAEA Research Fellow provided me with the release time, resources, and network I needed to build a foundation for meaningful scholarship. As the application cycle opens for the next cohort of Fellows, I would like to share my advice with those who are considering candidacy.  

  • Dive in: If you are wavering on whether to apply, I can assure you that the application process itself is valuable. The feedback I received on my proposal was detailed and thorough. Even if my submission had not been accepted, this information would have helped me shape my project into a meaningful future study. 
  • Identify your problem and narrow it down to a research question: Review the research themes provided for the Fellowship and select one that speaks to you. Ask yourself:  
    • What question do I have that aligns with these themes?  
    • If I find the answer to this question, would that information advance PA education or practice?  
    • If you plan to conduct quantitative research, then identify the variables in your research question. My proposal and project were quantitative in nature, which influences a few of the following bullet points. 
  • Conduct a focused literature review: Once you have settled on your research question, conduct a literature search to identify sources that characterize the importance of the problem (question) you have identified. Synthesize your findings to create your problem statement and your literature review sections. Include previous relevant research regarding your chosen variables. 
  • Take stock of potential data sources: Explore the data sources that you will be able to tap into as a Fellow. Do you see your variables represented in AAPA and PAEA reports? An immense amount of data is collected regularly by these organizations. For example, potential research data are available in PAEA Curriculum or Program Surveys and Reports, CASPA data, or Student Surveys and Reports
  • Determine your methods/data analysis: This can often be a challenging part of original research for PAs who do not have a research design, statistics, and data analysis background. If possible, work with a mentor to determine an approach that would be appropriate given your research question and available data. My method evolved after participating in Fellowship activities and conversations designed for this purpose. 
  • Consider what you can achieve in 12 months: Because the Fellowship spans one year, your project should be focused and concrete enough to complete it within that timeframe. Your resulting manuscript should be of appropriate length for journal submission. Thesis or dissertation length projects would be challenging to fit into these parameters. 

My most enlightening take-home message from the Fellowship is that we need PAs to contribute to strong PA research! With focused research by and for PAs, we can advance our profession-specific educational practices, clinical practices, and policy advocacy at state and federal levels. I highly encourage you to consider applying, and I wish you all the best. 

If you are interested in applying for the Fellowship, the deadline is 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 5. Applications must be submitted through the PAEA Research online application platform. For more information about eligibility, applicant evaluation criteria, and application requirements, please download the 2022-2023 AAPA-PAEA Research Fellowship Submission Guidelines or contact us at or 703-651-8540.