A Recipe for Success When Applying to the Don Pedersen Research Grant

By: Mirela Bruza-Augatis, MS, PA-C

2020–2021 Don Pedersen Research Grant Recipient, Mirela Bruza-Augatis, MS, PA-C

Conducting research can lead to a range of feelings for PA faculty, anything from excitement to intimidation. It is common for us to engage in research without being aware of it. When trying to engage in home improvement projects or even cooking a recipe from scratch. However, when it comes to research projects, we can over think the process.

The first step is to create a research plan by selecting a topic, finding a problem, creating the research question(s), reviewing relevant literature on the topic, developing a method and analytical plan, and the purpose of your research. Ask yourself, “How it will advance the knowledge and contribute to the literature?”

If you are new to research, it is important to network and collaborate with other researchers who are interested in a similiar  topic. This was the most crucial step for me. My co-investigator Bettie Coplan, PhD, MPAS, PA-C, is an invaluable contributor and mentor in my current Don Pedersen Research Grant project, Investigating Potential PA Program Application Barriers for Underrepresented Minorities.

1. Research Topic

Select a topic that you are passionate about as it will make the research enjoyable. You can also explore topic areas that are interesting and trendy, but most of all, make sure that you have some familiarity. Observe the world around you. Is there something that you always wanted to answer that could be your research topic? Again, networking and collaboration are vital because many ideas are born from casual conversations with your friends, colleagues, or students. 

2. Problem Statement

The problem and purpose statement will indicate what you intend to accomplish in the study. It should be clear and focused. Questions that need to be addressed include:

  • Why is this a problem that needs to be answered? 
  • Is this an important issue in PA education and workforce development?
  • How will it contribute to the field?

If you are not able to answer these critical questions, go back to refine your topic.

3. Research question(s)

Once you have selected a topic and determined that the problem is essential to answer, develop a succinct research question to answer the purpose of your research. The research question should assist as a guide in developing the methods and analysis plan. For me, refining the research question(s) was challenging at first, thus creating a broad research question is typical as an initial draft. The subsequent review of relevant literature helps sharpen your question(s).

4. Background and Review of Literature

An analysis of previous research will serve as a guide to identifying gaps in the literature. Typically, studies tend to include recommendations for future research, giving you other ideas and assisting in refining your research question(s). For me, this is always the best part of developing a research project, as I am exploring a world around me that I was not aware existed. It is like tasting new ingredients for the first time.

5. Methods & Analysis Plan

When developing the methods and analytical plan, review prior studies to find out what they have they done to answer the research question(s). Part of the design should be to decide if you plan to create quantitative or qualitative research. You need to determine what approach is appropriate and whether you have the capability and support to conduct the study if it requires statistical analysis or thematic analysis. Ask for feedback from mentor(s) and accomplished researchers in that particular field. If the design plan includes a quantitative method, consult with a statistician for expert advice in order to find the best statistical approach to answer your research question(s).

6. Importance and Purpose

Discovery comes to mind when I think of the importance of a research project. However, any new knowledge to the field is a step towards further information and understanding that we did not previously have. All the prior steps will assist in answering the purpose and the importance of your research.

7. The only failure is not to try again (Unknown Author)

Do not be afraid if your first application is unsuccessful. Your attempt has not been in vain. First and foremost, you now have a mentor and friend who will guide and support you in your research career. Additionally, the research peer reviewers will be precious critics who will assist in improving your research the next time around. I used the feedback I received on my AAPA-PAEA Research Fellowship application to create a successful Don Pedersen Research Grant application. So be courageous and try again!

PAEA is currently accepting applications for the 2021-2022 Don Pedersen Research Grants Program. Applications must be submitted through the PAEA Research online application platform no later than 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 31, 2021. Learn more about the program, eligibility, and formatting requirements in the submission guidelines. If you would like advice or mentorship on your proposal prior to submission, contact us at or 703-651-8540.