How to Craft a Well-Written AAPA-PAEA Research Fellowship Proposal

By: Ryan White, MS, MPH, PA-C

Ryan White, MS, MPH, PA-C

It can be difficult for busy PA educators to find the time and resources to carry out research projects. The AAPA-PAEA Research Fellowship is a great opportunity for aspiring researchers to secure protected research time and to connect with mentors and leaders in the PA research community.

The Fellowship was a formative experience for me. As a newcomer to the PA research community, it was eye-opening to be exposed to myriad research organizations, funding opportunities, and data sources available to PA researchers. The Fellows interacted with research leaders, both within and outside the PA profession, and we learned from the amazing research teams at AAPA and PAEA.

I applied to the Fellowship at the beginning of my dissertation work and was motivated to secure time for my project. I was also interested to learn about available data sources and funding priorities that could help shape my future research agenda. A common misperception is that only experienced researchers are selected for the Fellowship, or that candidates must have completed a doctoral degree to be considered. Successful applicants have arrived at the Fellowship in various stages of their research careers, from those with extensive prior experience in research and publishing, to those just beginning to pursue their doctoral studies.

If you’re considering the Fellowship, a well-written research proposal is an essential component of a successful application. Here are few tips to guide your proposal:

  • The problem statement should be focused, concise, and evidence based. Address the impact of the problem on the PA profession or PA education and offer a compelling argument as to why the reader should care about this issue. Is there evidence from the literature to support its impact?
  • Clearly delineate the research question and describe how the project will address gaps in existing knowledge. How will this project advance our understanding of the problem, or identify potential solutions to the problem?
  • The analytic plan should be understandable to the reviewer and sufficient to address the research question. Not all research questions will require advanced statistical methodology, but the empirical approaches should propose detailed and sophisticated analyses that move beyond simple descriptive statistics.  
  • Define data sources and describe how data will be acquired. It may be helpful to investigate data sources available through AAPA or PAEA prior to developing the research question. Applicants can reach out to PAEA Research staff with questions about project feasibility and data sources at or 703-651-8540.
  • The research project should be achievable during the Fellowship timeframe. I bit off more than I could chew in my initial proposal and had to scale back my project. If working with secondary datasets, the data acquisition, cleaning, and organizing process may take longer than you anticipate!

During the interview, candidates should be prepared to discuss the research topic in detail and to describe the relevance of the project. Candidates should also reflect on career and research aspirations. The Fellowship aims to develop future leaders in PA research, and successful candidates can articulate how the experience will advance their research or leadership pursuits. Lastly, appropriate internal and external mentors are key to provide support and guidance along the way.

The Fellowship is an incredible experience and I strongly recommend that aspiring PA researchers apply. Applications must be submitted through the PAEA Research online application platform no later than 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 30, 2021. For more information, review the submission guidelines or contact PAEA Research at or 703-651-8540.

Good luck!