I'm writing up a STEM postdoc application and the major component is a lengthy research proposal. I'd like to speak to my specific strengths in the area and provide examples (some of which may not have associated publications), but I'm not sure about language choice. I'm aware of this SE question, but that's more for journal publications. It's easy to say "we" in a journal article, even if I did all the work, because my PI's name is always last author.

Some proposals I've seen have included language like "the applicant's expertise in..." or "this researcher's previous investigation into..." but that seems inelegant and forced. What's the best way to do this?

  • Are you submitting the proposal on behalf of an organization, or would the award be made to you personally? – cag51 Feb 25 '20 at 4:48

You don't mention the formality of the application - for example is this an application to a specific PI or program, or an application for a fellowship to a nonprofit or government institution?

I'd say the safest bet is to rely on extreme formality and refer to yourself as "the applicant." I see this all the time in proposals and use it myself when discussing prior work in grant applications. So I wouldn't characterize it as "forced," (inelegant might be a matter of opinion).

However, if it's not very formal (i.e. submitting to an individual professor, or department/working group) then simply using first-person "my" or "I", etc., might be fine and suit your personal style better.

  • It's a formal NASA postdoc proposal. I'll err on the side of "the applicant". Thanks! – Ben S. Feb 25 '20 at 4:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.