NSF GRFP citation styles

As an NSF coach, one of the most frequently asked questions I received is, “How do I cite things?” Because there is no formal convention, students have a lot of leeway here. To this end, I always recommend using the most economic citation format — you want to maximize real estate for your actual statement writing. Below, I detail my method, which by no means is required or even necessarily recommended; you can and should explore options and norms in your field. This is just what worked for me.

In-text citations: I personally used superscript numbers in the body of my statement. I assigned a number to each reference as it occurred in the statement, starting with 1,2,3, etc.; if the same reference was cited later in the statement, I would label it with the same number that it had originally been given.

References section: Here, I decreased the font size from 12-point to 10-point. Note (September 2020): The NSF application now requires a font size of 11 or greater for the References section! Please adhere to these guidelines (and always read the most up-to-date solicitation) to make sure you don’t get disqualified for minor reasons.

I then plugged in only the essentials for each reference:

  • Author(s)’s information: last name; first and middle initials. If there were more than six authors, I only included the first author’s information and added “et al” afterward.
  • The abbreviated name of the journal, if it’s in a publication
  • The year of publication

My references section ended up looking like this:

References: 1. Beach, M. C. et al. Med. Care (2005). 2. Smedley, A. R., Stith. A., & Nelson, A. R. (The National Academies Press, 2003). 3. Hebl, M. R. & Xu, J. J. Int. Assoc. Study Obes. (2001). 4. Paasche-Orlow, M. (2004). 5. Betancourt, J. R., Green, A. R., Carrillo, J. E. & Ananeh-Firempong, O. Public Health Rep. (2003). 6. Salas, E., Tannenbaum, S. I., Kraiger, K. & Smith-Jentsch, K. A. Psychol. Sci. Public Interest (2012). 7. Corbin, J. & Strauss, A. (SAGE Publications, Inc, 2007). 8. Bhandari, M. et al. Acad. Med. J. Assoc. Am. Med. Coll. (2003). 9. Olguín Olguín, D. (MIT, 2007). 10. King, H. B. et al. (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US), 2008). 11. Weld, L. R. et al. Am. J. Med. Qual. (2015).

An obvious note: This may also mean forgoing the normal reference style within the field. In my case, the American Psychological Association (APA)’s format would have taken up substantially more space than this strategy. It seems reviewers understand the name of the game!