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Writing Winning Proposals. Trish Lowney, PhD Asst VP, Strategic Research Development 207 Bowne Hall [email protected] , x2882. Topics. Why write a grant application.. Grants vs fellowships How to find funding opportunities Preparation The writing process What makes a winning application

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Writing winning proposals

Writing Winning Proposals

Trish Lowney, PhD

Asst VP, Strategic Research Development

207 Bowne Hall

[email protected], x2882


  • Why write a grant application..

    • Grants vs fellowships

  • How to find funding opportunities

  • Preparation

  • The writing process

  • What makes a winning application

  • Know your audience

Why write a grant application now
Why write a ‘grant application’ now?

  • $$ research

    • Your time…and others working on grant

    • Supplies, materials, consumables

    • Equipment purchases or use

  • $$ travel to disseminate research results

  • $$ Cost of living or tuition& fees

Why write a grant application now1
Why write a ‘grant application’ now?

  • Prepare for your academic future.

    • Develop and hone grant writing skills

  • Start to create a track record of success

    • Create a great idea worth investing in

    • Successfully carry it out

    • Disseminate results

    • Demonstrate productivity

So you are applying for a
So… you are applying for a…

  • Grant – $$ to support an activity of common interest

    • NSF Doctoral dissertation research grant

    • Travel grant (SU- GSO)

    • Access to resource

Or you are applying for a
Or, you are applying for a…

  • Fellowship - $$ to aid in individual’s pursuit of study or research, e.g…

    • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

    • DoE Computational Science Graduate Fellowship

    • Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships

Grants and fellowships
Grants and Fellowships…

  • Beneficiary – you and THE PUBLIC!!

  • Are investments in you!!

    • Reflection - why are you & your research worth investing in?

Ok whom do you ask for to invest in you and your research
OK  WHOM do you ask for $$ to invest in YOU and YOUR research

  • Check …

    • Acknowledgements in journal articles, posters/presentations at conferences

    • Advisors, mentors, peers…

    • Federal agencies

      • NSF, NIH, DHS, DoE, DOI, USDA, NASA etc..

      • Grants.gov Find

Ok whom do you ask for to invest in you and your research1
OK  WHOM do you ask for $$ to invest in YOU and YOUR research

  • Check..

    • Non-profit sponsors, foundations, professional societies

      • Newsletters

      • Journals – ad’s

    • Funding opp databases (http://PIVOT.cos.com)

Getting started do your homework
Getting started.. Do your homework

  • What kind of support are you looking for?

  • What does the sponsor want to fund?

    • Their mission & strategic interests…

      • Funding opportunity announcements

    • Whom have they funded lately?

      • Awardee lists / databases

        • Do you know any of them?

Getting started do your homework1
Getting started.. Do your homework

  • Maximize overlap between what you want and the sponsor wants.Good fit

    • Similar research interests

    • Interested in ‘you’ at your current stage in career

  • If allowed, contact program technical contact EARLY and discuss your project (first send a 1-pg summary)

Now let s get going
Now Let’s Get Going!

  • Read announcement /all instructions carefully

    • Create a plan: what is needed in each section. When will you complete? Who needs to help?

      • Respond precisely to what is asked

Now let s get going1
Now Let’s Get Going!

  • Engage others

    • Your advisor (reference? Review)

    • Office of Sponsored Programs (Budget – submit? Certifications)

    • Your peers (writing group)

    • The sponsor (confirm fit, advice on why proposals don’t get funded from this program, number of proposals submitted vs awarded)..

Know how awards are selected
Know how awards are selected…

  • Know your audience:

    • What is their expertise??

      • Write for them

  • Know the ‘process’: how?

  • Know the ‘selection criteria’ and ensure your entire application is responsive …

If you only do one thing
If you only do one thing..

  • Have it be

    • Follow instructions precisely 

More about your work plan
More about your ‘work plan’

  • Make a timeline for getting the application done

    • Work back from the deadline

      • ‘Finish’ 1 wk before deadline

      • What is the ‘internal’ review and approval process?

    • Plan for the unexpected

    • Leave plenty of time to get letters of references or collaborators if applicable

    • Leave plenty of time for others to read drafts

Okay what s needed for a strong application
Okay!! What’s needed for a strong application?

  • A great idea! - WHAT

    • Concisely stated

    • Convincing preliminary data (promising idea) (not always necessary when just getting started)

  • Idea & its outcomes are significant to the sponsor – WHY

  • Capable recipient – WHO

    • Have skills and resources needed to do proposed work

What s needed cont d
What’s needed … ? cont’d

  • Feasible work plan - HOW

    • Well thought out and planned strategies

    • Solid rationale for each method or approach used

      • Why approach is best tack to take..

      • Approaches can answer question, test hypothesis etc.

    • Identified road blocks and plans to get around them

    • Discuss with others… get lots of input

What s needed cont d1
What’s needed … ? cont’d

  • Feasible work plan, cont’d

    • Methods clearly presented to indicate what success looks like

      • positive/negative controls or evaluation plan

    • How data is analyzed and how results are interpreted

      • Expected results described and what they mean in context of big idea, question, etc.

      • If get unexpected, convey what THAT means

What s needed cont d2
What’s needed … ? cont’d

  • Feasible work plan,cont’d

    • Reasonable amount of work for time and resources ($$) available

  • Clear impact of each objective and integration of all results– SO WHAT

Strong proposals that get funded are 1
Strong Proposals that get funded are …1

  • Neat, well organized and easy to read

  • Innovative: present new perspective on an important problem

  • Exciting: convey the writer’s passion

  • Informative: convey knowledge of field

  • Compelling: provide preliminary data/rationale

  • Feasible: Solid work plan and budget

1 adapted from: R. Porter, What do Grant Reviewers Really Want? J. Res. Admin XXXVI, II, 2005 pg. 47-55

Have good form
Have good form

  • Compliant font (12 pt TNR, 11 pt Arial)

  • White space (between paragraphs)

  • Headers to communicate important points

  • Bold text to emphasize review criteria

  • Include illustrations, figures..

  • Full justification  looks “pretty” but may be hard to read (ragged right preferred)

Common elements
Common Elements

  • Project Narrative(What, Why, How)

    • Statement of need/purpose

    • Goals, objectives/specific aims

    • Significance

    • State of knowledge/context

Common elements1
Common Elements

  • Project Narrative

    • Research Design, Methods, Approach

      • How will you do ‘it’

        • Why have you selected these methods / techniques

      • Challenges/barriers

      • Alternative Approaches

      • Expected results

      • Interpretation

    • Timeline

Common elements2
Common Elements

  • Budget, budget narrative

    • Why expenditures are necessary and costs reasonable

  • Biographical sketch (Who - capable)

  • Resources (‘stuff’ – capable)

  • Abstract

  • “Cover page”

A word about letters of reference
A word about Letters of Reference

  • Mandatory or not allowed....

    • Why you are worth investing in…. why you’re capable or why project is important

      • Folks who know you and can comment on your potential or your idea

      • Ask – can you write a strong letter for me? (not everyone agrees with this notion)

Letters of reference
Letters of Reference….

  • Provide them everything they need

    • Draft letter for them

    • Identify review criteria for them and help them respond to criteria

    • Be clear about deadline

    • Provide access (paper/electronic)

      • Mail – provide pre-addressed/stamped envelope

    • Follow up – confirm it’s done

  • Provide plenty of time – you are not the only one they are writing for

Increase your chances for get help from others
Increase your chances for $$ – Get help from others

  • Get copies of recently funded proposals

  • Participate in a writing group

  • Get feedback on your idea from colleagues, advisors and experts – before you write.

  • Get input from program manager

  • Work with funded (and unfunded) colleagues, have them read your work

Common weaknesses
Common weaknesses…

  • Significance, relevance to sponsor’s agenda not clear

  • Proposal lacks focus

    • Get to the point early

    • Laundry list of activities not unified into a coherent project

  • Is overly ambitious

  • Isn’t feasible

  • Is hard to read or sloppy

  • Is poorly organized

Most important persevere
MOST important - Persevere!!

  • Grant writing - Skill that is developed

  • Everyone gets rejected..

  • Who gets funded -

    • Folks who keep trying

    • Learn from experience  reflect on reviews

    • Continuously improve

Exercise get going
Exercise – get going!!

  • What’s your idea (1 – 2 sentences) – everyday language

  • Why is it important? (3 sentences)

    • How will the world be a better place once completed?

  • How are you going to accomplish your idea? (2 – 3 paragraphs)

    • Why is your approach the best tack to take? (rationale each method)

    • Road blocks? And alternative plans?

    • Expected results (what does it mean if you get what you expect, what does it mean if you get something different)

    • So what??

  • Next steps (1 sentence)

    Share with colleagues, critique  do you get it?

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