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Writing Winning Proposals. Trish Lowney, PhD Asst VP, Strategic Research Development 207 Bowne Hall plowney@syr.edu , 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

plowney@syr.edu, 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?