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Writing an effective SURF Proposal. Susanne Hall, Hixon Writing Center Coordinator Student presenters: Nerissa Hoglen , Jon Schor February 2013. Common goals of a research proposal. Introduce proposed research Provide background and explain rationale for study

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writing an effective surf proposal

Writing an effective SURF Proposal

Susanne Hall, Hixon Writing Center Coordinator

Student presenters: NerissaHoglen, Jon Schor

February 2013

common goals of a research proposal
Common goals of a research proposal
  • Introduce proposed research
  • Provide background and explain rationale for study
  • Describe methodology and explain its rationale
  • Propose a timeline
  • Propose a budget*
  • Provide preliminary results*
  • Anticipate possible outcomes

* These are not goals for a typical SURF proposal

why do scientists write proposals
Why do scientists write proposals?
  • Intellectual reason: The process of writing the proposal is a process of idea creation and development
  • Rhetorical reason: To convince readers that the project is worth the time, money and energy it will demand from everyone involved
idea creation and development
Idea creation and development
  • Writing is a mode of thinking, a method of discovery
  • Margot Gerritsen, Stanford, Energy Resources Engineering
    • http://www.stanford.edu/dept/undergrad/cgi-bin/drupal_pwr/writing_matters_8
persuading readers
Persuading readers
  • We believe strongly in the importance of discovery, but…
  • Scientific research often requires specialized equipment/resources and can be very expensive

LIGO will detect the ripples in space-time by using a device called a laser interferometer, in which the time it takes light to travel between suspended mirrors is measured with high precision using controlled laser light.

External grants make most scientific discovery possible

example nsf funding to caltech in 2012
Example: NSF funding to Caltech in 2012
  • Caltech #10 in institutional funding from NSF in 2012

$30,400,000 was given to Caltech in 2012 to help administer the LIGO project alone

View Caltech NSF funding by project at http://dellweb.bfa.nsf.gov/Top50Inst2/default.asp

rhetorical goals of the surf proposal
Rhetorical goals of the SURF proposal
  • Clearly explain what you plan to do in your research
  • Make the case that this work is necessary/useful
  • Show that you have a plan for carrying out the work
  • Demonstrate that you are well-prepared and capable of carrying out the plan
proposal parts
Proposal Parts
  • Introduction/background
  • Objectives
  • Approach
  • Work Plan
  • References
parts introduction background
Parts: Introduction/background
  • What is the problem you are trying to solve? How did the problem arise?
  • Why is solving this problem interesting or important?
  • What previous work has been done to define and address the problem?
  • How does your work fit into the larger ongoing work of your mentor? How will your work contribute to that larger project?
parts objectives
Parts: Objectives
  • What do you aim to accomplish? (Be specific.)
  • What will you measure, calculate, model, or simulate? Under what conditions?
  • What assumptions or conditions will guide and/or limit your work?
  • What are your criteria for success?
parts approach
Parts: Approach
  • How will you accomplish your objectives? (Be specific.)
  • What are the key steps or milestones for your work? How long will each take?
  • What challenges do you anticipate, and how will you respond to them?
  • What equipment or other resources will you need?
parts work plan
Parts: Work Plan
  • Offer your reader a schedule of your principle activities and milestones
parts references
Parts: References
  • List all research articles, review articles, and other writing you have consulted to prepare your proposal
  • If you have incorporated writing or language from prospective mentors or peers, attribute those sources
  • Use a consistent citation system, as recommended by your prospective mentor
  • Prospective mentor (has high level of specialized knowledge)
  • Outside evaluators (have less specialized knowledge)
  • Reviewers will consider
    • Is the proposal well thought out?
    • Has the student given a clear statement of what s/he will do?
    • Does the student have the skills/knowledge/enthusiasm to be successful?
    • Is the student likely to achieve the goals?
    • Is the project plan realistic?
    • Does the research have the potential for publication in a referreed journal or presentation at an academic conference?
  • Write in academic English with the goals of clarity, concision, and accuracy
    • Use the first person for describing what you have done or will do, but do not overuse it
    • Use the active voice and active verbs
    • Use past tense for observations, completed actions, and specific conclusions
    • Use present tense for generalizations and statements of general validity
    • Write short sentences; aim for one main idea per sentence
    • Avoid noun clusters
    • Use clear pronouns
  • Meet with mentors and/or co-mentors
    • Ask questions
    • Get references
    • Read papers
  • Write a proposal draft
  • Solicit feedback on your draft
    • From mentors
    • From peers and Hixon Writing Center tutors
  • Revise
  • Submit proposal, application, and recommendations to SURF by February 22nd, 2013

Writing is not a linear process—it is a cycle of research, thinking, talking writing, responding to feedback, and revision

questions comments
Questions, comments?
  • Hixon Writing Center
    • Professional and peer tutors available for one-to-one conversations
    • Most sessions occur in SFL 318
    • Information about appointments: writing.caltech.edu/appointments
    • Make an appointment: access.caltech.edu (Writing Center Scheduler)
  • This presentation will we posted on the SURF website