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CRC Workshop US Department of Education Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba Florida Center for Reading Research And the FSU School of Teacher Education 05/01/2008. What is a Successful Proposal?. What is the best indicator of a successful grant proposal? Weight of the proposal in pounds and ounces.

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CRC Workshop

US Department of Education

Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba

Florida Center for Reading Research

And the FSU School of Teacher Education


what is a successful proposal
What is a Successful Proposal?
  • What is the best indicator of a successful grant proposal?

Weight of the proposal in pounds and ounces.

Evidence of the psychic ability of the proposal writer to divine the evaluation criteria of the grant awarding institution.

Number of hours spent by writer in a caffeine induced mania, scribbling the grant proposal by candlelight.

writing a successful proposal
Writing a Successful Proposal
  • Read the RFP – Not only once or twice but three times.
  • Notify sponsored research and identify the representative who will process your proposal.
  • Create a proposal strategy
  • Survey the terrain - know what’s been done what was funded and what wasn’t.
  • Assemble a competent team and roles - interdisciplinary and multi-institutional if possible.
  • Call the program officer and run your idea by him/her; arrange a visit if possible.
  • Create a budget that matches and supports the proposed program.
  • Write persuasively, thinking of: why would they buy the idea, not how you will sell it.
  • Fill in appropriate forms and follow agency’s guidelines and procedures very carefully.
  • Read the entire application and obtain feedback on your draft from experienced grant writers – the flow is important.
  • Obtain necessary signatures.
  • Submit to sponsored research.
  • Submit the application.
  • Do what you can to influence the outcome, (visits, follow-ups,…) - confidantes (spies), ammunition.
  • The more you repeat this process, the better you will become at grant writing.
  • Don’t give up after the first or second or third… battle.
writing a successful proposal 1 read the rfp
Writing a Successful Proposal1. Read the RFP
  • The RFP will help you identify:
        • the needs of the agency;
        • the scope, timeline, and size of the projects to be funded;
        • the procedures and guidelines on submissions.
  • Create a list of items you need to submit.
  • Write down all your questions and keep a running list until you call the program officer.
writing a successful proposal 2 notify sponsored research
Writing a Successful Proposal2. Notify Sponsored Research
  • Call sponsored research: 850-644-5260 to identify your representative.
  • Forward the RFP to the representative. The more time you give them, the better.
  • Double check on the procedures you have to follow for submitting the proposal.
  • Keep them informed about your submission timeline.
  • Check on the items you need to submit for FSU and add them to your “to submit” list.

You can get sponsored research information and forms at:

writing a successful proposal 3 create a proposal strategy
Writing a Successful Proposal3. Create a Proposal Strategy
  • Nothing beats a great idea.
  • Make sure you address the needs in the RFP.
  • Your plan should include:
      • Creating a research plan with clear hypothesis and backup:
        • Ask questions that can be answered;
        • Provide tantalizing preliminary data as evidence that the questions are worth asking and answerable;
        • Propose technical approaches which are within the realm of your published technical expertise OR provide preliminary data;
        • The volume of work proposed should be proportional to the time of support requested and your other obligations; provide preliminary data when possible;
        • Broad Impact is always great. Bigger bang for the buck!
      • Forming a team.
      • Developing a supporting budget.
      • Creating a timeline for the proposal development activities.
      • Implementing an evaluation plan as drafts are developed.
      • Planning for proposal processing
writing a successful proposal 4 survey the terrain
Writing a Successful Proposal4. Survey the Terrain
  • Check for previously awarded grants:
    • Check their program to make sure there is no duplication of work.
    • Check the performance sites – what universities, what impact, etc…
    • Some awardees publish their proposals; if you can find any, make sure you read them.
    • Identify some key points that you need to address.
writing a successful proposal 5 assembling the team
Writing a Successful Proposal5. Assembling the Team
  • A team member is the person who can add value to the proposal and be able to perform the work when the award comes in. Picking the team is one of the most important steps. Multidisciplinary and collaborative proposals are usually encouraged and favored. Don’t be limited to your colleagues in your department/college.
  • Identifying the PIs and CoPIs: how does this work?
    • I am the PI because I found it? NO!
    • The PI is the one who can lead the team, has the background and credentials to support the proposed research plan, and has the time to do it.
    • Being a Co-PI on a funded project is better than a PI on an unfunded proposal.
writing a successful proposal 6 call the program officer
Writing a Successful Proposal6. Call the Program Officer
  • Program officers’ job is answering all questions you might have.
  • Knowing the program officer can be very helpful.
  • It is always a good idea to send a brief description of your plan and get feedback from the program officer. If you have a longer document, they might not get to it.
  • Although program officers usually do not influence decisions, they will be in the meetings when the proposal is reviewed and can answer questions that might come up.
  • In most cases, the program officer is not the decision maker.
writing a successful proposal 7 creating a budget
Writing a Successful Proposal7. Creating a Budget
  • The budget has to match what the program you will propose. Your justification should be detailed and in support of your narrative.
  • The budget and justification are not separate items in the proposal, and they very much affect final decisions.
  • A detailed budget justification is very important. The justification should reinforce your proposal activities and nothing more or less.
  • Make sure you budget for all your needs.
  • Check the facts sheet for the latest rates.

writing a successful proposal 8 writing the proposal
Writing a Successful Proposal8. Writing the Proposal
  • Persuasive writing with an emphasis on your plan, how it will address the needs, and how will you get it done.
  • Follow the guidelines on the formatting and setup. Proposals can be denied if they do not follow procedures.
  • The entire proposal has to sound as one document and not multiple. This includes the narrative, budget, budget justification, bios of team members, facilities, etc…
  • Build in internal and external evaluation components (whenever possible).
  • The proposal should be easy to understand by anyone and not necessarily someone from your field. Do not assume the reader knows anything about what you are proposing or the literature you are using. Assume total ignorance on the part of the reviewer.
  • Provide the simplest conceptual background.
  • Use no abbreviations or acronyms without definition.
  • Tell the reviewer what he is supposed to think and write.
  • Do not force the reviewer to hunt through the application for information.
  • Use diagrams to illustrate concepts.
  • Be realistic, make it simple and clear, and easy to read.
  • Present yourself as the greatest expert in the field:
    • Know the literature in depth and breadth;
    • Do not make statements without attribution or preliminary data;
    • Do not be reluctant to admit shortcomings;and
    • Seek collaborators or mentors when your expertise cannot be documented.
writing a successful proposal 9 fill in appropriate forms
Writing a Successful Proposal9. Fill in Appropriate Forms
  • You can identify the requirements from the RFP.
  • Get familiar with the forms before you start inputting information.
  • You will need FSU and agency specific forms.
  • All the forms you need have instructions or guidelines. Some of these guidelines are heavy books.
  • It is helpful to work with someone who has done it before; if you cannot identify this person, your sponsored research representative can help you or direct you to someone else at the university.
  • Allow time for this step and make sure it is done correctly.
  • Most federal agencies are switching to use the application; make sure you download the software and the application for the RFP beforehand in order to know your way around it.
  • Call the program officer or the help line if you cannot find an answer.
writing a successful proposal 11 evaluating the proposal
Writing a Successful Proposal11. Evaluating the Proposal
  • Before you submit the proposal, it is good idea to get feedback from peers who have funded projects.
  • It is also a good idea to have feedback from someone who does not necessarily understand the technical aspects of the proposal regarding how it flows, how convincing and how easy it is to understand.
  • Read it one last time: You might want to just get it out but a final read is very important. Here are 10 tips on evaluating a proposal:
      • Winning proposals have clearly defined needs and describe how those needs were identified.
      • Winning proposals describe solutions.
      • Winning proposals present the material in a logical manner.
      • Winning proposals are written in positive terms.
      • Winning proposals do not overuse jargon.
      • Winning proposals present detailed budgets that match the proposed program.
      • Winning proposals give something back. What is it?
      • Winning proposals follow all the guidelines specified in the RFP.
      • Winning proposals are professional in appearance.
      • Winning proposals are complete.
writing a successful proposal 12 14 signatures and submission
Writing a Successful Proposal12-14. Signatures and Submission
  • Every PI and Co-Pi signs the proposal DSR form (Transmittal).
  • PI and Dean/Director sign the budget.
  • Chairs and Deans/Directors for all PIs and Co-PIs sign the DSR form.
  • The entire application goes to office of sponsored research for review, approval and submission.
  • PI is responsible for filling all the forms (online or offline) – sponsored research reviews and submits.
  • Keep a copy on your file.
  • Be open to making changes at the agency’s request.
federal department of education ed gov
Federal Department of EducationEd.Gov
  • Offices
    • Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students (OELA)
    • Institute of Education Sciences (IES)
    • Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE)
    • Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE)
    • Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)
    • Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE)
federal department of education
Federal Department of Education
  • Offices (con’t)
    • Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS)
    • Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII)
    • Office of Indian Education (OIE); under OESE
federal department of education ed gov institute of education sciences
Federal Department of EducationEd.Gov- Institute of Education Sciences
  • Goals of IES discretionary grant programs
    • Rigor of research
    • Relevance of Research
    • Utilization
    • Four operational divisions:

- National Center for Education Research

- National Center for Special Education Research

- National Center for Education Evaluation and

Regional Assistance- National Center for Education Statistics

application process
Application Process
  • Posted on line at
  • Identifies the RFP and program to which you are applying
  • The goal (1-5) under which this proposal will fall
  • Grants are submitted at
ies goals
IES Goals


  • Goal 1: Identification
  • Goal 2: Development
  • Goal 3: Efficacy and replication
  • Goal 4: Scale-up evaluation
  • Goal 5: Assessment & measurement projects
ncer fy2009 rfas due june 26 and oct 2 2008
Reading & Writing

Math & Science

Teacher quality

Cognition/Stu Learning

Teacher Quality

Social & Beh Context for Learning

Ed leadership

Ed Policy, Finance, Sys

Early Childhood Prog& Pol

Middle & High School Reform

Intervention for Struggling Adol & Adult Readers & Writers


Ed Technology

Training Grant

Postdoctoral Research Training

Predoctoral Research Training

National Research and Development Center

Center on Teacher Effectiveness

Center on Rural Education

Center on Turning around Chronically low Achieving Schools

Statistical and Research Methodology

Evaluation of State and Local Education Programs and Policies

NCER FY2009 RFAsDue June 26 and Oct. 2, 2008
ncser fy2009 rfas due june 26 and oct 2 2008
Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education

Reading, Writing, & Language Development

Math & Science

Social & Beh Outcomes to Support Learning

Cognition/Stu Learning in Special Education

Teacher Quality

Related services

Systematic Interventions and Policies for Special Education

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Training Grant: Postdoctoral Special Education Research Training

NCSER FY2009 RFAsDue June 26 and Oct. 2, 2008
contents of ies application
Contents of IES Application
  • Project Summary/Abstract (1, single-spaced page)
  • Project Narrative (25, single-spaced pages)
  • Bibliography and References Cited
  • Biographical Sketches of Senior/Key Personnel
  • Narrative Budget Justification
  • Subaward Budget
  • Appendix A (fig, tables; letters; resp. to reviews; 15 p.)
  • Appendix B (Optional; Ex. interven/assessment;10 p.)
  • Research on Human Subjects
summary abstract
  • Title of project
  • RFA topic and goal under which applying
  • Brief description of the purpose
  • Setting(s) in which research conducted
  • Population; sample characteristics
  • Intervention or assessment, if applicable
  • Control or comparison, if applicable
  • Primary research method
  • Measures of key outcomes, if applicable
  • Data analytic strategy, if applicable
contents of the ies application
Contents of the IES Application

Project Narrative (limited to 25, single-spaced pages)

  • Significance – contribution to an educational problem or challenge
  • Research questions and hypotheses
  • Methods
      • Participants
      • Measures

-- Intervention

-- Study design & analytic strategies – including power analyses

  • Personnel
  • Resources
  • Contribution to solving an educational problem (page 1)
    • The problem -- We are failing to provide effective reading instruction to all children
    • The possible solution – individualize student instruction based on assessed language and literacy skills
    • Research evidence to support claims
the intervention
The intervention
  • Be very specific about what it will look like
  • Provide solid empirical evidence as to why it should be effective in promoting student outcomes
  • Screen shots or photos help the reviewers conceptualize the intervention
methodological position
Methodological Position
  • IES supports a range of research questions, from descriptive questions to “what works?” and “why?”
  • IES supports a range of methods and states that the methods employed must be appropriate to the question(s) being addressed.
research investigators
Research Investigators
  • The strength of the research team is critical
  • Is the PI a conceptual and methodological leader in this area?
  • What skills do the co-investigators provide?
  • Does the research team have a history of working together?
  • Is the percent effort justified?
support from educational settings
Support from Educational Settings
  • Does the research team have a track record of working in educational settings?
  • Will administrators and teachers find the proposed project worthwhile and will they be motivated to participate?
  • Is the methodology feasible in the proposed educational settings?
peer review
Peer Review
  • IES has standing panels of peer reviewers
  • Peer review criteria:

-- Significance

-- Research plan

-- Personnel

-- Resources

Put yourself in your peer reviewers’ shoes and write to convince them of the merits of your project!