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Ten Ways to Write A Better Grant

Of the 40,000 grant proposals the NIH has received in 2006, just 20 percent were funded, and the NIH projects the same success rate for the coming year. While the budget for funding grants has remained flat, the number of applications continues to grow. Below are 10 tips featured in a recent article from the The Scienctist on how to write a better grant and improve your chances of receiving funding.

  1. Investigate who will review your grant and the types of research that they are interested in.
      The key is to write about something that the reviewer has already thought about. If no one on the committee has studied what you are proposing, the likelihood that they will accept your proposal is low.
  2. Examine what the funding agency is looking to acquire or achieve in the near future.
      The fiscal year procurement forecast or government prirorities may help you tailor your proposal. Many agencies post this information on their Web sites, but it may take some time to find.
  3. Promote yourself and your research; do not assume that the funding agency knows about your professional reputation and your previous achievements.
      You can start promoting yourself by presenting research at conferences and seminars, approaching agencies to generate interest and persistently pursuing contacts with the right people.
  4. Schedule the many steps you will need to manage.
      Writing a grant proposal is a time-intensive process and is certainly not the only thing you are working on. Set tentative dates for the first and second drafts, budget finalization, editing, processing and submission.
  5. Draft an annotated outline based on the grant guidelines and agency requirements.
      Sketch out what the funding agency wants in each section and subsection in the correct order, and fill in the information and ideas you want to include to create a rough draft. Starting the writing process with an outline is critical to ensure that the proposal is logical and structured.
  6. Follow the directions issued by the agency and provide everything that is requested.
      Do not make assumptions that agency-requested components are not needed. When submitting a grant in response to a Request for Applictions, determine the agency's typical requests by reading previous Requests for Proposals.
  7. Adhere to the requested font, font size and margins for the proposal, and consider other aesthetic factors.
      Reviewers are likely to notice what the grant looks like, even before they begin reading it. Highlighting sections and subsections with bold and italic type facing help guide the reader through the document. Other aesthetic approaches include using a numbering system, adding a space between paragraphs and using standard 1-inch margins.
  8. Use paragraphs to structure an argument in a logical manner.
      Each paragraph should cover a special topic that is supported by details or data. Reviewers are reading multiple grants; breaking up ideas helps improve the readability of the document and strengthens your argument.
  9. Highlight important aspects by repeating them throughout the document.
      Repeating the core points of the proposal strengthens the argument and ensures that the reviewer picks up on the essential elements. Avoid redundancy by revisiting the main ideas in a new way each time.
  10. Edit the proposal to improve quality and obtain an honest critique.
      Recruit an editor who was not involved with the grant preparation but is knowledgeable about the subject. Editors who have not seen the propsoal before can read the grant, make comments, discuss the proposal and provide feedback that could identify weaknesses that the writers were unable to recognize.
Adapted from Alison Snyder's "Ten Ways to Write a Better Grant" which appeared in the Scientist, Volume 21, Issue 1, January 2007.




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