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How to Write a Better Research Grant Proposal
by Brian Konradt

Today's economic climate makes it more challenging to secure funding, whether you need funds for academic or commercial reasons. If you intend on writing a grant proposal to accomodate your research grant application, you will certainly need a lot of patience (for research), self-belief in your ideas, and a tangible concept that you can convey with impact. If you believe you have all three attributes, then follow these useful hints to write a comprehensive proposal that will convince grantors to fund your research project.

1. Do your preliminary groundwork

Choose the right funder(s). Check their criteria at the beginning of the process to ensure you are the right fit. Once you have established a funder or shortlist of funders, obtain their application papers. Read the guidelines carefully to make sure you comply with their requirements. Obtain feedback from friends and colleagues on your research idea. See if you can convince them of your idea's viability - consider them your litmus test. Establish your timescales for application drafts by working back from final deadlines, allowing yourself plenty of leeway for dealing with the unexpected. Be realistic about how much time it takes to prepare this type of application, especially if this is your first. Talk to other colleagues or friends who have been through a similar process - they can offer you useful advice to assist you in the process. You can tap into many helpful resources on the Internet, including comparisons of successful and unsuccessful applications. You can analyze what has worked and what has failed to strengthen your own grant proposal.

2. Work on your proposal content

The research section of your proposal is intended to describe the research that you will carry out and why it is important.

3. Use a checklist to complete your proposal

Use the following checklist to develop your proposal framework:
  1. State the problem you will be addressing with your research
  2. Explain your aims and objectives
  3. Summarize what your research involves and the methods that you will use to carry out your research.
  4. Explain how you will collect and analyze data.
  5. Identify who the potential end users of your research will be and how it will benefit them.
  6. Highlight any ethical considerations.
  7. Address any foreseeable problems.
  8. Explain why you are the most suitable individual or team to carry out this research
  9. Include financial data to show how and where resources will be allocated. Demonstrate your ability to manage the research budget effectively.
  10. Ensure the application follows a proscribed format.
  11. Remember to include a detailed bibliography.
4. Features of a strong proposal

A strong grant proposal is based on strong research stemmed from a strong hypothesis. Focus on making sure your research topic is original and it will have a tangible impact on a particular area.

5. Use your words wisely

Regardless of the intellectual or scientific complexity of your proposal, aim to use the most clear and concise language when preparing your application. Put yourself in the shoes of the review panel; ask yourself if your application makes clear sense, both verbally as well as in a funding context. Make it easy for them to understand and buy into your proposal.

6. Keep your budget in mind

Remember this is a funding application. Keep the proposed research budget at its core and be sure that your proposal answers all relevant financial questions. Do your research and stay realistic. It is better to learn ahead of time that your numbers do not make sense than when the review panel is analyzing your proposal or, worse yet, when you are mid-way through your research project.

7. Use positive language

Write in the first person plural and use positive, active language, making your points concisely.

8. Sign-post your proposal

Use plenty of sub-headings, bullet points, lists and different font sizes to guide the reader through your proposal. This makes it easy to digest each point, leading them properly and clearly through to its conclusion. Support your words with visual treatments such as charts and tables that illustrate effectively your arguments.

9. Proofread your proposal

Leave yourself sufficient time to read through your proposal after you have completed it. Ask your friends and colleagues to peruse through it to identify any fundamental weaknesses or unnecessary errors.

10. Do not miss your deadline!

The most well-crafted submission is worthless if it arrives after the closing deadline. If you are mailing it in hard copy, check your posting times in advance and send by registered mail. For online submissions allow yourself time to carefully-word your e-mail messsage and attach the necessary files in the correct file format, such as .doc or .docx for MS-Word.

Many worthy grant applications are rejected every year because of limited funds at the time. Follow these tips to assist you in preparing your grant proposal and to improve your chances of securing funding.

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