UNB Grant Writing Tips
Whether it’s your first time applying for research funding or you’ve played the granting game for decades, preparing a research grant application can seem daunting.
These six tips can help you create a strong application and increase your chance of being funded.
Start working on your grant application far in advance of the funding agency’s deadline. While it may seem you have plenty of time, priorities can shift and workloads can increase. Starting early ensures you aren’t caught in a last-minute frenzy and that you have plenty of time to have your application drafts reviewed and to complete revisions as needed.
As soon as you think you might like to submit a grant application, get in touch with the Office of Research Services. ORS can often provide additional information not found in agency guidelines.
Know Your Audience
Always adhere to the funding program’s guidelines. This includes using the proposal headings suggested by funding agencies and adhering to presentation standards (e.g. font, margins). Directly and explicitly address all review criteria. ORS provides templates for many applications, which are pre-formatted according to agency guidelines. Use these templates whenever possible.
If a peer review manual for the funding program is available, consult it. These manuals offer valuable insight into what reviewers are looking for, and can help you tailor your application so it meets reviewers’ expectations.
The proposal should address the agency’s mandate (e.g., CIHR’s mandate is to improve health for Canadians, provide more effective health services and products and strengthen the Canadian health care system). Often, writers will not overtly discuss the relevance of the work to the funder. Clearly aligning yourself with the agency will strengthen the application.
Provide a Strong Plan
The proposal should have a well thought-out plan for completing the research. This plan should demonstrate the following:
The applicant and/or team has the skills to accomplish the proposed work.
The appropriate resources are in place. Resources might be financial, but they could also include lab space, equipment, and materials.
The research can be completed within the proposed timeline.
A linear logic where early components of the project reinforce later components.
A comprehensive plan helps eliminate doubt in the mind of the reviewer. It reassures reviewers that you can accomplish the proposed research.
Good grants are persuasive, not merely descriptive. Persuasive writing justifies the claims that are made. The proposal should leave little doubt in the mind of the reader about the competence of the researcher and feasibility of the project. Emphasizing relevance and the potential for success strengthens the proposal.
Grant writing should not focus on problems. Instead, focus on how you will arrive at solutions through sound theory, methodology and good planning. Acknowledge the problems, but then clearly outline the answers to these problems in all aspects of the application.
The CV attached to your resume will help persuade reviewers that you are the right person to undertake the proposed research. Take care to update your CV so that it contains your most recent publications, research funding history, students, etc.
Budgets are very important to funding agencies. It should be very clear why these expenses are justified and how the expenses fit with the proposed research. Consistency throughout the application is very important. For instance, if you propose a variety of conference travel, your budget must accurately reflect associated costs. The more specific you are, the stronger your budget will be.
Write with the Reader in Mind
Try to anticipate what the reader will appreciate, doubts that they will have, and perceivable gaps in the proposed research. This is where it becomes important to have multiple people from inside and outside your field review your application. If multiple people can read the document and reach a consensus on the key points and milestones, it is a strong proposal. If the key points are lost on some readers or are inconsistent and hard to identify, the proposal is weak.
Strong proposals effectively synthesize information. For example, merely listing previous research supporting your premise isn’t persuasive or powerful enough to convince a committee to fund the work. Strong grants synthesize this type of information and incorporate summary statements about the relevance of past work. Lose the subtly here: the relevance has to be clear and the research must have a clearly identifiable impact.
When projecting research outcomes, convince reviewers that the results are clearly achievable. This precision will once again remove doubts in the reader’s mind and strengthen the work. Experts and non-experts should be able to interpret the research’s impact.