Strategies for planning a grant
Write an outstanding application that will appeal to reviewers, who serve as judge and jury. Write from the perspective of a screenwriter and not from the perspective of a novelist. A grant is presented to a panel of peer reviewers by one primary person and two helpers, so you want to write a script that will facilitate presentation of your proposal to the rest of the panel.
There are eight main steps to follow when planning your grant.
- 1) Check out the competition and see which projects in your field are being funded. Search the NIH RePORTER database at http://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm.
- 2) Evaluate yourself: How do your strengths match the topics found in step 1? Can you capitalize on your expertise and fill in gaps with mentors, collaborators or consultants? Do you have a niche? If not, find one!
- 3) Determine available resources and support from your school.
- 4) Brainstorm with colleagues and mentors, and have knowledge of the relevant literature!
- 5) Write a hypothesis for your proposal in 25 words or fewer; edit, edit and then edit again.
- 6) Give yourself time to write and rewrite the application.
- 7) Utilize any form of pre-peer review that you can find (e.g., a mock study section, a class).
- 8) Follow all instructions to the letter: Poor formatting, illegible figures, wrong fonts and poor grantsmanship will turn reviewers off!
Writing a solid hypothesis
Most top-notch grant applications are driven by strong hypotheses rather than advances in technology. Applications should ask questions that prove or disprove a hypothesis rather than use a method to search for a problem or simply collect information. If your application is not hypothesis-based, state that it isn’t and give your reasons why the work is important (e.g., X-ray crystallography, or perhaps it’s a training grant). Choose an important, testable, focused hypothesis that increases understanding of biological processes, diseases, treatments or preventions. A strong hypothesis should be based on previous research. Reiterate your hypothesis throughout the grant using different wording.
Planning your application
Ask yourself these questions: Why is this project important? Why are you the right person to conduct this research?
Required sections of a grant are “Specific Aims” (one page long) and “Research Strategy” (the new format has a 12-page maximum).
“Specific Aims” should include the following:
- 1) One to two paragraphs that develop the conceptual framework of the proposal. These should describe previous studies in the area, identify the gaps the research will address and end with a statement of your hypothesis or overall objective.
- 2) A set of aims designed to answer the questions posed by the hypothesis. The important word here is “specific”! Each aim should be a specific test of the overall hypothesis. Organize and define your aims so that you can relate them directly to your research strategy.