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Writing Grant Proposals: Part 1

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  • 1. 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho1 Writing Grant Proposals: Part 1 This lecture covers: - Types of proposals - Proposal deliverables - Reviewers and levels of technical expertise - Criteria used to evaluate proposals -Some common mistakes to avoid when writing a proposal NOTE: this lecture is aimed at helping undergraduates respond to requests for proposals.
  • 2. There are many types of proposals.  Here are just a few:  Grant Proposal  Business Proposal  Marketing Proposal  Book Proposal  Bid Proposal  Etc. etc.  Proposals have deliverables: what the proposer is promising to give (or deliver) to the audience. 2 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 3. Proposal Deliverables Can Be Goods and Services 3 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 4. Proposal Deliverables Can Be Research Findings 4 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 5. Proposal Deliverables Can Be Projects 5 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 6. 6 Proposals can be placed in two primary categories: internal and external. All proposals aim at persuading the audience to take action. 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 7. Internal Proposals  Are offers to solve problems within a company or organization.  Most of the time, the audience is not expecting the proposal, so it is considered unsolicited.  An internal proposal must persuade the audience that:  a problem exists and why it happened.  the problem should be fixed because the problem will escalate.  the proposed solution makes sense and is feasible.  The deliverable of an internal proposal is the solution. 7 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 8. External Proposals  There are many names for this type of proposal, but it essentially is written in response to a request for the proposal, so this type of proposal is considered solicited.  Some names for these solicited requests are:  RFP (Request for Proposal)  IFB (Information for Bids)  RFB (Request for Bids)  RFQ (Request for Quotations)  And there are many others. 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho8
  • 9. External Proposals: Difference in Deliverables  Request for Proposals to conduct research or study something:  Deliverable will be the findings from this research.  Request for Proposals to design, build, and test a promising prototype:  Deliverable will be the prototype.  Request for Bids to Perform Work:  Deliverable will be the work that the bid promises to do.  Request for Bids to Provide X:  Deliverable will be X. 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho9
  • 10. RFP for your project.  You will be responding to one of the Request for Proposals (RFP) options in bblearn.  No matter which option you choose, the RFP is from an organization or agency looking to fund either research or creative projects. So, the deliverable will depend upon what you are proposing to do.  Example: student proposes to conduct a research study to advance his/her knowledge in a field of study:  Deliverable will be the findings from this research.  Example: student proposes a project to build awareness about a problem.  Deliverable will be the project and the outcome of that project. 10 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 11. RFP for your project.  It is critically important that you respond to the RFP by following the proposal preparation instructions.  When writers fail to do this, the proposal may be rejected simply because it is not in a recognizable form to the audience and/or missing critical parts as explained in the RFP.  All proposals have deliverables. These are what is delivered after the proposal has been funded and the work is complete. 11 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 12. Proposal Instructions  Specify not only what content should be written in various sections but also the format of the proposal. 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho12
  • 13. Example: guidelines about type size from the a national funding agency’s proposal preparation instructions.  The guidelines specified above establish the minimum type size requirements; however, writers are advised that readability is of paramount importance and should take precedence in selection of an appropriate font for use in the proposal.  Small type size makes it difficult for reviewers to read the proposal; consequently, the use of small type not in compliance with the above guidelines may be grounds to return the proposal without review. 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho13
  • 14. Writing a grant proposal is not easy.  The first and most important thing to do is to read the advice and instructions in the RFP.  The second most important thing is to construct an argument by making a case for why you should receive funding to do your research or implement your project.  BUT, before you write a grant proposal you must have:  a good idea that you are capable of doing. 14 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 15. Preliminary Work  Doing preliminary work is necessary to show you do, in fact, have a good idea. Your preliminary work will be part of the case you make (i.e. the evidence your idea is worth funding).  You are unlikely to get funding without such evidence. It is no good saying "give me the money and I will start thinking about how to test this hypothesis, answer this question, solve this problem, or meet this need.“  In bblearn, you will see both a handout that lists types of preliminary work as well as additional resources for thinking through project ideas. 15 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 16. Reviewers and levels of technical expertise.  Hopefully, your proposal will be read by one or two experts in your field.  But the funding agency’s reviewers will often be program managers, and others who are not experts in your field. You must write your proposal so it is understandable to non- experts.  Reviewers wade through many proposals (sometimes hundreds or more) requesting support, so you have one minute or less to grab your reader's attention. 16 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 17. Ask others to help you improve your proposal.  Give it to your colleagues, friends, spouse, and anyone who will tell you the truth about what they are reading without hesitation. If your mother thinks everything you do is great, don’t give it to her ).  Ask only that they read for 10 minutes, and say what they think. Listen to them. If they misunderstand what you were trying to say, don't counter with "you misunderstood me"; instead rewrite the proposal so it can't be misunderstood.  If they don't immediately see the value of what you want to achieve, rewrite it until they do. And so on. 17 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 18. Criteria Used to Evaluate Your Proposal  Most funding agencies apply similar criteria to the evaluation of proposals.  It is important to address these criteria directly in making your case for support.  In the following slides, you will find information about criteria to address. 18 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 19. Criteria 1: Does the proposal address a well- formulated question, hypothesis, problem, or need?  As an undergraduate, you may only be able to pursue a research project simply to advance your own understanding of something. Still, you will want to propose something substantive that you can learn from. 19 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 20. Criteria 2: Does the proposal have merit?  The proposal must explain the idea in sufficient detail to convince readers it has merit.  Merit means not just having a good idea but having an idea that is feasible.  It is absolutely not enough merely to identify a wish-list of desirable goals (a very common fault). There must be a connection between WHAT you are proposing to do and HOW you will do it. 20 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 21. Criteria 3: Does the proposal clearly explain what work will be done?  Does it explain what results or outcomes are expected and how they will be analyzed and evaluated? How would it be possible to judge whether the work was successful? 21 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 22. Criteria 4: Is there evidence that the writer knows about work that others have done on the problem?  Research Proposal. Evidence may take the form of a focused literature review that situates the proposed work within the context of others. In this case, the writer is demonstrating how the proposed work will advance, challenge, or fill a gap in existing research.  Project Proposal. Show how similar project models have worked or if you have a better idea, show how your idea is different and better. 22 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 23. Criteria 5: Cost Effectiveness  If your proposal gets past an initial look by reviewers, the budget will be scrutinized closely.  If costs are not connected to what you have proposed to do, lack specifics, and/or if they are not justified, the proposal will fail.  Be certain you provide a line-item budget that accounts for every dollar you intend to spend with justification. 23 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 24. Some common mistakes to avoid. 24 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 25. Writer is proposing to do research at a level they are not capable of doing.  High-Level means you are promising to advance, challenge, or fill a gap in current research. This is almost never possible for undergraduates to do.  Mid-Level means you are promising to do part of the work for a high-level researcher who is advancing, challenging, or filling a gap in current research. Graduate students (and sometimes undergraduates) working as research assistants can often propose to do this type of work.  Lowest-Level means you are promising to do research to advance your own knowledge. NOTE: this does not mean that your proposal is somehow less worthy than other students who can work at a higher level. It just means you are smart enough to recognize what you are capable of proposing to do. 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho25
  • 26. Writer is proposing a project that is not feasible:  Is the project feasible?  For example, proposing to create and install an art piece that is so big it would require you to hire a crane operator to lift it in place is not a feasible idea.  For example, promising to put on a campus event that would require a large venue, campus security, parking etc. is not a feasible idea. 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho26
  • 27. Writer is proposing to do research or implement a project that is part of his/her course work.  Recycling that senior design proposal won’t work for English 317 requirements.  Funding agencies will not give you money for doing course work.  You may certainly advance or challenge work you have done in connection to a course, but don’t just recycle the same proposal. If you plan to do this, you must clearly state how your proposed work stems from the past work you have done. 27 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 28. Question, problem, or need is unclear.  It is not clear what question, hypothesis, problem, or need is being addressed by the proposal.  In particular, it is not clear what the outcome of the research might be, or what would constitute success or failure. 28 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 29. The writer seems unaware of related research or similar project models.  If you are proposing to do research, it must be situated within the context of related research to show how the proposed work will advance, challenge, or a fill a gap in this research.  If you are proposing to do a research project to advance your own knowledge, you should demonstrate how existing research informs the topics, research question(s), or other work you will do to advance your knowledge/skills.  In some cases, you need to demonstrate how similar project models have succeeded (or failed) in order to situate the work that you are proposing to do in this project. 29 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 30. The proposed research or project idea is far beyond the expertise of an undergraduate.  If you are proposing to solve world hunger, cure cancer, or produce an alternative energy source that will end the need for fossil fuels….check your ego.  Sometimes this problem happens not because the writer has a big ego, but he/she has just learned about an exciting new possibility in his/her field of study.  Check if you are wanting to jump into this new area of research before you are qualified to do so. 30 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 31. The proposal is incomprehensible to all but an expert in the field.  Remember that your proposal will be read by non-experts as well as (hopefully) experts.  A good proposal is simultaneously comprehensible to non- experts, while also convincing experts that you know your subject.  The most technically dense material can often be found in the methodology section where, if needed, reviewers can hand-off that section to experts. Avoid it in the introduction. 31 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 32. The proposed project is unrealistic because the writer has no idea of the complexity of issues surrounding the solution.  I can best explain this problem with the use of an example.  Often students want to propose a new course. It’s easy to see how you might benefit from additional courses your department does not offer.  See the next slide to understand why proposing a new course by an undergraduate is not realistic. 32 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho
  • 33. Project is unrealistic example continued.  New course offerings are governed by budgets, staffing (who will teach it), and how a proposed new course would affect the existing credit requirements for graduation.  Proposing a new course can only be done by faculty and all such proposals undergo a rigorous review process at both the department and university levels.  If you have concerns about not understanding the complexity behind what you are thinking about proposing, run your idea by me, so I can give you feedback. 33 2014 © Karen L. Thompson, University of Idaho