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Michigan State University (MSU) | College of Education | Institute for Research on Teaching and Learning (IRTL) Doctoral Student Support | Megan Drangstveit presentation on Grant Proposal Writing | March 2015

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  1. 1. IRTL Grants & Fellowships Workshop Series Part III: How to Write a Competitive Grant Application Institute for Research on Teaching and Learning Doctoral Student Research Support March 2015
  2. 2. Megan Drangstveit Doctoral Student Higher, Adult & Lifelong Education Graduate Assistant Institute for Research on Teaching & Learning Audience members… Introductions
  3. 3. • Institute for Research on Teaching & Learning • We hope to be a valuable reference source and accommodate the busy lives of all doctoral students • Workshops and other activities • Overview, writing, budgets, RCR, etc. • Sessions for groups and classes • Sample proposals and budgets on the website • One-on-one consultation • Budgeting, text review • What is IRTL?
  4. 4. MSU Libraries
  5. 5. 1. Learn about grants Learning Objectives
  6. 6. 1. Review grants in general 2. Learn about grant writing in detail and the typical components of grant applications 3. Identify resources to support your grant applications Learning Objectives
  7. 7. Today key strategies to make your dissertation grant application more competitive practical advice from successful grant applicants and reviewers hands-on practice applying these strategies to a sample proposal and/or the RFP you chose Have your RFPs/proposal out throughout the presentation and make notes directly on it so you can target what you will work on after this workshop. = Key points
  8. 8. • Today’s presentation is not just applicable to dissertation grant proposals. It will help you write competitive grant proposals as a faculty member or in positions in non- profit organizations or government agencies. • Grants can be used for training, travel, work buy-outs, supplies, hourly staff, tuition, graduate assistantships, complete a dissertation, conduct a small research project. • Proven ability to win grants can advance your career. • Start small, “earn” your way up to larger awards. • Cultivate a lifetime professional network. What role can grants and other external funds play in my career?
  9. 9. • Your keys to success • Your identification of a need • Your idea for a solution • You commitment to the process • Your proposal-writing skills Any well-trained person can become funded
  10. 10. Finding Funding Opportunities
  11. 11. Target the proposal at the intersection of: Money research funding is available Eligibility you’re ready and meet requirements Fit your research interests map to RFP Time a competitive proposal can be written in the time available
  12. 12. Start local • Talk to faculty members, people on campus with similar interests, supervisors, colleagues, those who work in grant-funded programs. • Talk with your librarians. MSU Libraries: Jon Harrison • • Consider any on-campus funding search resources. • Focus on community organizations or other entities located in your area. • IRTL Selected Funding Opportunities Search in the right places
  13. 13. Other people of interest may include: • Grant administrators • Statisticians or those in charge of databases • Budget staff • Development/Fundraising/Advancement staff • Outreach office • Technology staff (data management, resources, etc..) Search in the right places
  14. 14. Government databases & agencies • Government databases (e.g. • Government agencies (NSF, NIH, etc..) • State governments ( Know relevant agencies, foundations & associations
  15. 15. Sept: APA, AERA, Fullbright IIE, NSF Oct: Spencer, IRA, NSF Nov: AAUW, SSRC, IRA, Ford, Wenner-Gren, ETS, AERA MDF, NSF GRFP, Soros Dec: AAUW, Boren, ETS Jan: AERA, APA, NSF, SSRC, FLAS Feb: ETS, NSF, KCP Mar: WARC, Tinker Apr: NSF, NIJ May: Wenner- Gren June: Fulbright DDRA July: AIR Aug: NSF, NCAA Grants and other funding sources typically follow a regular cycle. Plan ahead so you can prepare your materials on time, rather than waiting (perhaps a year) until the next deadline. Learn grant cycles Fall Spring Summer
  16. 16. Funds may be out there … we just need to hunt for them.
  17. 17. My ability to apply to highly relevant funding sources made my application stand out. -KIN student I’m in the process of finding grants that fit my needs. This is hard to do! The most challenging aspect of writing a winning grant is finding a granting agency that is open to the kind of work I’m doing. -CITE student From Students:
  18. 18. Introduction to Grants & Fellowships workshop slides: Full list of links at MSU: Select funding opportunities, IRTL: Finding Funding Resources
  19. 19. Foundations for this Workshop
  20. 20. The workshop today assumes that you will write (or have written) a high-quality research proposal. You can turn that high-quality research proposal into a competitive grant proposal.
  21. 21. • You’ve thought about this idea for a long time! • You’ve received feedback on this idea from faculty in courses, your advisor, and/or others! • Some of you have already defended (or are close to defending) this idea as a dissertation proposal to some tough critics – experts in your field! Let’s Start With The Good News YOU ALREADY HAVE A GOOD IDEA!
  22. 22. …but lots of good ideas DON’T GET FUNDED. YOU ALREADY HAVE A GOOD IDEA!
  23. 23. Sometimes good ideas are never submitted as a grant proposal. WHY?
  24. 24. Lots of people have good ideas – there is fierce competition among those who do apply.
  25. 25. With increasing numbers of submitted grant applications and relatively flat budgets, success rates are correspondingly low (and going lower). The Realities
  26. 26. Good ideas are not enough – grant writing is the fine art of assembling a persuasive narrative that convinces reviewers to fund your idea, and not other people’s ideas! Attention to Detail Matters
  27. 27. Good ideas – alone – don’t get funded. WELL-WRITTEN GRANT PROPOSALS GET FUNDED.
  28. 28. “There is no amount of grantsmanship that will turn a bad idea into a good one, but there are many ways to disguise a good one.” WILLIAM RAUBFORMER Deputy Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  29. 29. Be Knowledgeable • Learn everything you can about your field & identify a significant problem/gap/need in the field Be Creative • Devote time to thinking about a novel idea for a solution to the problem/gap/need Be Open • Share your ideas with knowledgeable colleagues Be Adaptable • Refine the problem and/or solution to maximize impact on the field Four Key Elements to Developing a Good Idea
  30. 30. SKIM READ TOSS Never, ever forget: The review process is really a process of elimination NEVER READ – bad ideas – don’t fit agency mission REVIEWED WITH CAUTION – extensively pursued ideas – high risk projects REVIEWED WITH INTEREST – proposals that are clear, compelling, creative, distinctive, current
  31. 31. Reviewers DO NOT Read Every Proposal With The Same Level of Interest NEVER READ tossed away SKIM get the gist; general ideas READ QUICKLY scan for general outline and main ideas READ EXTENSIVELY develop understanding; spark curiosity READ INTENSIVELY close reading; specific detail Only the proposals reviewers really read ever have a chance to be successful
  32. 32. While you want your proposal to “stand out” don’t believe the urban legends about successful grant proposals: • Only grants that are heavily theoretical with sweeping implications will get funded • Only grants with lots of interesting ideas will get funded • Only grants that are entirely original will get funded Urban Legends About Successful Grant Proposals
  33. 33. 1. Examines new topic with a well- established approach 2. Examines well-established topic with a new approach 3. Examines new topic with a new approach Instead, Think of Your proposal in one of 3 Basic Paradigms Knowing which paradigm your proposal reflects will help you know what to emphasize as your proposal’s “obvious relative advantage”
  34. 34. • Examines new topic with a well-established approach • Newly-established (and confirmed) ideas/concepts are frequently funded Paradigm 1 Most dissertation proposals take this paradigm. The proposal promises to contribute by creating new understanding, which in turn will call for some reconsideration of what has already been done. BE AWARE
  35. 35. • Examines well-established topic with a new approach • Newly-established (and confirmed) ideas/concepts are frequently funded • Extensively pursued or “well worn” ideas/concepts are more difficult to get funded Paradigm 2 You must make a strong argument for the need for new approach without denigrating previous work.BE AWARE
  36. 36. • Examines new topic with a new approach • High risk ideas/concepts are very difficult to get funded Paradigm 3 By definition, the successful completion of your project will contribute to the field. The burden of this paradigm, however, is arguing why your topic and approach is indeed significant despite neglect by scholars. BE AWARE
  37. 37. Keep In Mind That Some Proposals Just Get Skimmed What leads to an “early exit” from the review process: • doesn’t fit agency mission • not sufficiently original or significant idea • does not follow structure outlined in the request for proposals (RFP) • misspellings or grammatical errors
  38. 38. • Problem to be studied is not important • Lack of rationale for the project • Insufficient knowledge of the literature • Lack of essential experience of applicant • Diffuse, superficial, or unfocused approach • Applicant failed to follow instructions • Unrealistic amount of work proposed • Uncertain outcomes and future directions • Unrealistic budget • Not relevant to mission of funding agency • Interdependence of aims/goals • Reader-unfriendly application • Misinterpreted deadline for application • Applicant did not address review criteria • Insufficient preliminary data Common Reasons for Application Failure
  39. 39. “A good idea, well expressed, with a clear indication of methods for pursuing the idea, evaluating the findings, making them known to all who need to know, and indicating the broader impacts of the activity.” The National Science Foundation (NSF) What’s The Definition of a “Good Proposal”?
  40. 40. Have Two Things Clear Before You Start Writing CLEAR IDEA CLEAR ADVANTAGE
  41. 41. Have Two Things Clear Before You Start Writing CLEAR IDEA CLEAR ADVANTAGE Irresistible idea
  42. 42. Have Two Things Clear Before You Start Writing CLEAR IDEA Brainstorm several ways to frame your research, then select the clearest, most exciting way of describing your project and idea. “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” LINUS PAULING Write 1-2 pithy sentences that help someone understand – and get excited about – your proposal.
  43. 43. Have Two Things Clear Before You Start Writing CLEAR ADVANTAGE Be brutally honest: “What will single out my grant application from all of the others under consideration?”  understudied population or pressing issue (Paradigm 1)  methodology (Paradigm 2)  potential for dramatic breakthrough (Paradigm 3)  Make sure this advantage stands out throughout your proposal!
  44. 44. “The quality of applications is so high that the difference between getting an award and an honorable mention is paper thin. It makes the review process pretty tough.” MYLES BOYLAN Program Officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF)
  45. 45. You must pay attention to: • Mechanics – know how to fill out the application forms correctly • Concepts – understand the purpose of grant applications • Psychology – appreciate that grant applications are read by people • Logic – understand that your idea must be understandable to be successful The Importance of Grantspersonship Skills
  46. 46. Characteristics of a Successful Grantsperson Contrary to generally- accepted concepts in academia, good ideas do not sell themselves. You, therefore, actually have to sell your idea to an audience that is not particularly interested in buying your idea. • Makes a good first impression • Enthusiastic • Credible in identifying a need • Knowledgeable about product/project • Knows the competition • Delivers a clear message • Has something special to offer • Is persistent
  47. 47. Since all funding agencies have missions, it is important to: • Know what an agency wants (is mandated) to fund • Understand that funding your proposal must help the funding agency achieve its mission • Therefore, always position your idea so that its relationship to that mission is obvious • Addressing the specific need of the funding agency is the “driving force” for any proposal • Carefully review what the agency has funded in the past • Research the organization before contacting a program officer: Agency.pdf Know Your “Fit” With The Agency
  48. 48. Pick a Model and Study It! • Review several successful proposals, then pick 1-2 as models for your proposals • Study your model proposal(s) • Make some notes • Keep your model proposal(s) nearby for easy reference
  49. 49. About The Reviewers
  50. 50. but you are really submitting your proposal to 2-3 reviewers. Most people think they are submitting their proposal to a monolithic funding agency,
  51. 51. Understand the Review Process From The Reviewer’s Perspective Your reviewers are: • accomplished, dedicated, knowledgeable, conscientious • possibly past recipients of grants from the agency, or associated with it • reviewing large stacks of proposals thoroughly and quickly • busy, busy, busy
  52. 52. Understand the Review Process From The Reviewer’s Perspective Your reviewers may also be: • Overcommitted and overworked • Very tired • Underpaid for their efforts (@ the meeting itself) • Inherently skeptical and overly critical • Looking for the easiest way to get the job done well • Foundation family members
  53. 53. “A typical reviewer will read 50 proposals. It's a long, arduous process. Two reviewers isn't very much, but this is a huge logistical problem.” MYLES BOYLAN Program Officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF)
  54. 54. "Remember that most proposals are reviewed by multidisciplinary committees. A reviewer studying a proposal from another field expects the proposer to meet her halfway. After all, the reader probably accepted the committee appointment because of the excitement of surveying other people's ideas… Continued >>>
  55. 55. …Her only reward is the chance that proposals will provide a lucidly- guided tour of various disciplines' research frontiers… You should avoid jargon as much as you can, and when technical language is really needed, restrict yourself to those new words and technical terms that truly lack equivalents in common language. Also, keep the spotlight on ideas." Source: The Art of Writing Proposals: Some Candid Suggestions for Applicants by the Social Science Research Council
  56. 56. • They share your enthusiasm and interest in the research idea. • They review each proposal in detail. • They’re all experts in your topic area. • They’re all familiar with your research methodology. • They’re all fair and impartial in judging the merits of your proposal. Urban Legends About Reviewers
  57. 57. • Keep in mind that the reviewers may not be in your same discipline / functional area. • Write clearly in a way that is accessible to non- academics. • Grab their attention right away – title, intro sentence, etc.. • Websites may provide information on past/current reviewers. Use this knowledge to inform your writing. Reviewers
  58. 58. • Talk to colleagues about any past experiences as reviewers. • What did they look for? • What impressed them? • What were basic mistakes they saw? • How did they evaluate proposals with others from different specializations? • If possible, take advantage of opportunities to serve as a reviewer for grants, awards, etc. within your field. Reviewers
  59. 59. “The proposals that are really effective are very integrated. The more you can integrate, the better you are.” MYLES BOYLAN Program Officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF)
  60. 60. The Grant Proposal
  61. 61. Your proposal works as a whole and each element should tell one compelling story. Each part of your proposal should tell one integrated story about you, your project, and advancing the agency mission. Your Proposal
  63. 63. “Frankly, I don't think the transcripts are very important. If you have a 3.4, 3.8, or 3.9 it doesn't really matter. The other evidence is more persuasive. The qualifications of applications is so far beyond basic that the research plan, personal statement, and letters of reference matter more.” MYLES BOYLAN Program Officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF)
  64. 64. What do you believe are the most challenging aspects of grant writing? • Writing concisely. • Relating relevance to a general audience. • Be prepared to write 8+ drafts of your proposal. • Making my proposal more focused and concise, and making it accessible to people outside of my area of expertise. Words of advice from students:
  65. 65. • Descriptive Title • Abstract / Summary • Overview / Narrative • Significance • Plan of work • Background / Bibliography / Literature Review • Previous experience or preliminary data • Applicant / Environment narrative / Personal statement • Budget • Completion schedule • Letters of recommendation Typical Components of a Grant Application
  66. 66. Let’s Practice on a Sample Proposal The Jack Kent Cooke Dissertation Fellowship Award supported advanced doctoral students who are completing dissertations that further the understanding of the educational pathways and experiences of high-achieving, low-income students. 2014-2015 was the last year it was awarded.
  67. 67. You are a social psychologist who has a strong interest in helping children from economically disadvantaged families to achieve educational successes early on. Results of your pilot studies suggest that both the English-speaking skills of the parents and the opportunities to socialize in the home environment are likely to be important determinants of success or failure in making a successful transition to kindergarten. You decide to apply for support to study this problem. Sample Document Background
  68. 68. • Descriptive Title • Abstract / Summary • Overview / Narrative • Significance • Plan of work • Background / Bibliography / Literature Review • Previous experience or preliminary data • Applicant / Environment narrative • Budget • Completion schedule • Letters of recommendation Components of a Grant Application
  69. 69. If you have effectively written page one of your grant proposal, preparation of the rest of the proposal will flow more naturally. This section MUST contain everything that is important and exciting about your project, but without a lot of detail. Narrative
  70. 70. • This is one of the two most important sections in any grant application. • It is by far the most difficult section of your application to write well. • Your introduction is the section most likely to be read, rather than scanned or skipped. • It MUST quickly engender robust enthusiasm for your idea. • The reviewer often comes to a conclusion about you, the importance of your ideas, and the clarity of your thinking after reading only your first page. • It serves as the template for the rest of your proposal. • Write the Overview section of your proposal first. Narrative
  71. 71. 1st paragraph: Identify the “need” • Opening sentence; knowns; unknowns/gap; frame the problem/need 2nd paragraph: Outline the solution / idea • Long-range goal; objective in this application; how hypothesis formulated; rationale 3rd paragraph: Spell out the approach • Specific aims/goals 4th paragraph: Summarize expectations (payoff to the funding agency) • Expectations; impact Narrative - Format
  72. 72. The primary purpose of the opening paragraph is to convince all reviewers (through a process of education) that there is a significant unknown / issue / debate (i.e., a problem). The problem then provides the basis for the “critical need” relevant to the mission of the funding agency. The first paragraph will likely determine whether a reviewer reads your proposal with interest or decides to skim it! Narrative – First Paragraph
  73. 73. Highlight the essential knowns • At this point write for the non-expert, and educate the reviewer with important “knowns” about your topic Highlight the critical gaps • Highlight gaps that are holding back significant progress Focus on critical need Narrative - First Paragraph
  74. 74. The opening sentence. There’s a lot to integrate into the first sentence – the “hook”. It should: • Generally identify what the proposal will be about • Demonstrate relevance to agency mission • Highlight distinctiveness of your proposal • Capture the reviewer’s imagination, and invites them to be an advocate for your grant proposal • Answer So what? and Who cares? Narrative - First Paragraph
  75. 75. OPENING SENTENCE SAMPLE PROPOSAL “About 5.5 million children in this country have at least one parent who is an undocumented immigrant.” REVISED EXAMPLE “Almost half of the 800,000 children of undocumented immigrants transitioning from elementary to junior high each year quickly fall behind because they lack the reading skills necessary to complete their education.” Edit Ruthlessly
  76. 76. How NOT to frame a problem • “Little research has been done … Therefore, there is a need for more research …” • “No one has studied the effect of … There is, therefore, a need to study …” • “Relatively few studies have been made on …” • “To the best of our knowledge, there is at present no information available on …” • “No publications have examined the reasons responsible for …” Narrative - First Paragraph
  77. 77. Penultimate sentence. Critical need should be the second to last sentence in the opening paragraph (after you’ve educated the reader). • MUST: include keywords that identify what your proposal is about immediately • MUST: immediately relate to the mission of the agency, establish relevance to mission of the agency • MUST NOT: reiterate knowledge that is obvious to a reviewer Narrative - First Paragraph
  78. 78. Last sentence. Why not solving this problem is important to the agency, and an issue Narrative - First Paragraph
  79. 79. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so send out two or three different versions of your opening paragraph to colleagues and friends. What aspects of each version help others understand – get excited about – your proposed project?
  80. 80. The primary purpose of the second paragraph is to convince all reviewers that you have the solution to the problem or issue identified in the introductory paragraph. Narrative - Second Paragraph
  81. 81. Long-term goal This is not the goal of the current application; instead, this is your career goal (of which the current application will be only one part) By definition, your long-term goal and the mission of the funding agency are one Be realistic: do not overstate or over-anticipate your capabilities Narrative - Second Paragraph
  82. 82. • Specific statement of the objective for your proposed project • Should define the overall purpose of the proposed set of activities, experiments, etc. • Must be crafted in such a way that it addresses the critical need that was identified in the 1st paragraph • Must be appreciated as a step toward attainment of the long-term goal • Must always have a well-defined endpoint Narrative - Second Paragraph
  83. 83. LONG-TERM GOAL SAMPLE PROPOSAL “The goal of this research project is to ensure that all children of undocumented immigrants succeed in reaching sufficient reading proficiency.” REVISED EXAMPLE “My long term goal is to determine the key factors and contexts that predict successful transitions to junior high, in order to advocate for state and local district policies and programs that ensure children of undocumented immigrants achieve their full academic potential.” Edit Ruthlessly
  84. 84. LONG-TERM GOAL SAMPLE PROPOSAL “My objective is to look and see what the effects of this after-school reading program has on the preparedness of elementary-aged students for junior high.” REVISED EXAMPLE “My objective for this project is to determine the key factors and contexts that enable children of undocumented immigrants to develop reading proficiencies to successfully navigate their transition to junior high.” Edit Ruthlessly
  85. 85. After you have formulated your statement of the objective in this application, check to make certain that it closely matches the identified critical need and that it represents a step toward the attainment of the long-term goal. If it does not, you have a problem. Narrative - Second Paragraph
  86. 86. Long-term goal: Broadest • Projects an obvious progression of career-based research activities Objective in this application: More focused • Current step along the progression of research activities that will achieve the “critical need” identified Central hypothesis/Rationale for need: Most narrow • Best bet among the possible outcomes (rationale) • MUST be testable and therefore potentially invalid (hypothesis) Linkage of Three Key Components
  87. 87. Narrative - Second Paragraph Avoid indeterminate objectives … to study the effects of … … to explore the reasons for … … to better understand why … … to improve our understanding of … … to investigate the causes of … … to focus on the underlying basis for … … to research why … … to examine the cause of … These all mean “stay busy” Instead, use: To determine Other language items: “Objective FOR” or “objective IN” this application. NOT “objective OF”
  88. 88. Objective / research question • Should directly address the “critical need” • If needing hypothesis, use: • “Our hypothesis has been formulated, in large part, based on the existing literature and our own preliminary findings demonstrating that …” Narrative - Second Paragraph
  89. 89. The primary purpose of the third paragraph is to provide a logical step-by- step development of the key activities (aims/goals/objectives) whereby you will fulfill the identified objective and/or test the central hypothesis to completely address the “critical need.” Narrative - Third Paragraph
  90. 90. Formulation of aims/goals/objectives • 2-3 concise, eye-catching “headline” statements • Each should flow logically into the next • Must collectively fill the identified objective and/or test the central hypothesis to satisfy the need • If possible, conceptual, not descriptions of activities • Each should be focused by a subordinate working hypothesis or approach statement • Each of the goals (aims) should be related to the other stated goals (aims) but avoid having the feasibility of one goal (aim) depend upon a particular outcome of another Narrative - Third Paragraph
  91. 91. The primary purpose of the fourth paragraph is to inform the reviewers (and the funding agency) exactly what the “return on investment” (the deliverables) will be and why this will be of value to the mission of the funding agency Narrative – Fourth Paragraph
  92. 92. Expectations and Impact • Begin paragraph with expected outcomes, which must be specific and credible: this is the return on investment for the funder • Do not write this in future perfect tense: “This is what will have been accomplished.” Write it in future tense: “We expect to determine …” • Conclude paragraph with positive impact (i.e., a general statement of how these outcomes will fill the identified need and thereby advance the mission of the agency) Narrative – Fourth Paragraph
  93. 93. Linear progression for a strong overview section Gap/Critical need Objective Specific aims /goals Expected outcomes Narrative – Fourth Paragraph
  94. 94. CRISP, CREDIBLE, SPECIFIC IMPACTS SAMPLE PROPOSAL “This research study will not only advance our knowledge about this under-researched population of students, it will inform state and federal policymakers as they write legislation affecting children of undocumented immigrants.” REVISED EXAMPLE (RELEVANCE TO AGENCY) “This study will identify the key factors and contexts that allow children, whose parents have limited educational opportunities, to overcome these challenging socioeconomic circumstances and excel academically.” Edit Ruthlessly
  95. 95. CRISP, CREDIBLE, SPECIFIC IMPACTS REVISED EXAMPLE (RELEVANCE TO STAKEHOLDERS) “In addition to presenting at national academic conferences, I will submit a 5- page summary report highlighting the projects’ major findings and policy recommendations to key stakeholder groups. Both State Representative Mark Meadows and Jerlean E. Daniel, Executive Director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, have expressed interest in the findings of my study (see attachments).” Edit Ruthlessly
  96. 96. Bottom Line • Independent of what funding agency you would ultimately be targeting, or what the specific format that funding agency requires, you will always be well served by preparing an Overview section (or equivalent) of your proposed research plan as a critical first step in the development of any grant application. Narrative
  97. 97. • Descriptive Title • Abstract / Summary • Overview / Narrative • Significance • Plan of work • Background / Bibliography / Literature Review • Previous experience or preliminary data • Applicant / Environment narrative / Personal statement • Budget • Completion schedule • Letters of recommendation Components of a Grant Application
  98. 98. The purpose of the Significance section is to place your proposed work within the contextual framework of the overall mission of the funding agency from whom you will be requesting funding. (How would the funding agency be able to justify support of your project?) Every funding agency, without exception, considers Significance to be a key review criterion. Significance
  99. 99. Never make reviewers guess about significance. “Do not assume that the project’s significance will be evident to readers; be explicit about its importance. Provide examples of the various ways in which the proposed reference work or research tool would contribute to scholarship, education, or lifelong learning in the humanities.” National Endowment for the Humanities Significance
  100. 100. Significance paragraph(s): • This section should preferably follow after the Overview/Narrative section • Make it easy for reviewers and the funding agency to identify the importance and impact of the work • Significance projected must always be directly relevant to the mission of the funding agency (Reread mission statement) Significance
  101. 101. Significance paragraph(s), no longer than 2/3 of a page, 1-2 paragraphs, no matter the agency: • Part 1: Substantiate, with documentation from the literature, there is a critical need, that it’s an important problem/issue, and point out what your contribution is expected to be (should be last sentence of paragraph). Include data/#s if available. “Our contribution is expected to be [cleverly reworded objective]” • Part 2: Italicized statement of significance: This project is, therefore, significant because … (related to the mission of the funding agency) • Part 3: List of benefits and impact on the field that can be credibly expected to accrue from the critical need having successfully been addressed (2-3 could be fine) Significance
  102. 102. SIGNIFICANCE SAMPLE PROPOSAL “This study will improve our understanding of the effects of educational programs and family circumstances on the reading preparedness of children of undocumented immigrants as they transition from elementary to junior high school.” REVISED EXAMPLE “This study will identify the key factors and contexts that will allow over 400,000 children, whose parents have limited educational opportunities, to overcome these challenging circumstances and excel academically.” Edit Ruthlessly
  103. 103. “I sat on the social sciences review board this year. The intellectual merit so high in so many cases, that the broader impacts turned out to be pretty important… So what can graduate students really say about broader impacts of their work? You need to think about that.” MYLES BOYLAN Program Officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF)
  104. 104. • Descriptive Title • Abstract / Summary • Overview / Narrative • Significance • Plan of work • Background / Bibliography / Literature Review • Previous experience or preliminary data • Applicant / Environment narrative / Personal statement • Budget • Completion schedule • Letters of recommendation Components of a Grant Application
  105. 105. The purpose of the Background/Literature Review section is to place your proposed work within the contextual framework of the work done by others. (How have earlier investigators helped to establish the intellectual platform from which your own work will now be launched?) Literature Review
  106. 106. • The purpose is to justify the approach proposed • Provide a critical review (not a litany) of relevant literature • Make certain each major point discussed allows a conclusion to be reached • Logically build toward, and integrate into the discussion, what you expect your contribution will be • Try to cite contributions of possible reviewers • The flow of the logic must be compelling, clear, simply, easy-to-follow Literature Review
  107. 107. • Present your idea in a maximally understandable way • While you write the first paragraph with an eye toward the non-expert, the literature review should be written so it is readable by both generalists and specialists • Avoid jargon and unnecessary technical terms • Use diagrams or flow charts to conceptualize complex relationships Literature Review
  108. 108. • Descriptive Title • Abstract / Summary • Overview / Narrative • Significance • Plan of work / Research Plan • Background / Bibliography / Literature Review • Previous experience or preliminary data • Applicant / Environment narrative / Personal statement • Budget • Completion schedule • Letters of recommendation Components of a Grant Application
  109. 109. In this section of the application, you will tell the reviewers/funding agency precisely: • What you propose to do (in sufficient detail) and why • Exactly how you propose to do it • What you expect to accomplish once what you propose to do has been completed • What might go wrong and how you will fix it if something does go wrong • Alternate names: NIH, AFRI: Approach; NSF: Research Plan; NEH: Methods and Work Plan Research Plan
  110. 110. • Focus as much on concepts (why things are being done) in addition to how they will be done • Provide sufficient information that reviewers will understand exactly how the work will be done – leave no room for guessing • Avoid emphasis on routine methods/activities, but do not assume that reviewers are necessarily knowledgeable with details • Wherever you can, refer to previous work carried out by you or your colleagues. • Express confidence in your ability to accomplish your objectives Research Plan
  111. 111. • Expected results/outcomes • Succinctly summarize what you expect your most important results will be • This is the “endpoint” of all of the “we will do this and this” proposed in your work design • “At the completion of this part of the project, we expect to have determined…” • Emphasize how they will contribute to the achievement of your overall objective • Results are important, but they can potentially be compromised by … • If potential problems exist, be certain to acknowledge them (you can be certain reviewers will), and use conditional verb tense “would” not “will” Research Plan
  112. 112. • Descriptive Title • Abstract / Summary • Overview / Narrative • Significance • Plan of work • Background / Bibliography / Literature Review • Previous experience or preliminary data • Applicant / Environment narrative / Personal statement • Budget • Completion schedule • Letters of recommendation Components of a Grant Application
  113. 113. • Funding agencies invest in people – and people’s future, not just “proposals” or “ideas”. • Are they fully convinced that you and your research will represent the agency well? Personal Statement
  114. 114. Make it Personal • Your idea or project may have a personal story or element behind it. Reading an applicant’s personal statement is the primary way reviewers relate to the applicant. • Describe how this line of research interest emerged within your experience, if appropriate. • Write something only you could write. Share poignant personal experiences. Personal Statement
  115. 115. But remember, it’s not just personal Applicant’s qualifications and environments in which the proposed work will be carried out are weighted heavily in determining the relative merits of a grant proposal. Personal Statement
  116. 116. Include Qualifications, prior accomplishments • Your research is integrated with your doctoral education and experiences • You are well-prepared to do proposed work • You are in an environment conducive to your project’s success • You have well-developed forms of social support from faculty and other scholars in your field Personal Statement
  117. 117. Include Future plans, scholarly trajectory, career goals • State your long-term professional goals related to proposed study. State your how you see this line of work evolving over your career. Remember, agencies are investing in your future; they want you to succeed if they fund you. • Explain how this one short-term project will contribute to – or catalyze – your long-term professional goals. Personal Statement
  118. 118. “Don’t just say ‘I’m going to be a researcher.’ Usually that's not competitive – if you're not a genius.” Myles Boylan Program Officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF)
  119. 119. • Descriptive Title • Abstract / Summary • Overview / Narrative • Significance • Plan of work • Background / Bibliography / Literature Review • Previous experience or preliminary data • Applicant / Environment narrative / Personal statement • Budget • Completion schedule • Letters of recommendation Components of a Grant Application
  120. 120. The underlying secrets to any successful budget preparation are to base them on real costs that have accurately been determined and then to justify all budgeted expenses exhaustively in the proposal. Well-planned budgets reflect carefully thought-out projects. Budget
  121. 121. Four things to keep in mind when preparing a budget – is it: NECESSARY? Is it required to successfully complete the project? ALLOWABLE? Is it permitted within the application guidelines or has it been explicitly approved by the funding agency? REASONABLE? Does the amount reflect a prudent estimate of the costs? COMPLETE? Make sure all expenses are included and explained. Budget
  122. 122. Links to budget creation resources at MSU: Budget workshop slides: Sample budgets: amples.pdf Budget
  123. 123. • Descriptive Title • Abstract / Summary • Overview / Narrative • Significance • Plan of work • Background / Bibliography / Literature Review • Previous experience or preliminary data • Applicant / Environment narrative / Personal statement • Budget • Completion schedule • Letters of recommendation Components of a Grant Application
  124. 124. • The importance of the title of the application should not be taken lightly • It’s the very first thing most reviewers see. Make a good impression • It should be informative and engender enthusiasm • You title may influence the assignment of reviewers - use key words that convey what your proposal is about • Write the title last, along with the abstract Title
  125. 125. Make it clear, accurate, and succinct. Your title should: • Resonate with the mission of agency, and titles of what they've funded in the past • Implicitly demonstrate the clear advantage of your idea and approach • Fit within any restrictions on length (know if restrictions include characters or characters AND spaces) Title
  126. 126. Brainstorm at least three alternative titles no matter how much you love the original title you created. Poll a diverse group of friends and colleagues for feedback.
  127. 127. • Descriptive Title • Abstract / Summary • Overview / Narrative • Significance • Plan of work • Background / Bibliography / Literature Review • Previous experience or preliminary data • Applicant / Environment narrative / Personal statement • Budget • Completion schedule • Letters of recommendation Components of a Grant Application
  128. 128. • It is probably the most important section during review, because it will be ready by all reviewers, not just those assigned • It must be written in plain English, because it must be interpretable by laypersons • Write it last, but not at the last minute • Use third person in this section only • Do not use it to summarize past accomplishments or to review background material • Should be a stand-alone section • Becomes part of the public domain; protect what you don’t want revealed Abstract
  129. 129. Draft an abstract, and ignore the length to start with, then go back decide what to cut-out or rephrase.
  130. 130. • Descriptive Title • Abstract / Summary • Overview / Narrative • Significance • Plan of work • Background / Bibliography / Literature Review • Previous experience or preliminary data • Applicant / Environment narrative / Personal statement • Budget • Completion schedule • Letters of recommendation Components of a Grant Application
  131. 131. When writing letters of recommendation, your references should: • indicate their department and institution, how long they have known you, and in what capacity • on the basis of their knowledge of the your past and current research experience and activities, comment on your potential to conduct original research and succeed post-graduation • compare you with other successful graduate students at the institution • comment on the broader impacts of supporting you, including your leadership potential in your chosen field Letters of Recommendation
  132. 132. Assist your recommenders by providing these items well in advance of the deadline: • Copy of your CV • Links/copies of RFP and funding agency information • Copy of all materials you are going to submit (summary, background, lit review, etc.) • Potential bullets that the recommender may be able to include/address in their letter – Why this award? Why you? Why them? • Opportunity to discuss the award with you in person Letters of Recommendation
  133. 133. “Don’t be shy. They know they have to do it, and it is part of their job to do it. Just ask.” -CITE student Letters of Recommendation
  134. 134. The Review Process
  135. 135. A full appreciation of the review process, including knowing the identity of those individuals who will be involved in the evaluation of your ideas, can significantly improve your chances of success! The Review Process
  136. 136. Review Process The NIH has wonderful videos available which give a glimpse into the reviewing process. These videos are helpful, even for those not considering NIH funding. • NIH Peer Review • What Happens to Your NIH Grant Application • NIH Tips for Applicants tactcsr/pages/contactorvisitcsrpages/ nih-grant-review-process-youtube- videos.aspx
  137. 137. • Understand the process by which your application will be reviewed • If possible to identify potential reviewers, take advantage of it • If you are given the option to recommend reviewers, take it • Understand who the reviewers really are • Be compatible with all grant application requirements • Understand the applicable review criteria • Look at the funder website for details about their specific processes The Review Process
  138. 138. To succeed in peer review, you must win over the assigned reviewers. They act as your advocates in guiding the review panel’s discussion of your application. Write and organize your application so the primary reviewer can readily grasp and explain what you are proposing and advocate for your application The Review Process
  139. 139. Questions Every Reviewer Asks  EXPERIENCE: Are you well- positioned to do this project?  FEASIBILITY: Can you do this project in one year with the available resources?  WELL-PLANNED: Is the project itself well-designed and well-planned?  DISTINCTIVE APPROACH: Could just anyone do this your research project?  MISSION: Will the successful completion of the project advance the agency mission?  URGENCY + RELEVANCE: Does the project relate to pressing contemporary social concerns?  AMBASSADOR: Do you embody and share agency's goals?
  140. 140. Reviewer Evaluation
  141. 141. Section 3: Funding Recommendation Should AIR fund this proposal?  Fund  Fund with Minor Revisions  Do Not Fund Section 4: Comments Reviewer Comments: Please provide specific, constructive comments to help the applicant improve the quality of the proposed research. These comments will be shared with the applicant in the notification letter. Reviewer Evaluation
  142. 142. Final Checklist: Mechanics & Style
  143. 143. Carefully read and follow ALL of the current/correct application instructions! The Only Instruction for Success:
  144. 144. What should be in place: • A critically peer-reviewed and polished Overview/Narrative section of your proposal • One or more discussions with the program officer of the funding agency to which you will be applying • An intimate familiarity with the idea/field on which the proposal will be based • Sufficient time identified on your calendar to commit to writing the proposal – blocked off AND used • Unqualified enthusiasm to actually sit down and write the proposal Checklist for Writing the Proposal
  145. 145. • Start early. Give yourself plenty of time to write a competitive proposal and revise, revise, revise. • Examples. Read successful proposals. • Feedback. Have people within and outside of your field review your application. If your colleagues tell you something is unclear – trust them. Contact program officers for clarification. • Writing. Use clear language. Write simple and direct sentences. Use vivid verbs, avoid too many adjectives. Use repetition and parallel construction; do not substitute synonyms for repeated terms. Grab the reviewer’s attention. Avoid jargon. • Great idea. Have a compelling idea that advances the science and is reasonable to achieve. Some practical advice…
  146. 146. • Match. Ensure your project matches the funding announcement AND the agency’s mission. • Follow the instructions. Read them. Read them again. Have someone else read them. Check that you are reading the most recent instructions. Font size. Margins. Page/word/character limits. Figures. Appendices. Headings. • Use the rubric. Understand how your proposal will be evaluated and follow the instructions. • Clean. No typos or grammatical errors allowed. Follow the requested format. • Budget. Reasonable and accurate. • On time. Submit early even, just not late. Some practical advice…
  147. 147. • Avoid technical vocabulary unless it makes an important distinction. • Avoid jargon. If you use it, define it – explicitly, implicitly, or by context and example – the very first time the term is used in your proposal. • Avoid associating action verbs with inanimate objects, i.e., “your study” does not actually do anything, you do! • Avoid “weak verbs” (e.g. is, am, are, was, were, have, has, had, be, being, becomes, feels, looks, seems, sounds, etc.). Weak verbs make your writing boring and wordy; replace them with strong action verbs. • Avoid clichés, e.g. “the proposed state-of-the-art study is expected to advance the field significantly.” Things to Avoid
  148. 148. The Belcher Diagnostic Test Edit each sentence for words that: • need to be cut • need to be added • need to be changed Apply “quick fixes” to weak phrases. Fine Tune Each Sentence
  149. 149. A reverse outline will reveal the structure – and thus the structural problems – of your proposal. • go paragraph-by-paragraph and put the main idea of each paragraph in one bullet point • arrange the bullet points in an outline • analyze the outline; assess key words, logical flow, and proportion devoted to each idea • create a new, revised outline • use revised outline to reorganize proposal Take a step back and do a outline
  150. 150. Clear writing organizes the proposal so that each section contributes to a broader argument. Good structure includes: • an early overview of the proposal’s basic structure and content • short introductory and concluding statements at the beginning and end of each section • headings, and subheadings that distinguish main points from supporting statements Review the Proposal for Clear Structure
  151. 151. Spend the time you want to agonize about starting an application working on the application. Doing it will help you learn how to do it. -CITE student Advice and Words of Encouragement
  152. 152. Speling and gramatticle erors wil sink an otherwise competitive propsal. Make sure there are ABSOLUTELY no typos, spelling, or grammatical errors. Spelling & Grammar
  153. 153. Successful Proposals • use headings of the RFP • fresh, original ideas • succinct, focused project plans • realistic amount of work • sufficient detail • evidence knowledge of subject • demonstrate experience in methodology • clear scholarly trajectory of applicant • high impact
  154. 154. Unsuccessful Proposals • propose work already done by others • organized in reader- unfriendly way • contain long paragraphs, run-on sentences • unclear work plan • unrealistic amount of work proposed • unrealistic budget • lacks evidence of applicant’s experience • violates RFP format requirements
  155. 155. “There is a variance in the review process. If you don't get it the first time, it does not mean you won't get it a second time.” Myles Boylan Program Officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF) If you do get “rejected” know this…
  156. 156. Obtaining funding is hard! Don’t get discouraged when the first one (or two) don’t yield anything fruitful. -KIN student Words of Advice from Students
  157. 157. • IRTL list of resources at MSU: • Planning your proposal: • Writing your proposal: • Advice from Dr. Kris Renn: • Advice from Mike DeSchryver: • Slides from this presentation will soon be posted to our website: Additional Proposal Writing Resources
  158. 158. • Workshop topic ideas • Web and newsletter content suggestions • New award information • Updates on your grant/fellowship applications • Corrections on typos, spelling, and grammar We are always excited for
  159. 159. Institute for Research on Teaching and Learning 2nd Floor, Erickson Hall Bob Floden, Director, Marcy Wallace, Associate Director, Megan Drangstveit, Graduate Assistant, (201C Erickson Hall) IRTL – Doctoral Student Research Support