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How to write the "Specific Aims"
section of a grant application
Karol Watson, MD, PhD
UCLA CTSI K to R Workshop
October 29...
Specific Aims
• Length: 1 page
• Style: Non-technical. Write this section for all
study section members, since they’ll all...
3 paragraph format
1. Significance/why this area is important – your overall
big-picture goal
2. Your team’s path towards ...
1st paragraph
• A short paragraph looking at the forest, not the trees
• Develop a compelling argument for funding
• Descr...
The 1st paragraph from my grant
• Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) remain the leading
cause of death in the United States (1)...
1. Your team’s path towards this project
• can mention prelim studies (not too much detail)
• Describe general methods but...
• The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis was initiated
in July 2000 to investigate the prevalence, correlates,
and prog...
1. What you will do specifically . . .
– Leads into numbered specific aims
– Emphasize the “product” of the research, not ...
Specific Aims
• Each aim should consist of one sentence: be
concise and concrete; clarity is the goal.
• Keep the number o...
Specific Aims
• Aim 1: XXX
• Aim 2: XXX
• Aim 3: XXX
• “The MESA II effort will build on the successful
components of MESA...
Make it Easy for the Reviewer
• Use exact language from program
announcement
– “the stated aim of this program announcemen...
Good Luck!
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K-to-R Workshop: How to Write the Specific Aims (Part 1)

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UCLA CTSI K-to-R Workshop, October 29, 2015

Karol Watson, MD, PhD
Professor of Medicine at UCLA
Co-Director, UCLA Program in Preventive Cardiology
Director, UCLA Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Health Program

Published in: Education
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K-to-R Workshop: How to Write the Specific Aims (Part 1)

  1. 1. How to write the "Specific Aims" section of a grant application Karol Watson, MD, PhD UCLA CTSI K to R Workshop October 29, 2015
  2. 2. Specific Aims • Length: 1 page • Style: Non-technical. Write this section for all study section members, since they’ll all read it. • This section must include everything that is important and exciting about your project – but without a lot of detail. • This is arguably the most important section of your application
  3. 3. 3 paragraph format 1. Significance/why this area is important – your overall big-picture goal 2. Your team’s path towards this project • can mention prelim studies (not too much detail) • Describe general methods but not too much detail • What critical gap will your project fill? 3. What you will do specifically . . . – Leads into numbered specific aims – Consider concluding with a final sentence summarizing impact
  4. 4. 1st paragraph • A short paragraph looking at the forest, not the trees • Develop a compelling argument for funding • Describe the scope of the problem (such as number of people affected, morbidity/mortality, costs to society). • Describe the gap in knowledge that your project will address (that is, from a research perspective, what we don’t know that we need to know in order to move forward; provides rationale for specific aims). • It must be realistic (i.e., something that is clearly achievable over a finite period of time)
  5. 5. The 1st paragraph from my grant • Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) remain the leading cause of death in the United States (1). Incidence rates of MI, CVA, or other symptomatic CVD remain high, and the burden of heart failure is increasing (1).The decrease in CVD mortality observed may relate to improvement in the control of some CVD risk factors, (smoking, hypertension, dyslipidemia), however there are adverse trends in obesity, diabetes, and the population is aging…
  6. 6. 1. Your team’s path towards this project • can mention prelim studies (not too much detail) • Describe general methods but not too much detail • What critical gap will your project fill? 2nd paragraph
  7. 7. • The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis was initiated in July 2000 to investigate the prevalence, correlates, and progressionof subclinical CVD in a population- basedsample. MESA recruited 6814 white, Chinese, African-American and Hispanic men and women aged 45-84 who were free of clinical CVD from six communities (2)… • …The degree to which biological and behavioral risk factors, genetics, or socio-economic factors contribute to the expression of subclinical CVD and the subsequent incidence of clinical events remains an active area of investigation. The 2nd paragraph from my grant
  8. 8. 1. What you will do specifically . . . – Leads into numbered specific aims – Emphasize the “product” of the research, not the “process” that produced it. – For example, “to study” something would not be an appropriate goal; what you want is what the study will produce. – Consider concluding with a final sentence summarizing impact – Each aim should • Be experimentally feasible • Have a realistic time frame • Have a definitive outcome • Not be absolutely dependent on the success of another aim 3rd paragraph (Specific Aims)
  9. 9. Specific Aims • Each aim should consist of one sentence: be concise and concrete; clarity is the goal. • Keep the number of aims to a reasonable (3-5). • Aims should be able to “stand alone”: they can be related but must be independent (i.e., they do not depend on a particular outcome of a previous aim).
  10. 10. Specific Aims • Aim 1: XXX • Aim 2: XXX • Aim 3: XXX • “The MESA II effort will build on the successful components of MESA in an effort to provide further insights into strategies to reduce the burden of CVD and eliminate/reduce CVD disparities. “
  11. 11. Make it Easy for the Reviewer • Use exact language from program announcement – “the stated aim of this program announcement is XXX and our project addresses this by . . . . “ • Remind reviewer of specific review criteria and state specifically how your project addresses. – Consider bulletted section at the end – 1 bullet for each criteria
  12. 12. Good Luck!

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