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Writing Proposals


Writing Proposals First Steps Before the Proposal Write a concept paper Usually 2-4 pages What is going to be done? Why is it important to do it? – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Writing Proposals

Writing Proposals
First Steps Before the Proposal
  • Write a concept paper
  • Usually 2-4 pages
  • What is going to be done?
  • Why is it important to do it?
  • How will it be done and by whom?
  • How much money is required and for what general
  • Share the paper with colleagues
  • Identify funding resources

Some Potential Sources for Funding
Government Agencies
  • Research Fellowships Post-Graduate Research
  • Conferences and Events
  • Study Grants
  • Research Grants
  • Solicited Proposals

  • Corporations sometimes provide funding to
    institutions and individuals.
  • Funding is usually tied to public relations,
    though some research is contracted out to
  • Funding is usually obtained through personal
    contacts rather than solicitations

Some Guides to Corporate Funding
  • Corporate 500 The Directory of Corporate
    Philanthropy, San Francisco, CA Public
    Management Institute
  • Corporate Giving Directory. Detroit, MI Taft
  • National Directory of Corporate Giving, NY
    Foundation Center and
  • Corporate Giving Yellow Pages. Detroit, MI Taft

Private Foundations (1)
  • There are thousands of private foundations in
    Europe, the Americas, Asia, and the Middle East.

Private Foundations (2)
  • To identify private foundations
  • Research such books as the Foundation Directory
    or the International Handbook of Associations
  • Talk with your colleagues
  • Search the Internet and,
  • Read scholarly journals and pay attention to who
    sponsored the research.

Proposals to Private Foundations (3)
  • Proposals to foundations have a better chance of
    succeeding if they are preceded by an informal
  • This contact is usually a brief letter outlining
    the proposed project, and could lead to a meeting
    to discuss the project further.
  • This letter of inquiry is crucially important.

Proposals to Private Foundations (4)
  • Most foundations have specific areas of interest
    for which they award funds.
  • It is essential that the grant seeker identify
    those foundations whose interests match the
    proposed project.

Proposals to Private Foundations (5)
  • The initial letter of inquiry should demonstrate
    that the investigator is acquainted with the work
    and purposes of the foundation being approached.

Proposals to Private Foundations (6)
  • The letter should point out the significance of
    the project and include
  • Who will benefit?
  • Who cares about the results?
  • What difference will it make if the project is
    not funded?
  • An indication that the project has been thought
  • A demonstration of the writer's grasp of the
    subject and credentials to undertake the project.
  • It will emphasize that this is a preliminary
    inquiry and that the investigator will send
    further details if the foundation wishes, or, if
    possible visit the foundation to discuss the
    project in depth.

Proposals to Private Foundations (7)
  • Directories and other general sources of
    information usually indicate a foundations areas
    of interests
  • More detailed guidance can be gleaned from the
    foundation's annual reports and from the list of
    projects that the foundation has actually

Proposals to Private Foundations (8)
  • In general, foundations are interested in
    innovative projects that are
  • (1) relevant to pressing national or regional
  • (2) relevant to new methods in education
  • (3) capable of serving as a model or stimulus for
    further or related work in its general area
  • (4) capable of being continued after the end of
    the funding period without further assistance
    from the foundation and,
  • (5) not eligible for funding by governmental
    agencies or the investigator's own institution.

International Organizations and NGOs
  • The United Nations and International
    Organizations do provide grants, though not
    usually for research.
  • The local offices of these organizations often
    solicit assistance. Increasing emphasis on
    monitoring and evaluation, especially impact
    evaluation provides a major role for the
    universities in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Proposal
What is a Proposal?
  • A confidence builder, a persuasive tool
  • It convinces people with funds (who dont know
    you) that you are worth funding
  • A contract
  • After the award, the proposal often becomes part
    of the contract so be careful of what you
  • A plan of action
  • The proposal spells out what you are going to do
    and when you are going to do it.

Common Types of Proposals (1)
  • Solicited proposals
  • Proposals submitted in response to a specific
    solicitation issued by a sponsor.
  • Typically called Request for Proposals (RFP), or
    Request for Quotations (RFQ)
  • Usually specific in their requirements regarding
    format and technical content, and may stipulate
    certain award terms and conditions.

Common Types of Proposals (2)
  • Unsolicited proposals
  • Submitted to a sponsor that has not issued a
    specific solicitation
  • The sponsor is believed by the investigator to
    have an interest in the subject.

Common Types of Proposals (3)
  • Preproposals
  • Requested when a sponsor wishes to minimize an
    applicant's effort in preparing a full proposal.
  • Preproposals are usually in the form of a letter
    of intent, brief abstract, or concept paper.
  • After the preproposal is reviewed, the sponsor
    notifies the investigator if a full proposal is

Common Types of Proposals (4)
  • Continuation or Non-Competing proposals
  • Confirm an original proposal and funding
    requirements of a multi-year project for which
    the sponsor has already provided funding for an
    initial period (normally one year). Continued
    support is usually contingent on satisfactory
    work progress and the availability of funds.

Common Types of Proposals (5)
  • Renewal or competing proposals
  • Requests for continued support for an existing
    project that is about to terminate, and, from the
    sponsor's viewpoint, generally have the same
    status as an unsolicited proposal.

Research vs. Project Proposals
  • A research proposal emphasizes the contribution
    that the research will make to the field.
  • A project proposal emphasizes the impact the
    activity will have.
  • Evaluation is more usually more important in
    project proposals.

Elements of the Proposal
  • What do you want to do, how much will it cost,
    and how much time will it take?
  • How does it relate to sponsors interest?
  • What difference will the project make?
  • What has already been done in the area of your
  • How do you plan to do it?
  • How will the results be evaluated?
  • Why should you, rather than someone else, do this

Research Proposals
Parts of a Research Proposal
  • Title (or Cover) Page
  • Abstract
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Description of Proposed Research
  • Description of Relevant Institutional Resources
  • List of References
  • Personnel
  • Budget
  • Adapted from Proposal Writer's Guide By Don
    Thackrey, University of Michigan.
  • http//www.research.umich.edu/proposals/PWG/pwgcon

Title Page
  • The format is often specified by the funding
  • The principal investigator, department head, and
    university official usually sign
  • Name of organization being submitted to
  • Title of the proposal
  • Starting date and budget period
  • Total funds requested
  • Name and address of institution
  • The title page should be professional looking,
    but do not use fancy covers, bindings, etc.

A good title
  • The title is important. It should reflect the
    focus of your project.
  • The most important words should come first.
  • Avoid words that add nothing to a readers
    understanding such as Studies on,
    Investigations.., or Research on Some Problems

Hints for Title Page
  • A good title is brief
  • For example, this title -
  • Title 1 - The Systematic Development of a Local
    Initiative to Create a Learning Center for
    Community Education can be shortened to -
  • Title 2 - A Local Learning Center for Community
    Levine, Ph.D. Michigan State University East
    Lansing, Michigan, USA.

Table of Contents
  • Very brief proposals with few sections ordinarily
    do not need a table of contents
  • Long and detailed proposals may require, in
    addition to a table of contents, a list of
    illustrations (or figures) and a list of tables.
  • The table of contents should list all major parts
    and divisions (including the abstract, even
    though it precedes the table of contents).

The Abstract
  • Every proposal should have one
  • In project proposals this is called the Executive
  • It should be written last
  • The abstract should summarize the project
  • It is the most important part of the proposal

Introduction (1)
  • Start with a capsule statement of what is being

Introduction (2)
  • You should not assume that your reader is
    familiar with your subject. It should be
    comprehensible to an informed layman. It should
    give enough background to enable him to place
    your research problem in a context of common
    knowledge and should show how its solution will
    advance the field or be important for some other

Introduction (3)
  • Do not to overstate, but do state very
    specifically what the importance of your research

Introduction (4)
  • If the detailed exposition of the proposed
    research will be long or complex, the
    introduction may well end by specifying the order
    and arrangement of the sections.

Introduction (5)
  • The general tone of the introduction should be
    self-confident, but not exuberant. Enthusiasm is
    not out of place, but extravagant promises are
    anathema to most reviewers.

Background (1)
  • This section may not be necessary if the proposal
    is relatively simple and if the introduction can
    present the relevant background in a few

Background (2)
  • If previous or related work must be discussed in
    some detail, however, or if the literature of the
    subject must be reviewed, a background or
    literature review section is desirable.

Background (3)
  • Literature reviews should be selective and
  • Reviewers only want to know pertinent works and
    your evaluation of them.
  • A list of works with no clear evidence that you
    have studied them and have opinions about them
    contributes almost nothing to the proposal.

Description of Proposed Research (1)
  • This section of the proposal is the comprehensive
    explanation of the proposed research
  • It is addressed to other specialists in your
  • It is the heart of the proposal and the primary
    concern of technical reviewers.

Description of Proposed Research (2)
  • The description may need several subsections.
    The description should include
  • Aims or Objectives
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Conclusion

Description of Proposed Research (3)
  • Be realistic in designing the program of work.
  • Research plans should be scaled down to a
    specific and manageable project.

Description of Proposed Research (4)
  • The proposal should distinguish clearly between
    long-range research goals and the short-range
    objectives for which funding is being sought.
  • Often it is best to begin this section with a
    short series of explicit statements listing each
    objective, in quantitative terms if possible.

Description of Proposed Research (5)
  • If your first year must be spent developing an
    analytical method or laying groundwork, spell
    that out as Phase 1. Then at the end of the year
    you will be able to report that you have
    accomplished something and are ready to undertake
    Phase 2.

Description of Proposed Research (6)
  • Be explicit about any assumptions or hypotheses
    the research method rests upon.
  • Be clear about the focus of the research. In
    defining the limits of the project, especially in
    exploratory or experimental work, it is helpful
    to pose the specific question or questions the
    project is intended to answer.

Description of Proposed Research (7)
  • Be as detailed as possible about the schedule of
    the proposed work.
  • Include a schedule and calendar of events.

Description of Proposed Research (8)
  • Be specific about the means of evaluating the
    data or the conclusions. Try to imagine the
    questions or objections of a hostile critic and
    show that the research plan anticipates them.

Description of Proposed Research (9)
  • Be certain that the connection between the
    research objectives and the research method is
  • If a reviewer fails to see this connection, he
    will probably not give your proposal any further

Description of Relevant Institutional Resources
  • This section details the resources available to
    the proposed project.
  • Include the institution's demonstrated competence
    in the pertinent research area, its abundance of
    experts in related areas, its supportive services
    that will benefit the project, and its unique or
    unusual research facilities or instruments
    available to the project.

List of References
  • If a list of references is to be included, it is
    placed at the end of the text proper and before
    the sections on personnel and budget.
  • The style of the bibliographical item itself
    depends on the disciplinary field.
  • Be consistent! Whatever style is chosen should
    be followed throughout.

Personnel (1)
  • The personnel section usually consists of two
  • an explanation of the proposed personnel
    arrangements and,
  • biographical data sheets for each of the main
    contributors to the project.

Personnel (2)
  • Specify how many persons at what percentage of
    time and in what academic categories will be
    participating in the project.
  • If the program is complex and involves people
    from other departments or colleges, the
    organization of the staff and the lines of
    responsibility should be made clear.

Personnel (3)
  • Any student participation, paid or unpaid, should
    be mentioned, and the nature of the proposed
    contribution detailed.
  • If any persons must be hired for the project, say
    so, and explain why, unless the need for persons
    not already available within the University is

Personnel (4)
  • The biographical data sheets should follow
    immediately after the explanatory text of the "
    personnel" section, unless the agency guidelines
    specify a different format.
  • For extremely large program proposals with eight
    or more participants, the data sheets may be
    given separately in an appendix.

Personnel (5)
  • All biographical data sheets within the proposal
    should be in a common format.
  • These sheets should be confined to relevant
    information. Data on marital status, children,
    hobbies, civic activities, etc., should not be
    included unless the sponsor's instructions call
    for them.

Personnel (6)
  • The list of publications can be selected either
    for their pertinence to the proposed work or for
    their intrinsic worth. All books written and a
    selection of recent or important journal articles
    written may be listed, but there is no need to
    fill several pages with a bibliography.

Budget (1)
  • Budgets are developed according to sponsors and
    university guidelines. This section is an
    overview of common features.
  • Depending on complexity, the budget section may
    require not only a tabular budget with line
    items, but may also require a budget summary and
    explanation or (budget justification or budget

Budget (2)
  • Typical divisions of a budget are
  • Personnel
  • Equipment
  • Supplies
  • Travel and,
  • Indirect costs.
  • Other categories can be added as needed.

Budget (3)
  • The budget should make clear how the totals for
    each category of expenses are reached.
  • Salary information is particularly sensitive. It
    should be specified in detail principal
    investigator (1/2 time for 3 months at 24,000
    9-month appointment) 4,000.

Budget (4)
  • The category of personnel includes not only the
    base salary or wage for each person to be
    employed by the project but also (listed
    separately) the percentage added for staff

Budget (5)
  • Any costs absorbed by the University should be
    shown as cost sharing.

Budget (6)
  • Indirect costs are shown as a separate category,
    usually as the last item before the grand total.
    Indirect costs are usually figured as a fixed
    percentage of total direct costs but this is a
    subject that bedevils investigators and sponsors

Budget (7)
  • Cost sharing is required by many sponsors.
  • It can be shown as a separate column.
  • Frequently a portion of the salary of the
    principal investigator, paid from University
    funds, can be used to satisfy cost-sharing

Budget (8)
  • Following is a budget checklist. It is
    illustrative only, to call attention to the
    variety of expenses that might arise in the
    conduct of a research project
  • Different sponsors have different budget
    requirements. Pay careful attention to their

Checklist for Proposal Budget Items (1)
  • A. Salaries and Wages
  • 1. Academic personnel 2. Research assistants 3.
    Stipends (training grants only) 4. Consultants 5.
    Interviews 6. Computer programmer 7.
    Tabulators 8. Secretaries 9. Clerk-typists 10.
    Editorial assistants 11. Technicians 12.
    Subjects 13. Hourly personnel 14. Staff
    benefits 15. Salary increases in proposals that
    extend into a new year 16. Vacation accrual
    and/or use

Checklist for Proposal Budget Items (2)
  • B. Equipment
  • 1. Fixed equipment 2. Movable equipment 3. Office
    equipment 4. Equipment installation

Checklist for Proposal Budget Items (3)
  • C. Materials and Supplies
  • 1. Office supplies 2. Communications 3. Test
    materials 4. Questionnaire forms 5. Duplication
    materials 6. Animals 7. Animal care 8. Laboratory
    supplies 9. Glassware 10. Chemicals 11.
    Electronic supplies 12. Report materials and

Checklist for Proposal Budget Items (4)
  • D. Travel
  • 1. Administrative 2. Field work 3. Professional
    meetings 4. Travel for consultation 5.
    Consultants' travel 6. Subsistence 7. Automobile
    rental 8. Aircraft rental 9. Ship rental

Checklist for Proposal Budget Items (5)
  • E. Services
  • 1. Computer use 2. Duplication services (reports,
    etc.) 3. Publication costs 4. Photographic
    services 5. Service contracts 6. ISR services

Checklist for Proposal Budget Items (6)
  • F. Other
  • 1. Space rental 2. Alterations and renovations 3.
    Purchase of periodicals and books 4. Patient
    reimbursement 5. Tuition and fees (training
    grants) 6. Hospitalization 7. Page charges 8.
  • G. Indirect Costs

Appendices (1)
  • Reviewers almost never read appendices - and they
    may resent the padding. The best rule of thumb
  • When in doubt, leave it out.

Appendices (2)
  • Appendices to proposals are occasionally used for
    letters of endorsement or promises of
    participation, biographical data sheets and
    reprints of relevant articles.
  • If two or more appendices are included in a
    proposal, they should be designated Appendix A,
    Appendix B, etc.

Non-Research Grants (1)
  • You might not be applying for a research grant,
    but for outside sponsorship of an academic
    program involving a new curriculum, a conference,
    a summer seminar, or a training activity. As in
    a research proposal, your best guide is to
    consult any guidelines that the sponsoring agency
    provides. In the event that none is available,
    however, the following outline may be followed.

Non-Research Grants (2)
  • As in the Research Proposal, begin the proposal
    with an Executive Summary.
  • This should be followed by an Introduction, which
    includes a clear statement of need.

Non-Research Grants (3)
  • The Background section, describing the local
    situation and developmental activities to date,
    should begin the request.
  • A Program Description should come next. This
    section contains elements common to the research
    proposal. It lists the courses or instructional
    sessions to be offered, the interrelationship of
    parts, and the program leading to certification
    or a degree. It discusses the students or
    participants to be selected and served by the
    program, as well as plans for faculty retreats,
    negotiation with cooperating institutions,
    released time to write instructional materials,
    and so on.

Non-Research Grants (4)
  • Follow the Program Description with a section on
    Institutional Commitment.
  • Clarify here the agreements made by various
    departments and cooperating institutions
  • Detail the willingness of your institution to
    carry on the program once it has proven itself is
    certified. (Sustainability)
  • This section is crucial to the success of
    curriculum development programs.

Non-Research Grants (5)
  • Complete the proposal with Institutional
    Resources, Personnel, and Budget sections, as in
    the research proposal.

Style Tips (1)
  • General approach
  • Match the style to the reader.
  • Use everyday English.
  • Be politically correct.
  • Explain new ideas clearly.

Style Tips (2)
  • Phrasing and sentences
  • Avoid jargon
  • Keep away from stock phrases
  • Avoid clichés
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short

Style Tips (3)
  • Words
  • Use short words
  • Avoid legal words and pomposity.
  • Avoid neutral words.
  • Beware of ambiguous words.
  • Avoid tautology and redundant words.
  • Use concrete not abstract nouns.
  • Use active not passive verbs.

Style Tips (4)
  • Check
  • Your choice of words
  • Spelling
  • Abbreviations

Style Tips (5)
  • Punctuation
  • capital letters
  • Apostrophes
  • commas
  • colons
  • Semicolons

Make it look readable (1)
  • Check the layout
  • Spacing
  • Margins
  • Headings
  • Sections
  • Paragraphs
  • Lists

Make it look readable (2)
  • Use appendices
  • Charts and graphs
  • For component comparison use pie charts.
  • For item comparison use bar charts.
  • For time series comparison use column charts or
    line charts.
  • For frequency distribution use column charts.
  • For frequency distribution use column charts.
  • For correlation use bar charts or dot charts.

Make it look readable (3)
  • Flow charts
  • Workflows charts to show how people or work
    moves around a location
  • Schematic flow charts for an overview of the
    stages of a process or project.
  • Detailed flow charts to show how work moves
    around between functions.

Beginning and End
  • Include in your proposal or report
  • title page with title and author
  • contents page
  • summary
  • appendices
  • page numbers.
  • Consider using the following
  • acknowledgment
  • conclusion page
  • glossary
  • bibliography
  • references
  • further addresses etc.

Why Proposals are Rejected (1) From University
of Michigan Proposal Writer's Guide by Don
  • The following is based on a list of short-comings
    of 605 proposals rejected by the (US) National
    Institutes of Health.
  • The list is derived from an article by Dr. Ernest
    M. Allen (Chief of the Division of Research
    Grants, National Institutes of Health) that
    appeared in Science, Vol. 132 (November 25,
    1960), pp. 1532-34. (The percentages given total
    more than 100 because more than one item may have
    been cited for a particular proposal.)

Why Proposals are Rejected (2)
  • A. Problem (58 percent)
  • The problem is not of sufficient importance or is
    unlikely to produce any new or useful
    information. (33.1)
  • The proposed research is based on a hypothesis
    that rests on insufficient evidence, is doubtful,
    or is unsound. (8.9)
  • The problem is more complex than the investigator
    appears to realize. (8.1)
  • The problem has only local significance, or is
    one of production or control, or otherwise fails
    to fall sufficiently clearly within the general
    field of health-related research. (4.8)

Why Proposals are Rejected (3)
  • The problem is scientifically premature and
    warrants, at most, only a pilot study. (3.1)
  • The research as proposed is overly involved, with
    too many elements under simultaneous
    investigation. (3.0)
  • The description of the nature of the research and
    of its significance leaves the proposal nebulous
    and diffuse and without a clear research aim.

Why Proposals are Rejected (4)
  • B. Approach (73 percent)
  • The proposed tests, or methods, or scientific
    procedures are unsuited to the stated objective.
  • The description of the approach is too nebulous,
    diffuse, and lacking in clarity to permit
    adequate evaluation. (28.8)
  • The overall design of the study has not been
    carefully thought out. (14.7)
  • The statistical aspects of the approach have not
    been given sufficient consideration. (8.1)

Why Proposals are Rejected (5)
  • The approach lacks scientific imagination. (7.4)
  • Controls are either inadequately conceived or
    inadequately described. (6.8)
  • The material the investigator proposes to use is
    unsuited to the objective of the study or is
    difficult to obtain. (3.8)
  • The number of observations is unsuitable. (2.5)
  • The equipment contemplated is outmoded or
    otherwise unsuitable. (1.0)

Why Proposals are Rejected (6)
  • C. Investigator (55 percent)
  • The investigator does not have adequate
    experience or training for this research. (32.6)
  • The investigator appears to be unfamiliar with
    recent pertinent literature or methods. (13.7)
  • The investigator's previously published work in
    this field does not inspire confidence. (12.6)

Why Proposals are Rejected (7)
  • The investigator proposes to rely too heavily on
    insufficiently experienced associates. (5.0)
  • The investigator is spreading himself too thin
    he will be more productive if he concentrates on
    fewer projects. (3.8)
  • The investigator needs more liaison with
    colleagues in this field or in collateral fields.

Why Proposals are Rejected (8)
  • The D. Other (16 percent)
  • Requirements for equipment or personnel are
    unrealistic. (10.1)
  • It appears that other responsibilities would
    prevent devotion of sufficient time and attention
    to this research. (3.0)
  • The institutional setting is unfavorable. (2.3)
  • Research grants to the investigator, now in
    force, are adequate in scope and amount to cover
    the proposed research. (1.5)

Web Sites with Proposal Guides
  • AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy http//www.aafrc.org
  • Council on Foundations http//cof.org
  • Foundation Center Online Proposal Writing Short
    Course http//www.fdncenter.org/onlib/prop.html
  • The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
    Basic Elements of Grant Writing.
  • The Frontiers in Bioscience (FBS). Tips for
    Writing Grant Proposals. http//www.bioscience.or

Web Sites with Proposal Guides
  • The National Science Foundation. A Guide to
    Proposal Writing. http//www.nsf.gov/pubs/1998/ns
  • The Social Science Research Council. Art of
    Writing Proposals. http//www.ssrc.org/artprop.ht
  • James Madison University. Overview of the Grant
    Writing Process. http//www.jmu.edu/sponsprog/tip
  • Funding and Proposal Writing for Social Science
    Faculty Research. http//www.unc.edu/depts/irss/wr
  • University of Idaho Grant Directory
  • University of Michigan Proposal Writer's
    Guide http//www.research.umich.edu/research/propo

Guidebooks There are many. A few include
  • Burns, M. (1993). Proposal writer's guide.
    Hartford, CN Development and Technical
    Assistance Center.
  • Hall, M. (1988). Getting funded A complete guide
    to proposal writing. Portland, OR Continuing
    Education Publications. Portland State
  • Geever, J. (1997). The Foundation Center's guide
    to proposal writing. NY Foundation Center.
  • Kritiz, N. (1980). Program planning and proposal
    writing. San Francisco, CA

Sample Letter to Private Foundations (1)
  • A good letter, might begin something like the
    following "Because of the interest the
    __________ Foundation has shown in __________, I
    am writing to solicit its support for a project
    that will __________." This should be followed by
    a sentence describing the program, the
    institution, and another one or two concerning
    the need for and uniqueness of the project.

Sample Letter to Private Foundations (2)
  • The body of the letter should consist of three or
    four paragraphs giving the context or background
    of the project, its scope and methodology, the
    time required for its completion, the
    institutional commitments, and any special
    capabilities that will ensure the project's
    success. A separate paragraph might be given to
    some of the major categories of the proposed
    budget, including a rounded total direct cost
    estimate, and mention of any matching fund or
    cost-sharing arrangements, either in dollars or
    in-kind contributions.

Sample Letter to Private Foundations (3)
  • The last paragraph could be patterned along these
    lines "If the __________ Foundation is
    interested in learning more about this program, I
    will be happy to travel to __________ to discuss
    it in detail, or to submit a full proposal
    outlining my plans. My phone number in __________
    is (___) _______ at work, and (___) _______ at
    home. I look forward to hearing from you soon."
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