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Fundamentals of Writing Winning Proposals

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Fundamentals of Writing Winning Proposals Soha Hassoun Tufts University Young Faculty Workshop _at_ DAC, July 2009 Some s/content are from a handout by – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Fundamentals of Writing Winning Proposals


1
Fundamentals of Writing Winning Proposals
  • Soha Hassoun
  • Tufts University
  • Young Faculty Workshop _at_ DAC, July 2009
  • Some slides/content are from a handout by David
    Morrison, www.grantcentral.com

2
Overview The Funding Process
  • Identify an agency with a mission that matches
    your interests, and find a relevant CFP
  • Understand the mechanics of the submission
    process
  • Your idea will be presented to the funding agency
    in the form of a written document, The Proposal
  • A set of reviewers examines your proposal and
    makes a recommendation to the funding agency
    (competitive vs. non competitive for NSF a score
    for NIH)
  • The program officer makes final decision about
    funding and funding amounts

3
You must allot time to
  • Develop your ideas,
  • Write a competitive proposal, and
  • Get one or more rounds of critical review from
    your colleagues before you submit

David Morrison, www.grantcentral.com
4
Ideas How LARGE?
  • The Levitan Rule
  • How many PhD theses are expected?
  • Budget-driven How many student-years?
  • Budget is sometimes set by the program. Use that
    as a starting point
  • Bottom line Be credible

5
Innovation in Developing Ideas
  • Ideas cannot be incremental
  • Ideas must be innovative
  • Does the project employ novel concepts, methods,
    or approaches?
  • Does the project challenge existing paradigms or
    develop new methodologies or techniques?
  • Ideas must be expanded

6
Innovation in Developing Ideas
  • Based on knowledge
  • Search the literature thoroughly
  • Understand what the competition is doing and how
    your idea/approach is distinguished
  • Assess funded grant awards related to your idea
  • Assess what you can/cannot do
  • Innovation is NOT the only evaluation criteria.
    Each agency has its own

7
Your AudienceThe Mindset of the Reviewers
  • Who are they?
  • What is their expertise ?
  • Can they evaluate your proposal fairly?
  • What are they looking for ?

The key to success in grant writing is to
engender enthusiasm in the reviewer who then
becomes an advocate for your proposal. Therefore,
always write your application for the reviewer,
NOT yourself. --David Morrison,
www.grantcentral.com
8
What Reviewers Look For First
  • Whats the title? Is it interesting?
  • Who is the applicant?
  • Which institution(s) is the applicant affiliated
    with?
  • Whats the basic idea? Is it within my area of
    expertise?
  • Is the application Reviewer-friendly?

David Morrison, www.grantcentral.com
9
Reviewer-friendly Maximally Readable
  • Readability should take precedence over margin
    font guidelines
  • No distractions
  • Spelling grammar errors
  • Inconsistent technical terms and formatting
  • Jargon, equations, tiny footnotes.
  • Illustrations should be meaningful worth 1000
    words.
  • Key points and impact are obvious
  • Use key words e.g. This proposal is
    innovative because
  • Use simple and clear organization

More is not better! Make it easy for the
reviewers to evaluate your proposal
10
Simple Clear Organization
Title
Summary
Overview Objectives (1 page)
Significance (1/2 page)
Relevant Background
Preliminary Work
The Narrative (Proposed Research)
Timeline, and other agency-specific required
sections
11
What Reviewers Look For Second Necessary
Conceptual Ingredients
  1. Identify a problem and establish a critical
    need
  2. Focus on a particular aspect of the problem
  3. Describe how you will uniquely/innovatively
    contribute to the solution
  4. Provide context and competitive analysis
  5. Explain how you will evaluate your results
  6. Provide compelling preliminary results
  7. Describe impact/ pay off
  8. Establish that you (and your team) are qualified
    to provide the proposed solution

12
Simple Clear Organization
Title
Summary
Overview Objectives (1 page)
Significance (1/2 page)
Relevant Background
Preliminary Work
The Narrative (Proposed Research)
Timeline, and other agency specific required
sections
13
Overview and Objectives (1 page)
Write this section first
  • The bottleneck page
  • The flow of logic must be compelling Linear
    progression for a strong Overview Section

Critical Need
Objective
Specific Aims/Tasks/Goals
Novelty/Innovation Expected Outcomes
14
Overview and Objectives Details
Get an early critique of this page
Facts (known and unknowns) that establish
Critical Need. Frame the problem
Good place to establish your qualification and
mention Prelim Work Not your bio!
Conceptual aims use strong verbs
Long range goal. Objective of this proposal.
Justify WHY you are solving the critical need
Specific Aims/Tasks/Goals
Advocate for your proposal Distinguishing
qualities. Not in future tense. We expect
Novelty/Innovation Expected Outcomes
David Morrison, www.grantcentral.com
15
Example Aim
  • Identify key parental factors responsible for
    childrens poor transition from preschool to
    kindergarten. Based upon collected evidence
    related to the situation, we will evaluate the
    extent to which parents command of the English
    language is a predictive factor of their
    childrens successful transition to kindergarten.

David Morrison, www.grantcentral.com
16
Simple Clear Organization
Title
Summary
Overview Objectives (1 page)
Significance (1/2 page)
Relevant Background
Preliminary Work
The Narrative (Proposed Research)
Timeline, and other agency specific required
sections
17
Significance of The Proposed Work Section (1/2
page)
  • Follows the Overview Objective section
  • Make it easy for all to identify importance of
    your work
  • Flow
  • Substantiate that there is a critical need
  • Italicized statement of significance, This
    project is therefore significant because ..
  • Benefits and impact expected from the critical
    need having successfully been addressed

18
Relevant Background Section
  • Section provides a critical review of relevant
    background. Not comprehensive. Section title
    should be reflective of this
  • e.g. Review of Background literature relevant to
    this project
  • Flow
  • Make sure that each major point discussed allows
    a conclusion to be reached
  • Logically build up the stage for the
    Prelim/Narrative
  • Cite contributions of possible reviewers

19
Preliminary Work Section
  • What is Preliminary Work?
  • Could be published prior work (yours or others)
  • Summarize key findings in reference to the
    problems that you framed do not cut paste
  • Could be your own preliminary data
  • Preliminary work should provide compelling
    evidence
  • Importance of the problem
  • Analysis that identifies key issues that need to
    be addressed
  • Demonstrate your competence
  • Set data in context. You should have set the
    stage in the Overview and background sections
  • Too much detail will be harmful

20
Narrative Section
  • Reviewers expect the flow here to match the aims
    listed in the Overview Objectives section
  • Parallel Aim Flow
  • Specific Aim 1 Repeat verbatim
  • Introduction
  • Work plan
  • Expected outcomes/results
  • Potential Problems/alternatives
  • . Repeat for other aims

21
Simple Clear Organization
Title
Summary
Overview Objectives (1 page)
Significance (1/2 page)
Relevant Background
Preliminary Work
The Narrative (Proposed Research)
Timeline, and other agency specific required
sections
22
Title Selection Tips
  • List all key words that convey WHAT you want to
    do and WHY it is important
  • Arrange the words into a compelling and
    informative title that fits the allowed space

23
Summary Section
  • Very important. Widely read. Sometimes basis for
    reviewers to select their reviewing assignments
  • Written in plain English
  • Written last, but not last minute
  • Include key components from Overview and
    Significance sections to develop advocacy
  • Emphasize the relevance/significance to the
    funding agency (i.e. Intellectual Merit and
    Broader Impact for NSF)

24
Useful Hints
  • Do not sweep issues under the rug
  • Propose alternate plans
  • Draft your own collaboration letters
  • Comprehensively craft your resources section,
    including listing of colleagues as intellectual
    resources
  • Ask others for sample proposals
  • Go to a grant-writing workshop
  • Get a mentor
  • Team up with more experienced writers and learn
    form others
  • On contacting the Program Officer
  • On recommending reviewers

25
Final Words
  • DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED!!
  • The funding agencies cannot fund all good
    proposals
  • Learn from your mistakes
  • Be pro-active in identifying funding and
    collaborating opportunities

26
  • Questions?
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