How do you start even thinking of applying and getting your own grants when you've never done it? Sure, you have written and published some good research papers in peer-reviewed journals, but writing a grant proposal is a whole new different ball game. As I have said before, writing papers is about saying what you have done. Writing grant proposals is about convincingly telling someone what you will do if they give you thousands of dollars to do it.
So how do you write a grant proposal?
Well, it is the same as for so many other journeys in life, starting is the most difficult part. But once you start and have a plan, you will have conquered the toughest hurdle.
Winona Weindling interviewed me for her article in HigherEdJobs.com titled: Five Prompts for Starting Your First Grant Proposal. In it, Dr. Brian B. Roman and I give five simple prompts to get you going in writing a grant. These prompts can be helpful for people who are just starting out building a grant portfolio, and also for those who are veteran researchers. This is because the rules have changed and the number of grant awards needed to sustain an expanding research team is ever higher.
These helpful prompts are summarized below. To read the whole article, click here:
- Plan ahead: Seems like a Captain Obvious kind of thing, but you will be surprised how many of us just don't plan their grant writing. Sometimes it is because planning takes time away from actual writing and submitting grants, and we don't just have that kind of time, do we? But it is time well spent. It is really better to submit fewer and better grants than to be spending time submitting ineffective ones.
- Know your audience: Think of the people who will be likely reviewers of your grant proposal. Write with them in mind.
- Keep it clear and concise: Drop the jargon, convoluted sentences and the mumbo jumbo. Go to the point, be direct and clear in your language for a grant proposal. Confusing the reviewers, whether you do it inadvertently or not, is not cool. Don't make your writing sound more important by making it more obscure. Clarity is your goal. Clarity is your friend.
- Combine science, art and salesmanship: Think of your elevator pitch for your grant proposal. Keep it in mind as you write. Remember, you need to convince people of what you are proposing, much like a salesperson needs to do in order to convince you that their widget is what they should buy. In the same way, reviewers are making a decision on whether your idea is worth the money that will be spent to support it.
- Incorporate feedback: If you can get an expert to do a mock-review of your grant, that would be ideal. But, it is hard to find people who would take the time to do this, but you may be lucky to find someone who will do this for you. For example, there may be a group of postdocs in your department who are submitting proposals for K awards at the same time. Could you trade proposals with a colleague and read/critique each other's drafts? Or, is there a review group at your institution? Or, would a former mentor have the time to do a quick review? Perhaps you can ask him/her to review a particular section that is giving you trouble or to help you conceptualize a central piece of the proposal.
Dr. Luz Claudio is a Tenured Professor of Preventive Medicine and the author of How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. She has mentored hundreds of students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty, many of whom are accomplished in a variety of professions.