The parts of a research proposal by pharmphresh32

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									           Microscopy Practicum: The Written Proposal
                     Due: Thursday, Oct. 2

Hi, folks. Sorry I could not be here today to discuss this with you further in person. But
the deadline is approaching and I wanted to give you further details.

                         The parts of a research proposal
The overall goal

The sections below describe the purpose, and structure, of each part of the proposal. But
always keep in mind the overall goal of a research proposal: to be convincing. Real grant
proposals compete against hundreds of other proposals for limited funds; you have to
convince the reviewers that your proposal is more worthy of funding than somebody
else's. In this case the reviewer is me. And come to think of it, the part about funds is also
true – we do have some limited funds to buy supplies you might need. Convince me that
the expenditure is justified!

Length: Don't get hung up on this. Just make it the "right" length. That means include all
the information that is needed in order to convince me. But only include information that
helps me evaluate the proposal, nothing extra. Real grant proposals are read by scientists
who would rather be in the lab doing their own research, and they have a large pile of
competing proposals to evaluate. If a proposal is long-winded or disorganized, it won't
compete successfully. But if it doesn't contain enough information, it won't be successful
either. (Does this sound familiar? It is exactly what Ken Smith told you the other day
about resumes. Finding that balance on your proposal will help you find a job.)

Nuts and bolts

If you need advice or discussion about any of this, I will be staffing open hours 10 a.m. –
2 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, and will gladly extend those hours for specific
appointments with anybody who lets me know in advance. I will not be here on Tuesday,
Oct. 30. I will hold you to the deadline, which is two days after that, on Thursday! So
please find me on the weekend if you need any help. Your other instructors may also
have some ideas.

Everything in your proposal must be in your own words. You probably won't need to
quote the writing of others, but if you do, it should appear within quotes and be properly
attributed (See References, below.) Using the words of others without attribution is
academic dishonesty.

I prefer the proposal to be turned in as a hard-copy printout. (But I sure would rather save
a tree, so please single-space.) It should contain each of the following sections.



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Title and Abstract

I'll come back to these, below. Write the rest of your proposal first.

Background

Assume that I am naive: I have an advanced background in some area of biomedical
sciences, but not necessarily in your area. You are the expert. By now you should have
learned a lot about your topic from your web/library research. I don't know what it's
about, so tell me enough about it to convince me that the topic is interesting, and provide
enough background information so that I can understand everything you tell me in the
paragraphs below. Background can be about the scientific theory, and/or about the
techniques you will be using to obtain, manipulate, and image your specimens. It can
include diagrams or images if you think that would help. Be sure to cite the source of the
background information you found (including figures).

Specific Aim(s)

This is for you, as much as for me. Here is where you show that you have clarified your
goals and can state explicitly, and briefly, exactly what you plan to accomplish – not the
details of how you will do so, but just what the final outcome will be. For example, will
you acquire a new skill? (Not an appropriate selling-point in research proposals, but
definitely appropriate here, or in proposals to fund further training.) Produce a useful or
interesting collection of images? Produce the answer to some question, about nature or
about imaging technology or practices? Only if you are able to succinctly state 1 – 3
specific aims, do I know that you are ready to begin a project.

Materials and methods

Here is where you expand on exactly what you plan to actually do. Include all procedures
involved in your project. For example, state what specimens you will use, and where and
how you plan to obtain them, and describe how they will be handled and prepared for
viewing, and what imaging techniques you will use. Again, if you think a diagram would
help to get your point across more clearly, feel free to include it (and cite it if produced
by others).

Include as much detail as you can. If you will be basing your work on protocols or other
information that you found in a research article, in a book, or on line, you don't have to
repeat the details here; just mention the author's name(s) and date, and provide the whole
reference in the References section, described below.

Your goal here should be to convince me you will be able to accomplish your aims (you
have the skills or can quickly acquire them; you understand what is involved; and the
specimens, equipment, and supplies are likely to be available).




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References

Any information relevant to your project that you learned from published material, either
in print or on the internet, should be cited in a list under this heading. I'm not too
particular about format; the important thing is to include enough information so that a
reader could find the item easily on their own. For print items, provide the authors'
names, year of publication, and a title; magazine/journal articles should also state the title
of the magazine or journal, the volume number, and page number. For websites, provide
the entire URL so that a reader could go directly to it, along with author, title, and year if
those are available.

Title and Abstract

The abstract is a single paragraph at the top of your proposal. It is the "elevator pitch"
that sells your proposal. A good way to get started is to take all the other paragraphs you
wrote, and reduce each one to a single sentence. Then string those sentences together.
Once that's done you can make further adjustments.

Finally, your title is like an abstract of your abstract. Boil it down to your single most
important idea. It should pique a reader's interest and make them want to read your
abstract… which should make them want to read the rest of your proposal… which
should make them want to shower you with money.


                     Grammar, spelling, and good writing
Good writing is essential for professional written communication, and therefore also for
this project proposal. Your sentences and paragraphs should be well-constructed and easy
to follow; your grammar should be correct; and in this age of spell-checkers, your
spelling should be flawless. (But that still requires proofreading!) Because good writing
is not optional, I won't simply take off points for poor performance; instead, I'll hand the
proposal back for you to correct before I look at the content. Please try to get it right the
first time, but if corrections are needed, you'll have a couple days to make revisions.

Non-native English speakers only: If you have language difficulties that prevent you from
meeting this standard, I will take this into account, as long as you discuss it with me in
advance – I don't want to make assumptions about people just because they have an
accent or they don't have an accent. Please come let me know if this applies to you.




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