Fundamentals of Writing Winning Proposals

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Fundamentals of Writing Winning Proposals Powered By Docstoc
					     Fundamentals of
Writing Winning Proposals

             Soha Hassoun
            Tufts University


Young Faculty Workshop @ DAC, July 2009

  Some slides/content are from a handout by
    David Morrison, www.grantcentral.com
   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
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
          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
      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
       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
               Your Audience:
         The 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
    What Reviewers Look For First
• What’s the title? Is it interesting?
• Who is the applicant?
• Which institution(s) is the applicant affiliated with?
• What’s the basic idea? Is it within my area of
  expertise?
• Is the application “Reviewer-friendly”?




                                        David Morrison, www.grantcentral.com
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
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
  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
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
                                                  Write this section first

 Overview and Objectives (1 page)
• 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
                                           Get an early critique of this page

      Overview and Objectives Details
                       Facts (known and unknowns)
                       that establish “Critical Need”.
                            Frame the problem
       Good place
       to establish
           your
                               Long range goal.                    Conceptual aims;
      qualification
                         Objective of this proposal.               use strong verbs
      and mention
                       Justify WHY you are solving the
      Prelim Work;
                                 critical need
      Not your bio!


                         Specific Aims/Tasks/Goals
 Advocate for your
     proposal:             Novelty/Innovation &
  Distinguishing            Expected Outcomes
     qualities.
Not in future tense.
  “We expect…”                                           David Morrison, www.grantcentral.com
                  Example Aim
Identify key parental factors responsible for children’s 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 children’s successful transition to
kindergarten.




                                             David Morrison, www.grantcentral.com
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
“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
  “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
        “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:
   a)   Importance of the problem
   b)   Analysis that identifies key issues that need to be addressed
   c)   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
        “Narrative Section”
Reviewers expect the flow here to match the
aims listed in the Overview & Objectives
section:

        Parallel Aim Flow
            1. Specific Aim #1 Repeat verbatim
                 Introduction
                 Work plan
                 Expected outcomes/results
                 Potential Problems/alternatives

           …. Repeat for other aims
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
           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
            “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)
                    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
                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
Questions?