Anatomy of a Great Grant Application

Many parts go into developing a great grant application.

It is on the researcher to articulate the research plan to impress upon the reviewers why they should fund the study. Quality aside, reviewers also consider direction accuracy, writing ability and project completion.

As you develop the grant, it is important to have the mental image of a ‘big picture’ approach. The funding agency will have specific criteria you must follow. Besides the grant application itself, the applicant should submit a budget, dissemination plans, and a time table. Proof that the study has received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval will also be required.

Common Criteria

The agency will be looking for two things; the probability of success of the project and the quality of the application. Although each agency will be slightly different, common criteria include:

  1. Significance: how will the study advance knowledge in a particular discipline
  2. Approach: research questioning method
  3. Innovation: is the study original and offers a fresh approach to a new or existing issue
  4. Investigator: researcher experience level and do they have the support needed to conduct the study
  5. Environment: where will the study take place and will the context influence the success of the study

A funding agency will advertise its research priorities in advance of seeking applications. It may also invite applications for projects through a Request for Proposal (RFP).

Application Resources

Many resources are available on the topic of writing grant proposals including, articles, textbooks, websites, and workshops. Doctoral students often take writing for grants and publication course as part of their curriculum as well. We have referenced a few points here from our favorite grant writing resource by Lawrence F. Locke, Waneen W. Spirduso and Stephen Silverman’s book, Proposals That Work: A Guide for Planning Dissertations and Grant Proposals.

Grant Writing Tips

Here are some essential tips on writing a great grant application:

  • Be certain your topic is well aligned with the funding agency’s research priorities
  • Carefully review all parts of the application process and follow all guidelines and policies
  • Check to determine that you are eligible to be an applicant
  • Know how your application will be evaluated
  • Review past funded projects, if available
  • Write in a professional and scholarly manner. Follow the format as directed (e.g., APA, MLA)
  • Have a colleague proof-read the application and ask for feedback
  • If required, do not go over the page or word limit
  • Attend to every detail in the application and describe each section
  • Follow the budget directions, be realistic on estimated costs, and do not submit items that are prohibited by the funding agency
  • If you are a novice researcher, include measures to address the issue such as having a mentor or co-investigator on the team
  • Begin the application as soon as possible
  • Meet the deadline for submission
  • Stay positive

In the event the grant is not funded, you should receive comments from the reviewers that you can use toward making the proposal better for the next round. Even the most experienced researchers have had their grant proposals rejected at one time or another.

Don’t be discouraged if your study is not funded. Take the comments and advice of the reviewers toward writing your next grant proposal!

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