15 Best grant Writing Tips
- Schedules : Give yourself enough time to prepare a strong application. Draw up a schedule so you can successfully manage your time. Estimate the amount of time you think you’ll need to prepare your proposal: now triple that. You will need MUCH more time than you think to produce a strong proposal. NB: When applying for a governmental agency grant you must submit your proposal to the Dawson College Coordinator of Research by the Internal Deadline. Please see Funding Opportunities for all internal deadlines.
- Create a Checklist: Grant awarding agencies have very specific criteria for their applications. Ensure that you have all of the correct documents required otherwise your application may be rejected without review. Do not send extraneous attachments. All grant awarding institutions will specify their application requirements, do not send them more data, documents or information than necessary.
- Read the guidelines: Read the guidelines, read the guidelines.
- Learn from others: Look into who has been awarded the grant you are applying to in previous years. Acquiring first-hand knowledge and experience from a peer who has successfully been through the process is an asset. Reading a copy of a successful proposal can also be extremely helpful. The Research Office, in the Office of Academic Development, has copies of successful proposals available for you to review.
- Grant Review Panels: If at all possible, try to serve on a grant proposal review panel. Many academic institutions have internal review panels that review all applications and approve them prior to sending them on to the Governmental Agency. Serving on such a panel will give you, as the researcher, an understanding of the institution’s process and expectations. In addition, some of your colleagues have been on these panels – the Research Coordinator can put you in touch with someone in your field.
- Be Concise: Pay attention to prose! Avoid rhetoric, jargon, hedge words (might be, potentially, could be) and hyperbole. If you can, illustrate with real examples. When tempted to cram the application with information, comprehensiveness and more detailed nuances (all of which demonstrate scholarship, track record, implications of research), pay attention to whether it is detracting from the legibility of the application.
- Respect Formatting: Most grant awarding agencies insist on specific formatting for all submissions. If the agency you are applying to details specific formatting rules you must follow them to the letter. If they specify page length, page margins, typeface, etc., be sure to follow the specifications, these are not recommendations. Be concise but be thorough; if the agency allocates 5 pages for a section, they are expecting five pages, not one.
- Establish Qualifications: The people who will be reviewing your application do not likely know who you are or your previous contributions, if any, to your field of study. Furthermore, they are unaware of your ability to carry out the research or project you wish to undertake. Most applications require a section where you concisely elaborate your abilities as a project manager, why this project is an appropriate for your career or builds on your previous research etc…
- Update your Curriculum Vitae: Most government agencies awarding funding require a CV along with your application. Ensure that your CV is up-to-date, reflects your specific abilities related to your project, and that you have a peer provide feedback. Having an extra set of eyes review all of your documents can only help make your application stronger.
- Write for an intelligent layperson: Do not assume that those who are reviewing your application are experts in your field. In fact, depending on the agency and award you are applying for, the members of the review panel may not even work in your field of study. Don’t make the reviewers draw inferences about important matters concerning the logic and implications of your work. Tell them!
- Who Cares: The members of the review committee need to understand why your proposed project is appropriate for the funding source and its significance to your field of study. Why does your project matter? Why should ‘we the tax-payers’ fund it? Don’t fall into the trap of rationalizing your research because it would be interesting to know something new; argue for its importance.
- Assessment: It is important to let the review panel at the grant awarding agency know that you have thought about evaluation and assessment of your own project. What will be your criteria for success? How will you disseminate the knowledge discovered or accrued from your project to the larger academic community? Try to think deeply about this aspect of your work. It’s extremely important to many granting agencies (e.g., SSHRC)—they see their job as investing in research to improve society. They want researchers who are prepared to engage society—to do more than tell others about their new findings. Is there some creative way you can put your new knowledge into action?
- Within your means: Ensure that your project is realistic. Grants are awarded for a specific monetary amount and over a specified period of time. Make sure that you can accomplish all that you wish within that time frame and with the funds you are granted. Spend significant time on the budget and budget justification – an inflated budget is a sure fire way to get your proposal rejected. Make sure you ask for what you need and justify it strongly. A simple “$10,000 for research expenses” will not cut it.
- Get Help: You have colleagues, so use them! Have someone else review your application ahead of submission. Do not exclusively rely on self-editing. Have a peer or peer(s) review your work and provide feedback. Do not shirk away from (Invite!) constructive criticism. The research coordinator is always available to read and comment on proposals – make sure you send her a draft early in the process so she has time to read through it carefully and offer comments and suggestions.
- Edit: Edit, Edit, Edit. Walk away, and then edit some more. Ensuring that everything in your application is pertinent, written well, and exemplifies exactly your intentions for your proposed project can only be accomplished through many editing sessions. Remember to get help! Ask peers to review your work!
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