Grant Writing Tips
Read the requirements of the agency and draft an outline. You may have to register one month in advance.
For Internal Review:
Remember to have the grant to the grants office at least three weeks prior to the agency deadline.
Keep it focused and simple.
Your reviewer will not be as expert as you, so provide the needed background. The experiments proposed should address the hypothesis. Preliminary data that strengthen the proposal should always be included. Only propose what can reasonably be done in the granting period.
Prove that you can do it.
The budget your propose, your publication record, the collaborators that are on side and the facilities that you have to work in are all critical to prove that not only are the studies feasible but that you will actually accomplish the proposed studies.
Specific Recommendations If Writing for CIHR*
It is essential to propose a hypothesis for your proposal; state it clearly on the summary page for the proposal and in the full proposal (0.5 page). Keep the summary page simple, so that with one reading all will be understood.
Clearly state why your project is important angrad stress its importance to health and/or disease in humans. Relevance and novelty should be stressed.
Provide enough background information so that someone who is not an expert in the area can understand your project (2-4 pages max). Assume that the reader will not know the area well or know what is important in that field of study. Have a section that summarizes your previous findings leading up to and supporting your proposal.
Subdivide your objectives into 3 or 4 specific aims.
Include preliminary data particularly for new techniques or rarely used techniques, especially if it supports your hypothesis. Preliminary data is extremely important to show that you have evidence to back up you proposal and that you can undertake the proposed experiments. Under methods, indicate if the methods are operational in your laboratory. Include easily understood illustrations of the hypothetical models that underlie the project and figures/tables for the preliminary data.
Include careful sample size calculations and the method used to obtain them wherever possible, particularly for human studies. This is critical for grants involving the study of polymorphisms in which the population size may be a crucial test of the feasibility of the project. Indicate the statistical methods to be used for analyzing your data.
Focus…focus…focus. Hypothesis driven studies rank much higher than discovery based research.
Include an honest discussion of the pitfalls and shortcomings of your techniques. Present potential alternative approaches if you get results that don’t fit with your hypothesis, or if a proposed method doesn’t work. If possible, provide a timeline for your proposal, indicating when specific aims will be completed.
Make sure that all collaborations are backed up by a letter that is dated within the last 2-months. In particular, make sure that you have collaborators for areas in which you have little or no expertise. If you have a co-applicant, clearly outline the roles of each co-applicant.
Make sure that the committee knows that you have all the equipment, space, and resources to do the project. Letters of support for either dedicated research time (important for clinician scientists) or lab space and equipment (critical for the young investigator) are essential.
Make sure your budget is realistic. If it is too high or too low, the reviewer will be suspicious about the feasibility of the project. Add something that can be cut (i.e. an extra summer student).
Publications are still critical. Get those papers submitted, and update the committee of any change in status over the review period. For new investigators and proposals, abstracts are important if there are no publications to date and submitted manuscripts (if relevant to the proposal) should be included with the application.
Sell yourself. If re-submitting state how you ranked in the last competition especially if it almost made it. Do not hesitate to plead. This is your rebuttal!
Get advice. Ask for feedback on critical aspects of the proposal from successful peers and department heads.
Don’t include extra “sub-projects” that are off the main topic. These generally detract from the overall value as they take up space needed for the development of the main themes.
Don’t propose too many experiments hoping that this will impress the committee. It will be interpreted as unrealistic and will lower your score. I.e. only propose what can be realistically done in the time frame of the granting period.
Don’t propose gene chip, proteomics, laser capture microscopy, real-time PCR etc (i.e. all the “in” techniques) in the hope of impressing the committee, unless accompanied by preliminary data. If you have a collaborator who will do one of these techniques for you, show some of their preliminary data if it is relevant to your proposal.
Don’t get angry, resentful or condescending, particularly in re-submission…remember that a grant that scores 3.7 at one competition may well score 4.0 at another…without changes!
*Compiled by D. Eidelman, J. Rauch, M. Newkirk
Grant Writing Resources from other Universities
- Tips for Preparing Proposals (University of Victoria)
- Grant Proposal Writing Tips (Concordia University)
- Tips on Preparing Applications (McGill University)
- Writing Successful Applications (Simon Fraser University)
- Guidelines for Preparing Reseach Proposals (Queen's University)
- The Art of Writing Proposals (Social Science Research Council)
- Three Essays on How to Write a Fellowship Proposal: The Art of Grantsmanship (Harvard University)
- "All About Grants" Tutorials (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
- A Guide for Proposal Writing (National Science Foundation)
- Office of Research and Graduate Studies - Grants & Contracts - Proposal Development Guide (University of West Florida)
- Proposal Writing: The Business of Science (The Whitaker Foundation)
- Resource Guide - Grant Seeking Publications (Society of Research Administrators International)
- Resource Guide - Funding Information/Opportunities (Society of Research Administrators International)
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Tips
- Tips for Writing a Successful CIHR Grant Application or Request for Renewal (Canadian Institutes for Health Research)
- Advice on Grant Writing from CIHR Staff (Simon Fraser University)
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Tips
- NSERC Research Grant Application (University of Guelph)
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Tips
- Guidelines for Preparing SSHRC Standard Research Grant Proposals (Simon Fraser University)
- SSHRC Application Information (Simon Fraser University)
- SSHRC Mentoring Workshop (University of Calgary, Douglas M. Peers)
National Institutes of Health (NIH)New in 2006 : NIH Electronic submission, for more information see the following:
- Registering and submitting information:
- Registering and completing the process in eRA Commons
- A walk through the SF424 process
- eRA Assembly
GET INFORMED! NIH is now using the Electronic Submission website, era.nih.gov/ElectronicReceipt, as their primary tool for communications. They continually update this site to provide you with the latest information and answers to your questions.
- Look at the timeline to determine when the transition impacts research grant programs of interest to your organization and learn about the new submission process. (Note that only Authorized Organization Representatives (AOR) (i.e., Signing Officials (SO)) can submit applications to Grants.gov.)
- Take advantage of our training resources
- SF424 (R&R) application guides, sample application packages and related resources at http://grants2.nih.gov/grants/forms.htm.
- eRA Commons Registration training demo.
- Video Library. Professionally taped video training library, including: An Overview of the Electronic Application Transition Process and A Walk through the SF424 (R&R).
- Check out the Tips and Tools resources to avoid common application submission errors.
- Get support. NIH has several support teams ready to answer the questions and concerns not covered on the website.
- Monitor announcements. We encourage you to monitor the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. It continues to be NIH’s definitive resource for policy and funding opportunity announcements.
- Early submission is encouraged. The electronic system requires applications to follow NIH business rules. Allow time for potential error corrections and the required application verification step by the AOR/SO and PI.
- The Whitaker Foundation - Proposal Writing: The Business of Science by Wendy Sanders
- Online Resources (Charity Village)
- Canadian Directory to Foundations & Grants (Canadian Centre for Philanthropy - Registration required)
- FoundationSearch.ca (Subscription required)
- Council on Foundations (COF - Registration required)
- The Foundation Center (Registration required)
- Foundation Finder (The Foundation Center)
- The Grantseeking Process (The Foundation Center)
- Proposal Writing Short Course (The Foundation Center)
- User Friendly Guide to Funding Research and Resources (The Foundation Center)
- Proposal Budgeting Basics (The Foundation Center)
- User Aid for Proposal Writers (The Foundation Center)
- User Aid for Approaching a Foundation (The Foundation Center)
- SRA International Foundation List (Society of Research Administrators International)
RI-MUHC Biostatistics Services
Investigators requiring statistical support and advice on design of experiments and studies; statistical analysis of data; preparation of the statistical methods sections of grant applications and research manuscripts, including assistance with budgeting for consulting services on grant proposals should contact the Biostatistics Core Facility for a free initial consultation.
For complete information visit: http://researchportal.muhc.mcgill.ca/bcf/index.html
Dr. José A. Correa
bcf [at] muhc [dot] mcgill [dot] ca
Dr. Xianming Tan
bcf [at] muhc [dot] mcgill [dot] ca
RI MUHC Biostatistics Core Facility
Ross Pavilion, R4.21
687, Pins Avenue West
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1A1
Tel: 514 934.-1934, ext 35630
Fax: 514 843-1493
bcf [at] muhc [dot] mcgill [dot] ca