Grant Proposals

Grant Proposals: an overview

I wish I could give you a tried and true format for writing grants across the board, but each grant proposal you encounter will have specific requirements for content, formatting, organization that will depend on the organization to which you are submitting the proposal.  When you’re out in the world of science, your best bet is to get specific guidelines from the granting organization to which you are applying, follow them very closely, and ask someone in your field who has experience with grant proposals to read over your proposal and give you a critique.

But, for the purposes of this class and this proposal, here is the format I want you to follow:

Organizing your Grant Proposal

Although each granting organization will have its own requirements, there are several elements of a proposal that are fairly standard, and they often come in the following order:

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Project narrative
  • Personnel
  • Budget and budget justification and timeframe

Formatting: Format your grant proposal so that it is easy to read. Use headings to break the proposal up into sections. If it is long, include a table of contents with page numbers.Title page:The title page is often just a form where you’ll have to fill in the requisite information but for the purposes of this proposal, you should have a 1) title for the research project 2) the names of the principle investigator(s), the institutional affiliation of the applicants (the department and university), name and address of the granting agency (which is the NCTracs Pilot Program Grant), project dates, amount of funding requested (in our case, $2,000).

Abstract: The abstract provides grant reviewers with a snap shot of your project. To remind themselves of your proposal, readers may glance at your abstract when making their final recommendations, so it may also serve as their last impression of your project. The abstract should explain the key elements of your research project in the future tense. Most abstracts state: (1) the general purpose, (2) specific goals, (3) research design, (4) methods, and (5) significance (contribution and rationale). Be as explicit as possible in your abstract. Use statements such as, “The objective of this study is to …”

Introduction: The introduction should cover the key elements of your proposal, including a statement of the problem, the purpose of research goals or objectives for the grant, and significance of these objectives. The statement of problem should provide a background and rationale for the project and establish the need and relevance of the research. How is your project different from previous research on the same topic? Will you be using new methodologies or covering new theoretical territory? The research goals or objectives should identify the anticipated outcomes of the research and should match up to the needs identified in the statement of problem. List only the principle goal(s) or objective(s) of your research and save sub-objectives for the project narrative.

Literature review: (your feeder 1) will give grant reviewers the necessary background to see the significance of your research objectives and to know that you’ve done your homework (people rarely just give you money without knowing you’ll know how best to use it. Please be careful in revising your literature reviews for this final project. If you need to get more research: get more research! If you need to work on organization: work on organization!

Project narrative: The project narrative provides the nuts and bolts of your proposal and may require several subsections. The project narrative should supply all the details of the project, including a detailed statement of problem, your specific aims (a concise statement of your goals and a summary of your expected outcomes, like the impact of your intervention), hypothesis (or preliminary findings: basically what you think will happen based on your literature review), your innovations (how your grant proposal challenges and seeks to fill a current need), your methodology and procedures (overall approach and strategy, analyses to be used to accomplish your specific aim), outcomes (what you hope to accomplish).

Personnel: Most grant proposals require a personal statement: basically why you are qualified to do the work you propose to do. This may come in the personnel section or perhaps in a separate statement listed just before the personnel statement.  In the personnel section, you’ll need to explain staffing requirements in detail and make sure that staffing makes sense. If you will be doing all the work, explain this.  Or if you will be using the grant funding to pay workers to say, give classes on nutrition, then be very explicit about the skill sets you will need for your personnel to accomplish this task.

Budget: The budget spells out project costs and usually consists of a spreadsheet or table with the budget detailed as line items and a budget narrative (also known as a budget justification) that explains the various expenses.

Timeframe: Explain the timeframe for the research project in some detail. When will you begin and complete each step? It may be helpful to reviewers if you present a visual version of your timeline. For less complicated research, a table summarizing the timeline for the project will help reviewers understand and evaluate the planning and feasibility.

Grant Writing Resources / Different Grant Apparatuses

National Science Foundation’s Grant Proposal Guide
AnGST Underground’s Grant Proposal Tips

Scoring and Rubric for Unit 1: Public Health Grant Proposal

Most grants are scored on a scale of 1-10, one being perfect, 10 being poorly written.

Successful Grants have high marks in the following:

  • addresses a socially significant problem (emphasizes the “big picture”): the grant makes the social significance explicit in both throughout the proposal through effective research and writing. Proposal makes appeals to logos, pathos, and ethos where appropriate.
  • very responsive to previous critiques (this one won’t be emphasized in our rubric, except through the literature review): literature review provides a rich, well-researched and well-reasoned background, applying to appropriate authorities (logos).
  • well written (both clear and concise with appropriate headings and good mechanics, and appropriate addresses to audience:  remember, you have limited space and a lot you need to say, so aim for succinctness)
  • logical with appropriate controls (good design or framework): all categories are appropriately utilized, with effective use of emphasis (underline, bold, italics, syntax, etc).
  • crucial preliminary data (for our purposes, the innovations/interventions you discuss in your literature review): successful proposals make effective use of research, have appropriate facts, figures, and tables to reinforce both the social significance and the effectiveness of the proposed innovation.
  • hypothesis is clearly stated and repeated throughout (memorable): here is where repeating yourself will be richly rewarded. Remember that repetition comes in many different forms: you can achieve a more memorable proposal if you not only repeat key words or phrases but also re-inscribe your significance, purposes, and interventions through varying words and phrases.
  • not overly ambitious: highly doable / very realistic. This is a task that can be achieved within the budgeted time and money.