Several strategies can be used to improve the quality of written work. These strategies include organizing the task, avoiding common writing problems, and developing and working with a grantwriting team to facilitate the process. This chapter examines each strategy in detail. One strategy that can improve proposal writing is to develop a systematic plan by which to approach the task. The chapter provides six organizing strategies for grant writing. The second way to improve the quality of a proposal is to avoid problems that are commonly found in grant writing, including the use of imprecise language. The chapter discusses nine recommendations for effective proposal writing. Another strategy to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of proposal writing is to organize a grantwriting team. There are ten common tasks required to write a grant proposal, and the chapter outlines the ten roles that individuals can assume on a grantwriting team.
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There are many common problems found in proposals, particularly for those submitted by new investigators and novice grant writers. Some of these problems are relatively minor but may result in a review panel lowering the overall score. Other problems are more serious and can result in what is referred to as a “fatal flaw” in a proposal, which will make it noncompetitive. Knowledge of these problems and implementation of the strategies described in this chapter can help the reader avoid the most common errors made by grant writers. The chapter discusses the six major areas of a grant application where these mistakes usually occur, including the significance; the specific aims or objectives; the experimental approach; the investigators; institutional qualifications; and the budget. This chapter helps the reader identify problems commonly found in proposals, understand potential fatal flaws, and implement strategies for addressing pitfalls.
Funding agencies require that an official of the applicant’s institution with signing privileges review the budget to confirm accuracy of salary information and ensure compliance with all federal regulations concerning such things as equal employment opportunities, budget oversight, and maintenance of a drug- and smoke-free environment. Each institution will also have policies that need to be followed if the project is funded. This chapter helps the reader identify what is necessary to know from an institution in order to develop a budget. It also explains institutional review board (
IRB) considerations. The chapter also helps determines which level of review a research proposal will require from the IRB. Knowing the policies and procedures of an institution early in the proposal development process will help the reader work productively at both the preaward and postaward stages.
Because the funding environment and the interests of agencies are constantly evolving, it is important to systematically monitor changes in agency policies and priorities. This chapter identifies the major sources of funding for health and human service professionals, discusses ways to learn about the current and future interests of various funding agencies, and shows how to interpret calls for proposals. The chapter describes different pilot research mechanisms that are available to individuals in the formative stage of their research careers. Based on this information, the reader will be in a better position to develop a plan of action for tracking potential funding opportunities and responding with competitive applications. The chapter helps the reader identify potential sources of funding, understand how to track funding opportunities, comprehend calls for proposals, and prepare for conversations with program officers.
Developing a budget is as important as detailing the science or training requirements of a proposal. There are numerous considerations in constructing a budget. First, it is important to recognize that the proposal budget will be reviewed by a number of different departments and officials, including individuals in the university, peer reviewers, and officials in the funding agency. One of the more important groups who will review the budget is the review panel of the funding agency. Once the budget and budget justification are completed, many institutions have internal forms that must be completed and that involve obtaining signatures from institutional officials including a department chair and/or the head of research administration. This chapter helps the reader understand how to construct a budget for a project. It also examines costs associated with proposed activities and determines consultation and subaward budget arrangements.
Developing a budget for a grant proposal is similar to writing other sections of the application. It takes time, careful thought, knowledge of technical budget terms, and an understanding of the budgetary requirements and restrictions of both the funding agency and the investigator’s institution. It is important to begin developing a budget for a proposal as early as possible in the grantwriting process. As soon as the investigator has identified a project idea and its specific aims, they should consider the budget to ensure that the proposal idea and aims are realistic from a funding perspective. This chapter helps the reader understand the language of grant budgets, consider the policies and requirements of both the agency and the reader’s institution, identify the components of a budget, write a budget justification, and determine when to use the National Institutes of Health (
NIH) modular budget format.
This concluding chapter uses a case example to tie together all of the chapters, serving as a review and a way to integrate the key points made throughout this book. The reader will obtain a sense of the whole grantwriting process, moving through the grantwriting steps from idea inception to grant submission to notice of award and then postaward management. This chapter helps the reader understand the grantwriting process from start to finish and identify which chapters to refer back to for more in-depth information. Successful grant writing is not an elusive goal that only a few can achieve. There are basics that make it possible: a novel idea with funding potential; a systematic and logical approach to addressing the issue; and, above all, persistence and passion.