Writing a grant – especially your first one – can be a daunting process. Below are some suggestions to consider before you begin writing:
Read the Program Announcement (PA) Carefully.
Ensure you are eligible to submit to the sponsor. The PA will serve as the framework for how you will be evaluated – they are telling you what to do!
Always contact the Program Officer (PO) to determine whether your proposal fits the scope of the agency (or IC).
If possible, do so in-person by appointment. The PO can review your specific aims and confirm if the institute would be interested in funding that type of proposal. The PO can also recommend other institutes that would be a better fit. Note: You should have a brief abstract or summary and Biosketch available of your proposed research project should it be requested.
Start talking to other students or fellows in your program and ask to borrow an example of a funded application.
Be sure to ask for summary statements for NIH proposals so you can better understand why a project was funded and the criteria to which the proposal was reviewed. Even unfunded grants – coupled with a summary statement – can provide a useful framework for understanding review criteria and provide a framework for writing a successful proposal. The PDCO also has examples of funded F31 and NSF GSRF proposals. You can also research previously funded proposals through NIH RePORTer or NSF Award Search. Some NIH Institutes and Centers provide sample applications on their websites (for example, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides samples).
Begin to formulate your ideas
- Do you have a clear, concise and testable hypothesis?
- Are your objectives and aims coming into focus?
- What questions will you address?
- Can you define and design specific experiments that will test directly your hypothesis?
- Why is it important to do this?
As you are formulating your ideas, it can also be helpful to work through some grantwriting exercises [credit: BYU Office of Research and Creative Activities] to crystallize your thoughts and begin to succinctly communicate your work.
Meet with your department or unit's grants administrator.
Develop a plan to complete all the supplemental forms. Agree upon deadline dates – you need to understand their schedule and how soon before the hard grant deadline they will need your final documents.
Make a checklist of the documents that you need to write, and what you need from others.
Always work in consultation with your mentor.
Last minute requests, especially for Letters of Recommendation and comments/critiques, are never appreciated.