6 Tips for Grant Writing Success

Thinking about applying for a grant with a fall deadline? Well, the time to start working on the grant is now. Believe it or not, you probably need at least 3 to 4 months to put together a strong application. Besides starting early enough for an on-time submission, how else can you increase the chances of success?

  1. Look at examples of funded grants. At the very least, ask colleagues at your institution if they’ll share with you a copy of a recently funded grant. For most US federal funding agencies, there are online databases (eg, NIH RePORTER) that list funded grants in your field of research and you can search by principal investigator (PI) or topic. Once you’ve found several grants you’re interested in, ask the PI for a copy of the funded grant or obtain the grant through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
  2. Talk with funding agency officials. Find out what their funding priorities are. Get some rough feedback on your idea. Ask which study sections and funding mechanisms may be appropriate for your proposal.
  3. Match the funding announcement and mechanism. Ensure that your proposal has all of the requested components listed in the funding announcement. Tailor the objectives of your project to that of the funding mechanism. Use some of the wording from the announcement in your proposal, as appropriate.
  4. Structure the grant application. Follow a “funnel” thought process for the specific aims page. Call out and emphasize important ideas, words, and funding agency goals in the whole application. [See more details at Northwestern University’s CLIMB program.]
  5. Get feedback from colleagues on the science. Ask them to read the proposal as if they were a peer-reviewer. Find out what questions they have or where they see holes. Do they think you’re using the right/best techniques to arrive at your data? Do they have experience submitting proposals to this agency or study section and, if so, are there additional ways you should tailor your proposal?
  6. Edit, edit, then edit again. Space is at a premium in most grant applications and you need to get your ideas across clearly. There’s no room for weak or unclear statements. Have a fresh set of eyes look at the grant to see if there is material that can be cut or areas that need to be strengthened. Before submitting, read the entire proposal together, including any supporting sections, to ensure that all the text is consistent.

For further reading, check out How the NIH can help you get funded.