Proposal writing is time-consuming, and can be all-consuming. Knowing the answers to the following questions will help you determine whether or not you are ready to commit to the process.
- What is the problem?
- Why is it important?
- How is existing knowledge inadequate?
- Why is your idea better?
- What is new, unique or different?
- What will this research contribute?
- Who will benefit?
- How will your research be disseminated?
- How will the project be sustained?
If you can answer all these questions, you have a grant project! But the most important question is this – Are you passionate about this project? If you don’t feel passion for it, no one else will.
Meeting with OSP
OSP provides support to all members of the GHS/Health Sciences Center community with the submission of grant proposals for external research and institutional activities and projects. Specifically, the OSP assists Investigators and Department Chairs with proposal research, preparation and award administration.
Our goal is to deliver high-quality grant administrative services in an efficient and professional manner. We seek ways to ensure accountability and adherence to the standards of external funding entities and state and federal guidelines while building collaborative relationships within our organization and with our external research partners.
We recommend you engage with OSP staff early – we are here to support investigators, from original concept to final submission.
Write It Down
The OSP staff can engage with investigators from the very beginning of the conceptual process, including providing help with getting your initial ideas on paper in the form of a White Paper or Draft Proposal.
Through the act of writing and sharing ideas with others, the author gains perspective and is required to clarify and organize thoughts to make them understandable and appealing. Good ideas sometimes can start out too broad and unfocused. As you write and discuss your idea with others, a new level of clarity to thinking is added as you are forced to break down thoughts into digestible parts. The synthesis of an idea on paper helps you work out the kinks and analyze the idea. Good ideas always make sense in one’s own mind. On paper, the ideas must work for everyone.
Collaborating with GHS Colleagues
The best grant projects require a strong team of collaborators working together. OSP can help you build a team by matching your interests with our academic research partners both within the GHS system, with our Health Sciences Center partners, and with researchers from other institutions.
It is important to identify who needs to be on your team early in the process – whether it be within your own department or another department at GHS. By reaching out early to invite key players to the planning table, you will have support throughout the development of your project.
Collaborating with GHS Health Sciences Center Partners
The GHS Health Sciences Center is an alliance between one of the Southeast’s largest healthcare systems (GHS) and three area academic institutions – Furman University (undergraduate education), Clemson University (research), and the University of South Carolina (graduate education).
Collaborating with Organizations Outside of GHS Health Sciences Center
Consider former classmates, colleagues, coworkers, or peer acquaintances who are interested in your research field(s). Utilizing resources from other organizations can provide great benefits to expanding your capabilities, ideas and approach to the project at hand.
Building A Team
The Science of Team Science: Build A Team!
The OSP has multiple resources for finding the best fit for your research needs. We will guide this process and help you find the best match. It is important to identify and provide key words related to your research interests in order to aid OSP staff in accurately directing appropriate funding opportunities and matching collaborative partners within the GHS Health Sciences Center community. OSP staff can also facilitate communication between researchers and sponsored program officers to discuss potential projects. Other funding tips:
- Consider connections to your research – professional organizations and societies, foundations related to your topic, and relevant product or business links.
- Who has funded research for colleagues in your field?
- What type of projects is the funder interested in? What have they funded in the past? Look for similarities in: Program Areas, Initiatives and Scope.
List of Resources for Funding: Funding Opportunities
Talk with Academic Vice Chair
Grant Writing Tips & Tools
Tips for Effective Proposal Writing
A good proposal is always readable, well-organized, grammatically correct, and understandable. All grant applications vary, and it is extremely important to carefully read the specific instructions/requirements from each funder. The application should provide specific instructions for the headings, length, and order of your proposal, including acceptable font, size, word count, etc. The following outline is a tool to organize your research ideas in proposal form in order to be more prepared when a funding opportunity arises.
Common Components of a Proposal Narrative
- Executive Summary/Abstract
- Describe the overall aim of your project.
- How, what, how, how long, how much?
- Often written after the proposal narrative is complete.
- Identification of Need / Needs Statement
- What is the problem?
- How do you know this is a problem?
- How are you going to fix it?
- Who will benefit from your research project or program?
- Goals and Objectives
- A goal is a broad statement of the result you will create. Use general or “lofty” language. Ideally – what will happen?
- An objective is specific,measureable, attainable and time bound.
- Project Plan
- Specific activities to achieve the objectives. Make sure to connect your activities to the objectives you list!
- Describe in detail what, how, how long, who and how much?
- Establish your baseline data.
- Identify measures that will determine the success of your project.
- Match and evaluate each goal and objective as specified in your narrative.
- Sustainability and Dissemination
- Will the project continue after the funding period? If so, how will it be funded?
- What will be done with the information and results?
- Bibliography/Literature Cited
- It is important to credit all sources from your proposal in a bibliography. Bibliographies communicate to the reader, in a standardized manner, the sources that you have cited in sufficient detail to be identified. Please check sponsor guidelines to see a specific style is required for bibliographies, ex. MLA, APA, etc.
As you write your proposal, keep in mind the following points:
- Follow application guidelines explicitly. Your proposal should always fit the sponsor’s priorities, rather than make reviewers work to find your proposal’s relevance.
- Address stated review criteria thoroughly.
- Clearly identify the various proposal sections using the headers recommended in the application.
- Draw on your strengths and the strengths of your institution.
- Give your proposal positive energy with action verbs (present tense).
- Use clear, precise language. Avoid jargon or unnecessarily technical terminology.
- Make use of bullets to summarize your ideas, rather than long descriptive paragraphs.
- Summarize complex items into charts and tables (time lines, flow charts, etc.).
- Ask colleagues, both inside and outside of your field, to review your proposal for format and readability. Your proposal should be understandable to readers outside your field of expertise.
- If you are able, ask colleagues with prior funding or reviewing experience to examine your outline, funding strategy and draft proposal.
- Go to your sponsored programs office early in the proposal writing process to inform them about what you are doing. Utilize support offered by OSP staff to help with writing, editing, proofing, and formatting your proposal, and developing your budget – and then return well before the submission deadline for assistance with internal clearance and sign-off procedures.
Other Strategies for Success
- Become thoroughly familiar with the federal agencies and foundations most likely to fund your project. While the overall structures of federal and state governments may appear hopelessly complex, often the specific offices with which you are dealing can be much less complicated and quite approachable. Focus on those offices or foundations most relevant to your interests. Get on foundations’ mailing lists for annual reports and other materials. Check federal agencies’ Web sites regularly. Sign up for email notifications of funding opportunities.
- Volunteer to serve as a proposal reviewer. It is an eye-opening experience to review a large group of proposals. Some always stand out by virtue of the clear writing.
- Review awards lists of funded projects by your potential sponsors. Look over final project reports and lists of funded proposals. Many of these documents are available online.
- Don’t be too sensitive! Given the competitive environment at foundations and the federal government, multiple submissions may be necessary. It is a good idea to contact your sponsored programs office for additional direction if you are not successful. OSP can help you to obtain reviewers’ comments for applications to federal agencies. Also, don’t hesitate to contact the program officer for feedback and suggestions for improving your proposal. Many successful proposals are the result of revision and resubmission. Most importantly, if your proposal is turned down, do not give up. Successful proposal writing takes perseverance.
Below is a list of proposal writing sources that provide helpful tips on developing a successful narrative.
- National Science Foundation Grant Proposal Guide, December 2014
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – Ten Steps to a Winning R01
- National Endowment for the Humanities – The Freedom of Information Act: Sample Grant Application Narratives
- NSF CAREER Proposal Writing Tips
- Writing Good Grant Proposals, Robert Porter, Ph. D., Research Division Virginia Tech
- Social Science Research Council
- EPA General Tips on Writing a Competitive Grant Proposal & Preparing a Budget
- The Foundation Center – Proposal Writing Short Course
- National Cancer Institute – Team Science Toolkit
- Executive Summary/Abstract